The Sultan and the Queen

The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam
Narrated by: Ralph Lister
Length: 12 hrs and 38 mins
Categories: History, European
4.5 out of 5 stars (23 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

When Queen Elizabeth was excommunicated by the Pope in 1570, she found herself in an awkward predicament. Now England's key markets would be closed to her Protestant merchants. To complicate matters the staunchly Catholic king of Spain was determined to destroy her, bolstered by the gold pouring in from the New World.

In a bold decision with far-reaching consequences, Elizabeth set her sights on the East. She sent an emissary to the shah of Iran; wooed the king of Morocco, trading gunpowder for sugar; and entered into an unprecedented alliance with the powerful Ottoman Sultan Murad III.

This marked the beginning of an extraordinary alignment with Muslim powers and of economic and political exchanges with the Islamic world of a depth not again experienced until the modern age. Londoners were gripped with a passion for the Orient. In this groundbreaking book, Jerry Brotton reveals that Elizabethan England's relationship with the Muslim world was far more amicable - and far more extensive - than we have ever appreciated as he tells the riveting story of the businessmen and adventurers who first went east to make their fortunes.

©2016 Jerry Brotton (P)2016 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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Essential for understanding our own era

The enticing title of this book belies its full scope, as it's a window into more than just England, but documents the multinational intrigue of the 16th Century. The reader is transported between London, Constantinople, Moscow, Prague, Madrid, Venice, Marrakesh, and many other sites where actual events took unexpected turns. I don't think anyone could write a novel with a more captivating plot than this real world history.

During the period covered, Christendom was torn apart by the Protestant Reformation and the effective atomization of Christianity as a result. Queen Elizabeth's incentive for cultivating economic ties with the Turkish Sultan was partly driven by England's isolation from the rest of Catholic Europe following her excommunication by the Pope. This encouraged the seemingly unintuitive collaboration between Protestant Christians and the Islamic nations.

Concurrently the continuing schism within Islam between Sunni and Shia affected intra-Islamic relations between Turkey, Persia, and North Africa. It's apparent from the material covered that the conflicts within and between the different sects of Christianity and Islam were driven more by national and commercial interests than anything theological.

Throughout this period, the Jews have an integral role, often as commercial proxies between Muslims and Christians. And sometimes they found themselves on the short end of the deal.

There are no heroes in these events, only fallible humans like you and me, some with more impure motives than others. Schoolbook figures such as Sir Francis Drake are revealed as hardly invincible. The blatant racism and cultural chauvinism in many of Shakespeare's plays expose the mythology about the southern Mediterranean circulating among a white English population with limited actual information about the people there. The unfamiliar customs and behavior in London of some individuals from those regions sometimes did not help dispel those prejudices. In an age when global navigation had just then become a reality, experiences like these were unfolding for different peoples worldwide, each in their own form.

In the audio book version, the narrator does an excellent job with international pronunciations and inflections. This adds valuable context to the content.

Far beyond its entertainment and informative value, this book is essential for understanding the cultural influences driving international relations in our own time. It would be difficult to ever again view institutional religion as a purely spiritual endeavor. National and commercial interests dominate most religious thought, more so than most believers are willing to admit. They may need to seek higher and deeper for the still small voice of the God of Abraham.

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