The Voyage Made To Tripolis In Barbary





This voyage was set forth by the Right Worshipful Sir Edward Osborne

Knight, chief merchant of all the Turkish Company, and one Master

Richard Stapers, the ship being of the burden of
ne hundred tons,

called the Jesus; she was builded at Farmne, a river by Portsmouth.

About November 29th, 1584, she made sail from Portsmouth, and December

1st, by means of a contrary wind, we were driven to Plymouth. The 18th

day then next following we made forthward again, and by force of weather

we were driven to Falmouth, where we remained until January 1st, at

which time the wind coming fair we departed thence, and about the 20th

day of the said month we arrived safely at St. Lucas. And about March

9th next following we made sail from thence, and about the 18th day of

the same month we came to Tripolis in Barbary, where we were very well

entertained by the king of that country and also of the commons. The

commodities of that place are sweet oils; the king there is a merchant,

and the rather (willing to prefer himself before his commons) requested

our said factors to traffic with him, and promised them that if they

would take his oils at his own price they should pay no manner of

custom; and they took of him certain tons of oil; and afterward

perceiving that they might have far better cheap, notwithstanding the

custom free, they desired the king to license them to take the oils at

the pleasure of his commons, for that his price did exceed theirs;

whereunto the king would not agree, but was rather contented to abate

his price, insomuch that the factors bought all their oils of the king's

custom free, and so laded the same aboard.

In the meantime there came to that place one Miles Dickinson, in a ship

of Bristol, who together with our said factors took a house to

themselves there. Our French factor, Romaine Sonnings, desired to buy a

commodity in the market, and, wanting money, desired the said Miles

Dickinson to lend him a hundred chikinoes until he came to his lodging,

which he did; and afterwards the same Sonnings met with Miles Dickinson

in the street, and delivered him money bound up in a napkin, saying,

"Master Dickinson, there is the money that I borrowed of you," and so

thanked him for the same. The said Dickinson did not tell the money

presently, until he came to his lodging, and then, finding nine

chikinoes lacking of his hundred (which was about three pounds, for that

every chikinoe is worth seven shillings of English money), he came to

the said Romaine Sonnings and delivered him his handkerchief, and asked

him how many chikinoes he had delivered him. Sonnings answered, "A

hundred"; Dickinson said "No"; and so they protested and swore on both

parts. But in the end the said Romaine Sonnings did swear deeply with

detestable oaths and curses, and prayed God that He might show His works

on him, that other might take ensample thereby, and that he might be

hanged liked a dog, and never come into England again, if he did not

deliver unto the said Dickinson a hundred chikinoes.

There was a man in the said town a pledge, whose name was Patrone

Norado, who the year before had done this Sonnings some pleasure there.

The foresaid Patrone Norado was indebted unto a Turk of that town in the

sum of four hundred and fifty crowns, for certain goods sent by him into

Christendom in a ship of his own, and by his own brother, and himself

remained in Tripolis as pledge until his said brother's return; and, as

the report went there, he came among lewd company, and lost his

brother's said ship and goods at dice, and never returned unto him


The said Patrone Norado, being void of all hope and finding now

opportunity, consulted with the said Sonnings for to swim a-seaboard the

islands, and the ship, being then out of danger, should take him in (as

was afterwards confessed), and so go to Tallowne, in the province of

Marseilles, with this Patrone Norado, and there to take in the rest of

his lading.

The ship being ready May 1st, and having her sails all abroad, our said

factors did take their leave of the king, who very courteously bid them

farewell, and when they came aboard they commanded the master and the

company hastily to get out the ship. The master answered that it was

impossible, for that the wind was contrary and overblowed. And he

required us, upon forfeiture of our bands, that we should do our

endeavour to get her forth. Then went we to warp out the ship, and

presently the king sent a boat aboard of us, with three men in her,

commanding the said Sonnings to come ashore, at whose coming the king

demanded of him custom for the oils. Sonnings answered him that his

highness had promised to deliver them customs free. But,

notwithstanding, the king weighed not his said promise, and as an

infidel that hath not the fear of God before his eyes, nor regard of his

word, albeit he was a king, he caused the said Sonnings to pay the

custom to the uttermost penny, and afterwards ordered him to make haste

away, saying that the janisaries would have the oil ashore again.

These janisaries are soldiers there under the Great Turk, and their

power is above the king's. And so the said factor departed from the

king, and came to the waterside, and called for a boat to come aboard,

and he brought with him the aforesaid Patrone Norado. The company,

inquisitive to know what man that was, Sonnings answered that he was his

countryman, a passenger. "I pray God," said the company, "that we come

not into trouble by this man." Then said Sonnings angrily, "What have

you to do with any matters of mine? If anything chance otherwise than

well, I must answer for all."

Now the Turk unto whom this Patrone Norado was indebted, missing him,

supposed him to be aboard of our ship, presently went unto the king and

told him that he thought that his pledge, Patrone Norado, was aboard on

the English ship. Whereupon the king presently sent a boat aboard of us,

with three men in her, commanding the said Sonnings to come ashore; and,

not speaking anything as touching the man, he said that he would come

presently in his own boat; but as soon as they were gone he willed us to

warp forth the ship, and said that he would see the knaves hanged before

he would go ashore. And when the king saw that he came not ashore, but

still continued warping away the ship, he straight commanded the gunner

of the bulwark next unto us to shoot three shots without ball. Then we

came all to the said Sonnings, and asked him what the matter was that we

were shot at; he said that it was the janisaries who would have the oil

ashore again, and willed us to make haste away. And after that he had

discharged three shots without ball he commanded all the gunners in the

town to do their endeavour to sink us; but the Turkish gunners could not

once strike us, wherefore the king sent presently to the banio (this

banio is the prison where all the captives lay at night), and promised

that if there were any that could either sink us or else cause us to

come in again, he should have a hundred crowns and his liberty. With

that came forth a Spaniard called Sebastian, which had been an old

servitor in Flanders, and he said that, upon the performance of that

promise, he would undertake either to sink us or to cause us to come in

again, and thereto he would gage his life; and at the first shot he

split our rudder's head in pieces, and the second shot he struck us

under water, and the third shot he shot us through our fore-mast with a

culverin shot, and thus, he having rent both our rudder and mast and

shot us under water, we were enforced to go in again.

This Sebastian for all his diligence herein had neither his liberty nor

a hundred crowns, so promised by the said king; but, after his service

done, was committed again to prison, whereby may appear the regard that

a Turk or infidel hath of his work, although he be able to perform

it--yea, more, though he be a king.

Then our merchants, seeing no remedy, they, together with five of our

company, went ashore; and they then ceased shooting. They shot unto us

in the whole nine-and-thirty shots without the hurt of any man.

And when our merchants came ashore the king commanded presently that

they, with the rest of our company that were with them, should be

chained four and four to a hundred-weight of iron, and when we came in

with the ship there came presently above a hundred Turks aboard of us,

and they searched us and stripped our very clothes from our backs, and

broke open our chests, and made a spoil of all that we had; and the

Christian caitiffs likewise that came aboard of us made spoil of our

goods, and used us as ill as the Turks did.

Then came the guardian Basha, who is the keeper of the king's captives,

to fetch us all ashore; and then I, remembering the miserable estate of

poor distressed captives in the time of their bondage to those infidels,

went to mine own chest, and took out thereof a jar of oil, and filled a

basket full of white ruske, to carry ashore with me. But before I came

to the banio the Turkish boys had taken away almost all my bread, and

the keeper said, "Deliver me the jar of oil, and when thou comest to the

banio thou shalt have it again;" but I never had it of him any more.

But when I came to the banio and saw our merchants and all the rest of

our company in chains, and we all ready to receive the same reward, what

heart is there so hard but would have pitied our cause, hearing or

seeing the lamentable greeting there was betwixt us? All this happened

May 1st, 1584.

And the second day of the same month the king with all his council sat

in judgment upon us. The first that were had forth to be arraigned were

the factors and the masters, and the king asked them wherefore they

came not ashore when he sent for them. And Romaine Sonnings answered

that, though he were a king on shore, and might command there, so was he

as touching those that were under him; and therefore said, if any

offence be, the fault is wholly in myself and in no other. Then

forthwith the king gave judgment that the said Romaine Sonnings should

be hanged over the north-east bulwark, from whence he conveyed the

forenamed Patrone Norado. And then he called for our master, Andrew

Dier, and used few words to him, and so condemned him to be hanged over

the walls of the westernmost bulwarks.

Then fell our other factor, named Richard Skegs, upon his knees before

the king, and said, "I beseech your highness either to pardon our master

or else suffer me to die for him, for he is ignorant of this cause." And

then the people of that country, favouring the said Rickard Skegs,

besought the king to pardon them both. So then the king spake these

words: "Behold, for thy sake I pardon the master." Then presently the

Turks shouted and cried, saying, "Away with the master from the presence

of the king." And then he came into the banio where we were, and told us

what had happened, and we all rejoiced at the good hap of Master Skegs,

that he was saved, and our master for his sake.

But afterwards our joy was turned to double sorrow, for in the meantime

the king's mind was altered: for that one of his council had advised him

that, unless the master died also, by the law they could not confiscate

the ship nor goods, neither make captive any of the men. Whereupon the

king sent for our master again, and gave him another judgment after his

pardon for one cause, which was that he should be hanged.

And when that Romaine Sonnings saw no remedy but that he should die, he

protested to turn Turk, hoping thereby to have saved his life. Then said

the Turk, "If thou wilt turn Turk, speak the words that thereunto

belong;" and he did so. Then said they unto him, "Now thou shalt die in

the faith of a Turk;" and so he did, as the Turks reported that were at

his execution; and the forenamed Patrone Narado, whereas before he had

liberty and did nothing, he then was condemned slave perpetual, except

there were payment made of the foresaid sum of money.

Then the king condemed all of us, who were in number five-and-twenty, of

which two were hanged (as you have heard) and one died the first day we

came on shore by the visitation of Almighty God, and the other

three-and-twenty he condemned slaves perpetually unto the Great Turk,

and the ship and goods were confiscated to the use of the Great Turk;

then we all fell down upon our knees, giving God thanks for this

sorrowful visitation and giving ourselves wholly to the almighty power

of God, unto whom all secrets are known, that He of His goodness would

vouchsafe to look upon us.

Every five men had allowance but five aspers of bread in a day, which is

but twopence English, and our lodging was to lie on the bare boards,

with a very simple cape to cover us. We were also forcibly and most

violently shaven, head and beard, and within three days after, I and

five more of my fellows, together with fourscore Italians and Spaniards,

were sent forth in a galiot to take a Greek carmosel, which came into

Arabia to steal negroes, and went out of Tripolis unto that place which

was two hundred and forty leagues thence; but we were chained three and

three to an oar, and we rowed naked above the girdle, and the boatswain

of the galley walked abaft the mast, and his mate afore the mast, and

each of them a whip in their hands, and when their devilish choler rose

they would strike the Christians for no cause: and they allowed us but

half a pound of bread a man in a day, without any other kind of

sustenance, water excepted. And when we came to the place where we saw

the carmosel, we were not suffered to have neither needle, bodkin,

knife, or any other instrument about us, nor at any other time in the

night, upon pain of one hundred bastinadoes: we were then also cruelly

manacled, in such sort that we could not put our hands the length of one

foot asunder the one from the other, and every night they searched our

chains three times, to see if they were fast riveted. We continued the

fight with the carmosel there hours, and then we took it, and lost but

two of our men in that fight; but there were slain of the Greeks five,

and fourteen were cruelly hurt; and they that were found were presently

made slaves and chained to the oars, and within fifteen days after we

returned again into Tripolis, and then we were put to all manner of

slavery. I was put to hew stones, and others to carry stones, and some

to draw the cart with earth, and some to make mortar, and some to draw

stones (for at that time the Turks builded a church); and thus we were

put to all kinds of slavery that was to be done.

Now, the king had eighteen captives, which three times a week went to

fetch wood thirty miles from the town, and on a time he appointed me for

one of the eighteen, and we departed at eight of the clock in the night;

and upon the way, at midnight, or thereabouts, as I was riding upon my

camel, I fell asleep, and the guide and all the rest rode away from me,

not thinking but I had been among them. When I awoke, and finding myself

alone, I durst not call nor holloa, for fear lest the wild Moors should

hear me--because they hold this opinion, that in killing a Christian

they do God good service--and musing with myself what were best for me

to do: if I should return back to Tripolis without any wood or company I

should be most miserably used; therefore, of the two evils, rather I had

to go forth to the losing of my life than to turn back and trust to

their mercy, fearing to be used as before I had seen others. For,

understanding by some of my company before how Tripolis and the said

wood did lie one off another, by the North Star I went forth at

adventure, and, as God would have it, I came right to the place where

they were, even about an hour before day. There altogether we rested,

and gave our camels provender, and as soon as the day appeared we rode

all into the wood; and I, seeing no wood there but a stick here and a

stick there, about the bigness of a man's arm, growing in the sand, it

caused me to marvel how so many camels should be loaded in that place.

The wood was juniper; we needed no axe nor edged tool to cut it, but

plucked it up by strength of hands, roots and all, which a man might

easily do, and so gathered together a little at one place, and so at

another, and laded our camels, and came home about seven of the clock

that night following; because I fell lame and my camel was tired, I left

my wood in the way.

This king had a son which was a ruler in an island called Gerbi,

whereunto arrived an English ship called the Green Dragon, of the

which was master one M. Blonket, who, having a very unhappy boy on that

ship, and understanding that whosoever would turn Turk should be well

entertained of the king's son, this boy did run ashore and voluntarily

turned Turk. Shortly after the king's son came to Tripolis to visit his

father, and seeing our company, he greatly fancied Richard Burges, our

purser, and James Smith. They were both young men, therefore he was very

desirious to have them to turn Turks; but they would not yield to his

desire, saying, "We are your father's slaves and as slaves we will serve

him." Then his father the king sent for them, and asked them if they

would turn Turks; and they said: "If it please your Highness, Christians

we were born and so we will remain, and beseech the king that they might

not be enforced thereunto." The king had there before in his house a son

of a yeoman of our queen's guard, whom the king's son had enforced to

turn Turk; his name was John Nelson. Him the king caused to be brought

to these young men, and then said unto them, "Will you not bear this,

your countryman, company, and be Turk as he is?" and they said that they

would not yield thereunto during life. But it fell out that, within a

month after, the king's son went home to Gerbi again, being five score

miles from Tripolis, and carried our two foresaid young men with him,

which were Richard Burges and James Smith. And after their departure

from us they sent us a letter, signifying that there was no violence

showed unto them as yet; yet within three days after they were violently

used, for that the king's son demanded of them again if that they would

turn Turk. Then answered Richard Burges: "A Christian I am, and so I

will remain." Then the king's son very angrily said unto him, "By

Mahomet thou shalt presently be made Turk!" Then called he for his men

and commanded them to make him Turk; and they did so, and circumcised

him, and would have had him speak the words that thereunto belonged; but

he answered them stoutly that he would not, and although they had put on

him the habit of a Turk, yet said he, "A Christian I was born, and so I

will remain, though you force me to do otherwise."

And then he called for the other, and commanded him to be made Turk

perforce also; but he was very strong, for it was so much as eight of

the king's son's men could do to hold him. So in the end they

circumcised him and made him Turk. Now, to pass over a little, and so to

show the manner of our deliverance out of that miserable captivity.

In May aforesaid, shortly after our apprehension, I wrote a letter into

England unto my father, dwelling in Evistoke in Devonshire, signifying

unto him the whole estate of our calamities, and I wrote also to

Constantinople to the English ambassador, both which letters were

faithfully delivered. But when my father had received my letter, and

understood the truth of our mishap, and the occasion thereof, and what

had happened to the offenders, he certified the Right Honourable the

Earl of Bedford thereof, who in short space acquainted Her Highness with

the whole cause thereof; and Her Majesty, like a most merciful princess

tendering her subjects, presently took order for our deliverance.

Whereupon the Right Worshipful Sir Edward Osborne, knight, directed his

letters with all speed to the English ambassador in Constantinople to

procure our delivery, and he obtained the Great Turk's commission, and

sent it forthwith to Tripolis by one Master Edward Barton, together with

a justice of the Great Turk's and one soldier, and another Turk and a

Greek, which was his interpreter, which could speak beside Greek,

Turkish, Italian, Spanish and English. And when they came to Tripolis

they were well entertained, and the first night they did lie in a

captain's house in the town. All our company that were in Tripolis came

that night for joy to Master Barton and the other commissioners to see

them. Then Master Barton said unto us, "Welcome, my good countrymen,"

and lovingly entertained us: and at our departure from him he gave us

two shillings, and said, "Serve God, for to-morrow I hope you shall be

as free as ever you were." We all gave him thanks and so departed.

The next day, in the morning very early, the king having intelligence of

their coming, sent word to the keeper that none of the Englishmen

(meaning our company) should go to work. Then he sent for Master Barton

and the other commissioners, and demanded of the said Master Barton his

message. The justice answered that the Great Turk, his sovereign, had

sent them unto him, signifying that he was informed that a certain

English ship, called the Jesus, was by him the said king confiscated

about twelve months since, and now my said sovereign hath here sent his

especial commission by us unto you for the deliverance of the said ship

and goods, and also the free liberty and deliverance of the Englishmen

of the said ship whom you have taken and kept in captivity. And further,

the same justice said, I am authorised by my said sovereign the Great

Turk to see it done; and therefore I command you, by the virtue of this

commission, presently to make restitution of the premises or the value

thereof. And so did the justice deliver unto the king the Great Turk's

commission to the effect aforesaid, which commission the king with all

obedience received; and after the perusing of the same, he forthwith

commanded all the English captives to be brought before him, and then

willed the keeper to strike off all our irons. Which done, the king

said, "You Englishmen, for that you did offend the laws of this place,

by the same laws therefore some of your company were condemned to die,

as you know, and you to be perpetual captives during your lives;

notwithstanding, seeing it hath pleased my sovereign lord the Great Turk

to pardon your said offences, and to give you your freedom and liberty,

behold, here I make delivery of you unto this English gentleman." So he

delivered us all that were there, being thirteen in number, to Master

Barton, who required also those two young men which the king's son had

taken with him. Then the king answered that it was against their law to

deliver them, for that they were turned Turks; and, touching the ship

and goods, the king said that he had sold her, but would make

restitution of the value, and as much of the goods as came unto his

hands. And so the king arose and went to dinner, and commanded a Jew to

go with Master Barton and the other commissioners to show them their

lodgings, which was a house provided and appointed them by the said

king. And because I had the Italian and Spanish tongues, by which there

most traffic in that country is, Master Barton made me his caterer, to

buy his victuals for him and his company, and he delivered me money

needful for the same. Thus were we set at liberty April 28th, 1585.