Queen Elizabeth donated an organ to Mehmet…a musical one!

Mehmet became sultan at the age of 29 having served as provincial governor in Manisa for twelve years.  He was the last prince to undertake this valuable training as a governor in the provinces as, in the future, all princes were kept in the palace.

A year after his accession he was persuaded to go to war against the Hapsburgs in northern Hungary.  Despite his terror of battle he won and returned to Istanbul triumphant, never to lead his army out again.

Mehmet was on very good terms with the British Ambassador to the Sublime Port (as Istanbul was known in diplomatic circles) and this man, Edward Barton, persuaded the Levant Company of the wisdom of making a spectacular gift from Queen Elizabeth to the sultan.  Thus Thomas Dallom, a member of the Blacksmiths’ Company in London made an organ which he demonstrated to Queen Elizabeth on 14 November 1598 causing her to note in a letter:

 “Here is a great and curious present going to the Great Turk which no doubt
 will be much talked of, and be very scandalous among other nations specially
 the Germanes.”

Dallom actually accompanied the organ to Istanbul and installed it in Topkapi Palace.  They finally arrived in Istanbul by sea in August 1599, after a six-month voyage, and it then took a further six weeks to repair damage suffered en route and finally set up the organ for the grand presentation.  It was an astounding success and Dallom received a purse of gold from the Sultan.  He went back to the Palace a few days later to make final adjustments to the organ and was given a tour including a highly illicit glimpse into the harem.  Dallom left Istanbul at the end of November 1599, never to return, and the eventual fate of the organ will be revealed in the next article on Mehmet’s successor.

Mehmet’s sedentary lifestyle, and love of food, possibly greatly contributed to his death from a heart attack at the age of thirty eight.  His son Ahmet, not quite fourteen years old, was next in line.