« PreviousContinue »
Pacha, which compelled Shah Abbas to recall Ali Verdi Khan from Bagdad and concentrate all his forces to meet the impending attack. At length the two armies met to decide the fate of the campaign on the 24th August, 1605. The Persian army amounted to 62,000 men, that of the enemy by the lowest com. putation exceeded 100,000. Most of the Shah's officers advised him to avoid an action with such unequal forces, but Robert Sher. ley appears to have given the bolder counsel, and to have rendered good service in the field, where he received three wounds « as a triple testimony of his love and service to Christendome.” An old MSS. in the British museum puts an oration to the troops into his mouth quite in the Cambyses vein ; after which “catching a strong staff, pulling down his beaver, and putting spurs to his horse, he furiously rushed upon the enemy, his soldiers followed with such a desperate resolution that the Turks were amazed at his valour, for he ran without stop through the troops, and like a lion, massacred whom he met; which the enemy perceiving, and what a great slaughter he had made amongst them, many of them fled, many laid down their weapons and yielded, the rest he put to the sword without partiality or favour.”
Certain it is that the victory was most complete, and the Turks, who fought bravely, experienced an immense loss in killed and prisoners. Twenty five thousand five hundred and forty-five heads were brought to the Shah after the action. A curious incident illustrative of the character of the monarch is recorded. Amongst the captures was a Kurdish chief of the tribe of Mookree whom the Shah ordered to be made over to one of his officers who was at feud with that tribe; Roostum Beg, the officer in question, objected, saying that he could not take advantage of an enemy bound and in distress. The Shah irritated by a remark that appeared to reflect on his own conduct, ordered the prisoner's head to be struck off, upon which the Kurd, a man of gigantic strength, broke from his guards and drawing his dagger rushed upon Abbas. This occurred in the royal tent, it was already night, and in the scuffle and confusion the lights were all extinguished, and none dared to strike in the dark. After a few minutes of horrible suspense the Shah exclaimed “I have seized his hand,” lights were brought in instantly, and the Kurd fell under a hundred weapons, when the Shah coolly seated himself and “continued to drink goblets of pure wine and received the heads of his enemies till midnight.”
Robert Sherley's conduct was fully appreciated. The Shah, according to Purchas, (who states that he received the account from Sir Robert himself and saw the firman,)“ gratified him not in titles of honour and honourable employments alone, but in rewards. This man's bread is baked for sixtie years, being the formall words of
his Royal Charter to him, (which he that understandeth the Eas. terne phrase of “daily bread” in his Pater Noster knows how to interpret,) with an explication added of the allowance to him and his assigns for that space whether he liveth himself or leaveth it to others enjoying." He also gave him in marriage a daughter of a Circassian Chief, named Ismail Khan, a relative of his own wife. This lady who was a Christian and bore the name of Theresa, appears to have been a most estimable person, to have made him an excellent and most faithful wife. The following year they had a child to which Shah Abbas, though a Maho medan, was god-father, but this child apparently did not survive.
In 1608, not discouraged by Sir Anthony's failure, Shah Abbas sent the younger brother on a similar mission to the Christian potentates, announcing his recent successes and proposing a general confederation against Turkey.
Robert and his followers embarked at Derbent and crossed the Caspian to Astrakan, whence passing though southern Russsian he proeeded to Poland, where he was warmly received and entertioned at Cracow by King Sigismund the third. From thence he proceeded to Prague when he met with a reception from the Emperor Rodolph the second, similar to that accorded eight years previously to his brother. He also was made a Knight of the Roman Empire and Earl Palatine, the deed bearing date the 2nd June 1609. From Germany he passed over into Italy and arrived in Rome in September of that year, where he met with a most gratifying reception from Pope Clement. His wife, lady Theresa, was here an object of great interest, as a Christian coming from so remote a part of the world. From Rome he went to Spain where he must have met his brother Anthony after so long on absence. From thence he went over to his native country, where he arrived in 1611 and was well received at the Court of King James, but could get no promise of assistance to the Shah from that monarch, whilst from the Directors of the East India Company, who viewed him with great suspicion, he experienced much active though covert opposition.
Whilst in London, lady Theresa was delivered of a son to whom tho Queen and the Prince of Wales stood sponsors, the boy being christened Henry after his Royall Godfather.
At this time he received Knighthood from James 1st, together with his faithful friend Thomas Powell—who married during this visit,—The Court of Directors were likewise ordered to furnish one of the Company's vessels to carry him and his party to Persia ; and they were further directed to supply him with £500 to defray the remainder of his journey by land.
On the 7th January 1612 he sailed from Gravesend in the
good ship The Expedition, of London of 260 tons, commanded by Captain Christopher Newport. His suite consisted of himself and Lady Theresa ; Sir Thomas and Lady Powell; Morgan Powell, a younger brother of Sir Thomas'; Captain John Ward one of his old companions, Mr. Francis Bubb his secretary ; John Barber, apothecary ; John Gregson, a Dutch goldsmith; John Harriot and several other musicians, Lielah a Persian female and one Armenian and three Persian male attendants.
After touching at the Canaries, the Cape of Good Hope, Madagascar, Mohelia and other places, they made the coast of Cutch Mekran (Getch Macquercna) in the begining of September, and anchored in the port of Guadel. Here they found Malik Mirza, the ruler of the country, who professed himself the humble servant of Shah Abbas, and proffered every assistance to his Ambassador, Sir Robert Sherley, and his party, promising them an escort to Seistan or Kerman, from either of which they could easily proceed to Ispahan. Arrangements were made accordingly ; the Belooch Chief prepared tents for Sir Robert and his suite, who sent most of his property and baggage on shore, together with some of his followers to take charge of them. Fortunately one of his Persian attendants understood the Belooch dialect, and overhead the guard at the tent discussing their treacherous plan, which was to entice Sir Robert and all his party on shore, and to persuade Captain Newport and some of the officers of the vessel to accompany them to a farewell entertainment; then to murder the whole, seize the property, and if possible, take possession of the ship in the confusion attendant on this massacre. The Persian hearing this plan, quietly returned on board and gave Sir Robert information of their designs. He, in concert with his friends, remained perfectly quiet, but pretending indisposition retired to rest and postponed his departure for another day, sending for one or two attendants then on shore and some of his more valuable packages, on the plea that they contained his and Lady Sherley's night cloths, medicines, &c. A further portion of his goods he rescued by filling some empty cases with ballast and other heavy rubbish and sending them on shore carefully packed up, getting back others which it was represented belonged to the vessel and had been landed by mistake. Finally, after thus recovering all his more valuable property, he announced his intention of landing the following morning, but recalled his remaining attendants alleging that he required them to attend upon him as musicians when he went on shore in state. He further sent word to Malik Mirza that in consideration of the Shah's honour whose representative he was, he expected a deputation of the principal men to receive him. The Beluchis fell into their own snare and complied, when the whole party arriving on board were seized and disarmed, and the restoration of the remainder of the property made the condition of their release.
From this port they steered for Diu in Guzerat, where Sir Robert and his party disembarked and proceeded by land to Agra. Here they were most hospitably and liberally entertained by the Emperor, Jehangir, who tried very hard to persuade Sir Robert to enter his service, but in vain, notwithstanding the most tempting offers. Sir Thomas Powell however appears to have been induced to remain at Agra. This refusal on the part of Sir Robert appears to have wounded the pride of Jehangir, who was farther annoyed by his candid and spirited defence of Shah Abbas in reply to some disparaging remarks of the Indian monarch. But this manly independence and truth to his salt were appreciated in the long run, and Jehangir finally dismissed him on his return to Persia, liberally supplied with elephants, camels tents and all the requisites for his march, together with money and jewels to the value of eight or nine thousand pounds sterling. They took the route by Scinde and Kandahar, and in the Bolan Pass they met Thomas Corryat, the English pedestrian traveller, then on his way from Persia to Lahore, who speaks highly of their kindness to him. From Kandahar by Ferrah and Herat they reached Kasbin in 1614.
Four or five years later Sir Robert was again dispatched by Shah Abbas as Ambassador to the several European sovereigns, and he appears to have followed nearly the same route as on the previous occasion, only lingering longer in Rome and at Madrid, where probably supported by his brother's influence—he persuaded the Spanish monarch to consent to send four vessels to cruize against the Turks in the Red Sea. But the news of the capture of Ormuz by the joint forces of the Shah and the English East India Company, caused a complete change in Spanish policy, and put an end to all hopes of aid from that quarter. From Spain he passed into Holland, and finally reached England in 1623.
Here he found the Directors of the East India Company more opposed to him than ever. They had all along viewed his influence at the Persian Court with great suspicion and distrust, and regarded him as an interloper in their particular field of operations; but their disappointment at the results of the Ormuz expedition, from which they had expected great commercial and political advantages, together with Shah Abbas' refusal to allow them any establishment in the Gulf, made them doubly inveterate against one whom they looked upon as the Shah's adviser. They combatted his aaguments for a Persian alliance, they denounced his statements of the power and wealth of Shah Abbas as gross exaggerations, and accused him of being in the interests
of Spain and desirous to throw the Persian commerce into the hands of that nation.
Two years after this,-Sir Robert having them been absent from Persia several years,—the Shah sent a Persian named Nogdi Beg as Ambassador to King James. On the intelligence of his reaching England the Directors hastened to welcome him and pay him every attention, and they found little difficulty in gaining him over to their views and enlisting him as an active opponent of Sir Robert Sherley. When brought to Court, Nogdi Beg coolly denied all knowledge of Sir Robert's mission as emanating from the Shah, boldly proclaimed him an imposter, and on being shown the Shah's letter, which Sir Robert had produced as his authority, he boldly pronounced it a forgery, tore it up, and even went so far as to strike Sir Robert in the face, pleading in excuse his anger at finding his master's name thus made use of by a scheming impostor.
The result was that King James appointed Sir Dodmore Cotton as his Ambassador to Shah Abbas, sending with him Sir Robert Sherley and Nogdi Beg in order to have the truth of the matter investigated. The account of this embassy has been given in detail by Sir Thomas Herbert. It is therefore sufficient to mention here that they sailed from Gravesend on Good Friday, 1626, with a fleet of six vessels, and reached Surat in November of that year, when Nogdi Beg found letters awaiting him mentioning that the Shah was greatly incensed against him for his conduct in England, of which intimation had been sent overland by Sir Robert Sherley via Aleppo. On receiving these tidings Nogdi Beg committed suicide by poisoning himself, not daring to face the Shah, and was buried on shore by his son Ibrahim Khan.
On the 10th of January 1627, they arrived at Gambroon where through the influence of Sir Robert Sherley, the English Ambassador was received with due respect, and furnished with carriage and all requisites for his journey to Ashraff, on the shores of the Caspian, where the Shah then was.
On arrival there in May, Sir Dodmore Cotton was most graciously received, and announced the objects of his embassy, which were the establishment of a commercial alliance and a league against Turkey, as also "to see Sir Robert Sherley purge himself from the imputations laid on him by Nogdi Beg, the king of Persia's late Ambassador.” The Shah gave a very gracious reply and observed, Concerning Sir Robt. Sherley, he had been long of his acquaintance, and expressed as many considerable forms towards him, (though a stranger and a Christian) as to any of his born subjects. That if Nogdi Beg had aspersed him unjustly he should have satisfaction : it argued indeed Nogdi Beg was guilty, in that he rather chose to destroy himself by the way, than adventure a purgation. In some sort he hath presaged my rigor, for had he come