In 1812 Henrietta Liston travelled to the heart of the Ottoman Empire. Her husband, Robert, had been called out of retirement and re-appointed British ambassador to the Sublime Porte at Constantinople. Described as 'the father of the diplomatic body throughout Europe', Robert returned to the Ottoman Court at the age of 69.
Departing from Portsmouth on the 8 April 1812, the Listons sailed the Mediterranean on the Argo and through the islands of the Aegean to the Dardanelles, scene of ancient epic battles made famous by Homer. Rowed at the Sultan's expense in 'a little flotilla' across the Sea of Marmara, they arrived in Constantinople in June and were welcomed, Henrietta records, by a 'great crowd — male and female, of Turks, Greeks, Jews and Christians'.
It is about this three-and-a-half-month voyage to Constantinople and the first two years of her life in the city that Henrietta, a seasoned traveller, wrote her most significant travel journal.Read the journal See tour on map
The journal, as it details Henrietta's rich and varied experiences between 1812 and 1814, offers a unique vision of Constantinople in the early 19th century. Liston's enquiring voice gives insights into Ottoman society and Anglo-Turkish relations. It takes us with her through the Ottoman Empire by warship, row-boat, and araba (Turkish carriage); to walk through Constantinople 'as much incognito as possible'; to watch pilgrims depart on the hajj; to see burial grounds full of victims of the plague and to marvel at Mount Olympus.
Unlike Henrietta's other journals and writings on unbound sheets of paper, this journal was written in a bound volume. The brown calfskin volume has 'LISTON'S TRAVELS' tooled in gold across the front and on the spine. For a discussion of this fascinating manuscript see Patrick Hart's 'The Manuscripts: Composition, Revision, Dating Readership' in 'Henrietta Liston's Travels: The Turkish Journals' (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020).
Given permission by Lord Castlereagh, the Foreign Secretary, to 'touch Cádiz, Gibraltar, Sicily, and Malta' on their way to Turkey to carry with them 'to that distant country, that latest and most important information' the Listons and their diplomatic suite visited British and European diplomats, naval officers, governors and friends stationed around the Mediterranean.
With lively detail Henrietta records excursions to public gardens, country villas, operas, cathedrals, monasteries and ancient ruins as she and the diplomatic suite travel from place to place. Henrietta comments on architecture, dress and climate, and, it is in this Mediterranean portion of her journal that her reflections on political relations in Europe and on the Napoleonic Wars are most present.
The Listons reached Turkey in June 1812, found the cherries in 'great perfection' and Mahmud II, the young Sultan, about to begin the fourth year of his reign. At the Sublime Porte Robert would spend his time preserving peace between Turkey and Russia and 'patching and palliating, and endeavouring to prevent mischief', while Henrietta, as diplomat's consort, kept up 'a friendly intercourse with all mankind'.
Henrietta's journal offers us not only insights into the life of the European diplomatic corps in Pera, Constantinople, but also insights into the early part of Sultan Mahmud II's reign before his radical social and administrative reforms were realised.
Through her accounts of meeting the Kapudan Pasha (the Grand Admiral of the Turkish fleet), Robert Liston's public audiences with Mahmud II and the Kaimakam (the deputy to the Grand Vizier), visits to harems in the households of the Ottoman elite, and through her reflections on the non-Muslim communities of Constantinople, Henrietta makes observations on sultanic power and the domestic politics and foreign relations of the Ottoman Empire.
England, Spain, Gibraltar, Malta, Sicily, Milo, Turkey
Names in brackets are how Henrietta Liston refers to that person or spells their name in her journal.
Hurşid Ahmed served as Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire from July 1812 to 30 March 1815. The Grand Vizier was the sultan's deputy who presided over civil and military matters.
Laz Aziz Ahmed served as Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire from 1811 to 1812. The Grand Vizier was the sultan's deputy who presided over civil and military matters.
Alexander I was Emperor of Russia between 1801 and 1825.
French Diplomat. French Ambassador to the Ottoman Porte from 1812 to 1814, Andréossy was also Ambassador to Great Britain from 1803 to 1805 and to the Austrian Empire from 1808 to 1809.
Brigide was the wife of S B Arles, and Henrietta Liston's interpreter in Bursa in 1814.
S B Arles was a French silk merchant living in Bursa and an agent for the British trading house of Lee & Sons (Lee & Fils) of Smyrna.
British naval officer and politician. Ball was made Minister Plenipotentiary in Malta in 1802, and he was Civil Commissioner and de facto Governor from 1803 until his death.
Spanish military officer. Ballesteros was a General during the Peninsula War (1808-1814).
Ottoman Sultan. Bayezid I reigned from 1389 to 1403, he extended the Ottoman empire to include Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria.
Also known as Kazaz Artin, Harutyun Bezciyan was Director of the Ottoman mint from 1819 to 1832. He became an influential advisor to Sultan Mahmud II and his banker.
Sicilian politician. Belmónte was made the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1812 but forced to resign in 1813 and emigrated to Paris.
Sicilian aristocrat. Butera served at the Court of Naples and assumed the title of Prince of Butera in 1800 after the death of his father in 1799.
Scottish American army officer. Campbell fought in the American War of Independence and was Lieutenant-Governor of Gibraltar from 1810 to 1814. While stationed in New York he married Mary Johnson (daughter of Colonel Guy Johnson), a friend of the Listons who was in Gibraltar when they visited in 1812.
British diplomat. Canning was first secretary at Constantinople from 1808 and minister-plenipotentiary from 1810 to 1812. He later served as British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1825 to 1829 and again from 1841 to 1858.
Lady Mary was the second daughter of Arthur, first Earl of Gosford, She married Lord William Bentinck in 1803 and was painted twice by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
British army officer, diplomat, and statesman. In 1811, while serving as Commander-in-Chief of the British military forces in the Mediterranean, Bentinck was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Two Sicilies. He was Governor-General of India from 1827 to 1835.
The daughter of Stefano Pisani, dragoman (interpreter) to the British Embassy, and the wife of François Chabert. Her son, Robert, also became a dragoman in the British embassy.
The third in rank of the eight dragomen at the British Embassy during the Listons' residency. The Chaberts were a prominent family of French origin in Pera in Constantinople. François became first dragoman in 1824 when Bartolomeo Pisani retired.
Charlotte married George III in 1761 and served as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from then until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, after which she was queen consort of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1818. She bore 15 children.
A wealthy Syrian merchant known as 'Fragela' who funded the House of Widows and Orphans in Cadiz, Spain.
Roman Emperor, reigned AD 306-337, also known as Constantine the Great, who reunited the Roman Empire, established the imperial capital at Constantinople and made Christianity its principal religion.
Merchant and diplomat of Scottish birth. Duff became an important sherry merchant in Spain from the 1760s. The port and sherry company Sandeman acted as his agent from 1796. Duff was appointed British Consul at Cadiz in 1790, a position he held until his death.
Holy Roman Emperor from 1792 to 1806 and Emperor of Austria from 1804 to 1835.
Robert was the son of Thomas and Agnes Elliot who were friends of the Listons. Described by Henrietta as 'our protégé' Robert went to Constantinople with the Listons in 1812 but returned home in 1814 to complete his education. In 1817 he became Liston's Oriental Attaché and then Oriental Secretary from 1820 to 1828.
Scottish sailor, poet and lexicographer. He served in the British Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy before turning to writing. He is best known for 'The Shipwreck. A Sentimental and Descriptive Poem' (1762), supposedly based on his own experience. He also published 'Dictionary of the Marine' (1769) which became the standard nautical dictionary until the end of sail.
The Son of Carlos III, Ferdinand became King of Spain in 1759 and succeeded his father as King of Naples and Sicily. He married Maria Carolina of Austria in 1768.
Fisher was a member of the King's Messenger Corps from 1799 to 1824.
Francis, the Prince Royal, became Francis I, King of the Two Sicilies in 1825
The last of the Holy Roman Emperors Francis reigned from 1972 to 1806 and assumed the title of Emperor of Austria in 1804, nearly two years before the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.
British diplomat. Appointed Secretary of the British Embassy at Constantinople in March 1811, Frere took up his post along Robert Liston, in June 1812. Frere served as Minister Plenipotentiary from 1815 to 1817 while Robert was on leave, and again from late 1820 until 1821 until Percy Smythe, Viscount Strangford, became Ambassador.
British monarch. George was Prince Regent from 1811 to 1820, the period during which his father, George III was unfit to rule. Becoming King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on his father's death, he reigned until 1830.
Born in Andalusia, Gil entered the order of St Francis at an early age and rose through the brotherhood. Becoming Secretary General of the Junta of Seville, he took a leading part in the insurrection after the French invasion of Spain in 1808.
Federico Carlos Gravina was appointed Ambassador to France in 1804 and in 1805 was appointed to command the Spanish fleet, becoming a celebrated naval commander. He died as a result of wounds sustained at Trafalgar in 1805.
Papal Nuncio in Spain from 1803 to 1816.
Hamilton accompanied the Liston on their 1812 voyage to the Sublime Porte. He served first as Oriental Secretary and then as Secretary at the British Embassy in Constantinople from 1820 to 1824. Hamilton was also an orientalist and translator of 'Antar: A Bedoueen Romance' (1819-1820).
The Bey of Tunis in 1812.
María Guadalupe was born in Havana, Cuba, the daughter of Lorenzo Hernandez de Alba. Married Juan Gabriel de Jabat y Aztal, the Spanish Envoy to the Ottoman Empire, in 1807. The Listons were friendly with the couple and their son Rafael became a diplomat and served in Britain 1834-36. One of her letters written in French to Henrietta in the Liston Papers at the National Library.
Noel Hill served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Sardinian court from 1807 to 1824. Hill was briefly engaged to Lady Hester Stanhope.
British army officer and engineer. Holloway served at Gibraltar and Egypt, and in Turkey as a military adviser to the Ottomans. He played a leading role in Egypt during the Ottoman conflict with the French from 1801 to 1802.
British naval officer. Hope joined the navy in 1798 and had a long and distinguished career. He served in various capacities during the Napoleonic Wars, ending his career as admiral in 1858. He was the captain of the HMS Salsette from 1811 to 1812.
Diplomat and scholar. Italinski was Russian Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1802 to 1816.
Born in Edinburgh, Laing studied at the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow before graduating from Oxford and taking Holy Orders. He served as Private Secretary to the Governor of Malta, from 1803 to 1814, quickly becoming Secretary to the Government.
Mary was married to the Reverend Francis Laing.
French diplomat. He was chargé d'affaires in Constantinople from 1808 to 1812.
French traveller and archaeologist, Secretary to the French Ambassador in Constantinople from 1785 to 1787. He published 'Voyage dans la Troade, ou tableau de la plaine de Troie dans son état actuel in 1794.
British naval officer. In 1807 he fought in the unsuccessful British attack on the Dardanelles, an attempt to pressure the Ottomans into allowing passage to British ships through the strait. From the spring of 1811 to the autumn of 1812 he organised the defence of Cadiz against the French.
British Diplomat. Born in Kirkliston, Scotland, Robert Liston became an influential diplomat and was the second person to serve as British Minister to the United States, 1796-1801. Robert's service coincided with a highly significant period in British-American relations. In 1796 he married Henrietta Marchant. In 1811 he was appointed British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and took up the post in 1812.
Louis Philippe became the Duke of Orleans in 1785 and was later known as the 'Citizen King'. He was proclaimed King of France in August 1830 and abdicated in 1848. He was married to Maria Amalia Teresa (1782-1866).
Spanish naval officer and diplomat. Jabat served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Porte from 1809 to 1819. Robert Liston described him as 'an enthusiastick patriot, and manly and honourable in his conduct. — He originally undertook, at a period of publick distress, to perform the duties of office without salary or emolument […] he at length succeeded in reestablishing the Spanish Mission at the Porte on a footing of respectability and improvement' (National Library reference: MS. 5635, f.42). Jabat was Minister Plenipotentiary to Britain 1822 to 1824. He was married was to María Guadalupe Hernández de Alba.
Julia was born in New York to Mary (died 1775) and Colonel Guy Johnson (circa 1740-88), the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in North America. Her elder sister Mary was married to Colin Campbell, Lieutenant-Governor of Gibraltar 1810-1814. The Listons knew the Johnson family during their tour in North America between 1796 and 1800. Julia's correspondence with Henrietta in the Liston Papers dates from 1809 to 1829.
Ottoman sultan. Mahmud II, the son of Abdulhamid I, was the 30th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and reigned from 1808 to 1839. He introduced a series of social and administrative reforms and abolished the Janissaries in 1826.
In 1809 she married Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans.
Maria Cristina was married to Charles Felix (Carlo Felice), King of Sardinia (1765-1831).
Maria Theresa married her first cousin, Francis II, the Holy Roman Emperor (1768-1835).
Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia (reigned 1740-1780), wife and Empress of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I (reigned 1745-1765), and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II.
Ottoman government official and diplomat. Mehmed held various administrative positions and served as Ottoman ambassador to Paris (1803-1806). He was appointed Nisanci (Head Secretary of the Imperial Council) in 1811.
Bey of Egypt from 1805 to 1849, the first of the monarchs of the Muhammad Ali dynasty. His son, Ibrahim Pasha (1789-1848), reigned only from 20 July to 10 November 1848.
In 1812 Rüşdi Mehmed Pasha was appointed as kaymakam, the Grand Vizier's Deputy, serving under Laz Aziz Ahmed Pasha and then Hurşid Ahmed Pasha, and remaining in the post until 1814.
Writer. Born in to an aristocratic family, Lady Mary eloped to marry Edward Wortley Montagu (1678-1761) in 1712 and, in 1716, accompanied him on his embassy to Constantinople. During her short stay in Turkey she spent time, like Henrietta Liston did, in Belgrade Village and Constantinople. She also wrote letters describing her travels and Turkish customs. 1763 saw the publication of Wortley Montagu's famous 'The Turkish Embassy Letters'.
Prince of Moldovia (present-day Moldova) and Grand Dragoman of the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Selim III.
Chief Dragoman of the Porte (1808-1812) and the elder brother of Panagios. The Mourousi family were Phanariot Greeks of Constantinople who served the Ottoman Government as dragomans for many years. Demetrious was assassinated in 1812.
Younger brother of Demetrious Mourousi. He served as Dragoman of the Imperial Fleet between 1803 and 1806 and was the Deputy Dragoman of the Porte between 1809 and 1812, when he was assassinated.
Ottoman Sultan. The son of Abdulhamid I, Mustafa succeeded his cousin as Selim III as Sultan in 1807. He was deposed in 1808 and strangled on the orders of his brother Mahmud II.
The mother of Ottoman sultan Mahmud II.
The only child of Marie Louise of Austria and Napoleon I: at birth he was crowned the 'Roi de Rome'. In Vienna in March 1816, Liston had a chance encounter with the future Napoleon II at the Schönbrunn Palace: 'In walking the Garden we met young Bonaparte the former King of Rome — He walked betwixt two of the Emperors Chamberlains & a Footman behind him — the Gentlemen took off their Hats as we passed & the Boy did the same & with peculiar grace — He is a lovely looking Child about five or six years old with a quantity of the finest hair I ever saw hanging in Curls upon his shoulders' (National Library of Scotland reference: MS.5711, p.6-7).
Physician. Dr Lorenzo was official physician to the Seraglio from the 1770s to 1815. In a dispatch to Lord Castlereagh Robert Liston describes Lorenzo as 'principal physician to the Seraglio for 54 years' and 'a favourite with all the Sultanas'. He adds that he was 'born in Florence, educated in Rome', and had a 'greater portion of Medical […] knowledge & talent than […] the majority of his brethren', with 'the most singularly mild and pleasing manners, with a spirit of generosity and hospitality, which procured him a universal acquaintance and numberless friends' (National Library of Scotland reference: MS.5630, f.7). Lorenzo was assassinated in 1815 during the Listons' residence in Constantinople.
British army officer. He succeeded Sir Alexander Ball as Civil Commissioner of Malta from 1810 to 1813.
British army officer and colonial governor. He served as commanding officer at Gibraltar from 1787 to 1789 and as Lieutenant-Governor from 1792 to 1802.
Swedish diplomat and Egyptologist. Palin served as chargé d'affaires of the Swedish Embassy in Constantinople from 1805-1814 and wrote works on hieroglyphics including 'De l'étude des Hieroglyphs' (1812). Palin married Claire Lucie Mouradgea d'Ohsson (1776-1861), daughter of Ignatius Mouradgea d'Ohsson (1740-1807), Swedish diplomat and author of the 'Tableau Général de l'Empire Othoman' (1787-1820). Of Claire Henrietta wrote, she 'is a sensible excellent Creature but we are less together as she has not such good health has a large family' (National Library of Scotland reference: MS.5641, f.20).
British naval officer. Penrose joined the Royal Navy in 1775 and, promoted from midshipman, he came to command the Mediterranean station from 1810 to 1813 as Commodore, and again from 1816 to 1819. He authored several pamphlets including 'A Friendly Address to Seamen of the British Navy' (1820).
Principal dragoman to the British Embassy in Constantinople from 1800 to 1824. Bartolomeo's father Antonio had been the first member of the Pisani family to serve as dragoman. A Royal Patent appointing Antonio Pisani as interpreter of oriental languages to the embassy, dating from 1749, survives in the Liston Papers. He was married to Cecile Chock.
Dragoman at the British Embassy, Constantinople. Son of the dragoman Etienne Steffano Pisani (died 1797) and nephew of principal dragoman Bartolomeo Pisani. Frédéric's son Etienne also became a dragoman and served at the British Embassy.
British naval officer. Popham developed a system of flag signalling made up of numbers denoting letters of the alphabet, words, and phrases. Popham's 'Telegraphic Signals; or Marine Vocabulary' was first published in 1800.
King of Bithynia, Prusias I reigned 228-182 BC. He captured the city of Cierus from the Heracleans and renamed it after himself.
Ottoman Sultan. Sultan Selim III attempted to reform Ottoman administrative and military establishments. He was replaced by Mustafa IV who ordered his execution in 1808.
Austrian diplomat. Stürmer was the Austrian Internuncio in Constantinople from 1802 to 1818. He was married to Elisabetta Testa, daughter of Gaspard Testa, dragoman and diplomat. Their eldest son Bartholomaüs (1787-1863) also became a diplomat and served as Internuncio in Constantinople.
Statesman. Born in Dublin, Castlereagh was Foreign Secretary from 1812 until his suicide in 1822. He represented Britain at the Congress of Vienna 1814-1815. Robert Liston wrote regularly to Castlereagh.
Dragoman and British Consul at the Dardanelles 1789-1817. Robert Liston knew Israel from his first embassy to Constantinople in 1794 and in July 1812 mentioned in a letter to Lord Castlereagh that he 'has a very large family' and 'his salary is paid by the Levant Company' (National Library reference: MS.5627, f.5).
A dragoman for the Levant Company from 1806 to 1818. Solomon was the brother of Israel.
The daughter of the Duchess of Osuna, she married Jose Gabriel de Silva-Bazan y Waldstein (1782-1839), tenth Marquis of Santa Cruz, in 1801. A friend of poets and the literati, she was painted several times by Francisco Goya, most famously as Erato, the muse of love poetry, in 1805. (Fig. X)
French military officer and traveller, known for his role in the Ottoman army and navy. His Memoirs of his journeys and his life in the Ottoman Empire were published in French in 1784-1745 and in English in 1785.
British diplomat. Served in the Ottoman Empire from 1811 to 1817, under Ambassador Robert Liston and from 1824 to 1829 under Ambassador Stratford Canning. Turner's 'Journal of a Tour in the Levant' (1820) describes the voyage to Constantinople and his travels in Greece and the Ottoman Empire between 1813 and 1817.
Victor-Perrin ed the unsuccessful siege of Cádiz against the British from 1810 to 1812.
British naval officer. British diplomat. Served in the Ottoman Empire from 1811 to 1817, under Ambassador Robert Liston and from 1824 to 1829 under Ambassador Stratford Canning. Turner's 'Journal of a Tour in the Levant' (1820) describes the voyage to Constantinople and his travels in Greece and the Ottoman Empire between 1813 and 1817.
British Field Marshal and statesman. He defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 and later served as Prime Minister from 1828 to 1830, and again briefly in 1834.
British diplomat. Served as British ambassador to Spain from 1811 to 1821.
Army officer and colonial governor. Assuming the rank of Brigadier-General in the British army on 26 March 1812, Wilson was given special instructions to assist in the peace negotiations between Turkey and Russia, and accompanied Robert Liston on his embassy to the Sublime Porte. Wilson was a friend of the Listons and kept a journal of his voyage with them to Constantinople. The journal was posthumously published in 1861 as 'Private Diary of Travels'. Wilson was Governor of Gibraltar from 1842 to 1849.
[Library reference for this journal: MS.5709]