In 1512, two diplomatic missions were sent to Cairo by the Republic of Venice and the French Kingdom. The Venetian ambassador Domenico Trevisan and the French envoy André Le Roy met the sultan Qānṣawh al-Ghawrī (1501-1516) to claim different and partly conflicting interests related to the economic and political dynamics in the Near East. Two years earlier, the Knights Hospitallers of Rhodes had attacked and captured some Mamluk ships that were carrying material from the Ottoman territories for the construction of a military fleet, after a defeat suffered by the Mamluks at the hands of the Kingdom of Portugal. In fact, the Portuguese Monarchy was defending the new trade route to India opened a few years earlier. For a short period, the Ottoman sultanate had helped the Mamluks to counter Portuguese power, before returning to threaten Egypt and Syria.
Sultan Qānṣawh had responded to the attack of the Hospitallers, who were allies of the French Monarchy, by ordering the arrest of all the Christian merchants active in Mamluk territories as well as the closure of Christian places of worship in the Holy Land. The diplomatic missions carried out by Trevisan and Le Roy were organized within this framework, involving the interests of the mentioned political actors. Besides trying to solve the diplomatic crisis, the two embassies aimed also at gaining exclusive privileges by the sultan. On one side, the Republic of Venice was attempting to maintain its primary role as a commercial partner of the Mamluks. On the other side, the French Monarchy was trying to defend the good diplomatic relations that had established with Cairo during the 15th century. The sovereigns of France, who had assumed the significant title of “kings of Jerusalem”, attempted to present themselves as the guarantors of the rights of Christians living in or making pilgrimages in Holy Land.
My paper will examine the two travel journals concerning the embassies of Trevisan and Le Roy, along with other diplomatic sources related to these missions, with the aim of understanding how the two northern Mediterranean powers, from different perspectives, conceived, narrated and represented their relations with the Mamluk sultanate in the last years of its existence.