Moroccan Pioneer Diplomats in Europe

Emissaries of Moroccan Kings to Europe

Compilation by Said El Mansour Cherkaoui, October 24, 2021

International Day of Diplomats 24 Octobre

Anglo-Moroccan alliance

The Anglo-Moroccan alliance[1][2] was established at the end of the 16th century and the early 17th century between the kingdoms of England and Morocco. Commercial agreements had been reached by Queen Elizabeth I of England and the Moroccan Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur on the basis of a common enmity to Philip II of Spain. The arms trade dominated the exchange, and numerous attempts at direct military collaboration were also made.[1]

The alliance was maintained for some time by their successors.


After 1578, Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur developed relations between England and Morocco into a political alliance.

The alliance between the two states developed during the 16th century on the back of regular commercial exchanges, largely thanks to the work of the Amphlett family of merchants.[3]  European trade with Morocco had been at the command of Spain, Portugal and Genoa,[4] but in 1541 the Portuguese suffered the loss of Safi and Agadir, loosening their grip on the area.

Following the sailing of The Lion of Thomas Wyndham in 1551,[5] and the 1585 establishment of the English Barbary Company, trade developed between England and the Barbary states, and especially Morocco.[6] [7]

Sugar and Sweet Diplomacy

Morocco was once a very popular sugar exporter of high quality sugar loaf prized on the European market, rivaling even those from the Caribbean and Brazil.

Sugar Land Saadienne: Sweet History of Morocco

Industrializing Sugar Industry or Sector Providing External Purchasing Power and Strengthening the Foundation of the Saadian State?

“It was Queen Elisabeth of England who demanded exclusively ‘Mourakouch sugar’ . Source

While for tea, its entry into Morocco was made during the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismaïl, in the form of a gift brought to the Alaouite sovereign by English embassies at the Court, it was then a rare drink reserved for the Sultan and notables .

Sugar, ostrich feathers and saltpeter from Morocco were typically exchanged for English fabrics and firearms, in spite of the protests of Spain and Portugal.[3]

Elizabeth I had numerous exchanges with Sultan Abd al-Malik to facilitate trade and obtain advantages for English traders.[3] The sultan could speak Spanish and Italian as well as Arabic. In 1577 he wrote to the queen in Spanish, signing himself AbdelMeleck in Latin script.[8] That same year, the queen sent Edmund Hogan as ambassador to the Moroccan court.[9]


Elizabeth was initially reluctant to develop an arms trade with Morocco, for fear of criticism by other Christian powers, as was communicated by Hogan to the Sultan in 1577.[9] Contacts however soon developed into a political alliance as a result of further diplomatic exchanges between Elizabeth I and Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, after the defeat of Portugal at the Battle of Alcácer Quibir in 1578.[3]

Queen Elizabeth I of England

Anglo–Spanish War

Elizabeth I tried to obtain Sultan al-Mansur’s help in backing Dom António‘s claim to the Portuguese throne against Philip of Spain.

Antonio_of_Portugal Elizabeth I tried to obtain Sultan al-Mansur’s help in backing Dom António’s claim to the Portuguese throne against Philip of Spain

Relations intensified with the acclamation of Philip II of Spain as King of Portugal in 1580, and the advent of the Anglo–Spanish War in 1585.[9] In 1581, Elizabeth authorized the exportation of naval-grade timber to Morocco in exchange for saltpeter,[9] a necessary ingredient in gunpowder. The establishment of the Barbary Company in 1585 further gave England a monopoly on Morocco trade for 12 years.[3] In 1585–1588, through the embassy of Henry Roberts, Elizabeth tried to obtain the Sultan’s help in backing Dom António.[9] In 1588, Al-Mansur granted special privileges to English traders.[3]

In her letters to Al-Mansur, Elizabeth, over a period of 25 years, continually described the relationship between the two countries as « La buena amistad y confederación que hay entre nuestras coronas » (« The great friendship and cooperation that exists between our Crowns »), and presented herself as « Vuestra hermana y pariente según ley de corona y ceptro » (« Your sister and relative according to the law of the Crown and the Scepter »).[10]

In January 1589, Al-Mansur through his ambassador to the Queen,[11] Marzuq Rais (Mushac Reyz),[12] requested the supply of oars, carpenters and shipwrights, as well as transportation on English ships, in exchange for his contribution of 150,000 ducats and his military help for an Anglo-Moroccan expedition against Spain in favour of the Portuguese claimant.[9] He also requested English military assistance in case of a conflict with neighboring non-Christian countries. Elizabeth could not meet these demands completely, especially the transportation of Moroccan forces, and negotiation drew on until the death of Dom António in 1595.[9] [13]

The 1589 English expedition to Portugal moved ahead nonetheless, and ended in failure with the English fleet hoping in vain for reinforcements from England or Morocco.[14]  Only the Moroccan ambassador Marzuq Rais was accompanying the expedition, on board the flagship of Dom António, disguised as a Portuguese nobleman, and stayed until summer 1589. [12]

1600 embassy

Elizabeth I of England c.1599, standing on an Oriental carpet. Studio of Nicholas Hilliard.

Diplomatic relations continued to intensify between Elizabeth and the Barbary states.[15] England entered in a trading relationship with Morocco detrimental to Spain, selling armor, ammunition, timber, metal in exchange for Moroccan sugar, in spite of a Papal ban,[16] prompting the Papal Nuncio in Spain to say of Elizabeth: « there is no evil that is not devised by that woman, who, it is perfectly plain, succoured Mulocco (Abd-el-Malek) with arms, and especially with artillery ».[17]

Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun Moorish Ambassador_to_Elizabeth_I

In 1600, Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud, the principal secretary to the Moroccan ruler Mulai Ahmad al-Mansur, visited England as an ambassador to the court of Queen Elizabeth I.[18] [19]  Secrétaire de l’ambassadeur marocain Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud reçu par la reine Élisabeth Ire (1600) et désigné comme «  maure ».

After 1578, Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur developed relations between England and Morocco into a political alliance

Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud spent 6 months at the court of Elizabeth, in order to negotiate an alliance against Spain.[20] [21] The Moroccan ruler wanted the help of an English fleet to invade Spain, Elizabeth refused, but welcomed the embassy as a sign of insurance, and instead accepted to establish commercial agreements.[15] [20] Queen Elizabeth and king Ahmad continued to discuss various plans for combined military operations, with Elizabeth requesting a payment of 100,000 pounds in advance to king Ahmad for the supply of a fleet, and Ahmad asking for a tall ship to be sent to get the money. Elizabeth « agreed to sell munitions supplies to Morocco, and she and Mulai Ahmad al-Mansur talked on and off about mounting a joint operation against the Spanish ».[22] Discussions however remained inconclusive, and both rulers died within two years of the embassy.[23]

James I and Charles I

James I of England from the period 1603–1613, standing on an Oriental carpet, by Paul van Somer I (1576–1621).

James I of England from the period 1603–1613, standing on an Oriental carpet, by Paul van Somer I (1576–1621).-James I England

Morocco had been falling into a state of anarchy following the death of Ahmed al-Mansur in 1603, and local warlords had been on the rise, making the alliance with the Sultanate less and less meaningful.[2] James I also made peace with Spain upon his accession in 1603, with the Treaty of London. Relations continued under James I however, who sent his ambassador John Harrisson to Muley Zaydan in 1610 and again in 1613 and 1615 in order to obtain the release of English captives in Morocco.[24] English privateers such as Jack Ward continued to prosper in collaboration with the Barbary states, including Morocco.

Moroccan ambassador Jawdar, 1637

During the Thirty Years’ War under the rule of Charles I, England sought Moroccan military help against Spain in Tetouan and Salé.[24] England had hoped to obtain Moroccan cooperation after the 1625 English attack on Cadíz, but the campaign proved disastrous and ruined the prestige of England.[2]

On 10 May 1627, England passed an agreement with one of these local warlords, the Mujahidin leader Sidi Al-Ayyashi to obtain his help in releasing English captives, in exchanges for the supply of provisions and arms.[2][24] England and Al-Ayyashi collaborated for a period of about 10 years, as in the attempted coordinated liberation of Al Ma’mura.[24]

In 1632, the city of Salé, a major harbour to piracy, was jointly taken by an English squadron and Moroccan forces, permitting the pacification of the city and the release of Christian prisoners.[25] [26]

On May 13, 1637, a Convention was signed between Charles I and Sidi Mohammed el-Ayachi, master of Salé, allowing for the supply of military armament to the Sultan.

Embassies of Mulay Ismail

Mohammed bin Hadou, Mulay Ismail’s Moroccan ambassador to England in 1682.[27]


Relations continued under the Moroccan ruler Mulay Ismail. In 1682, he sent Mohammed bin Hadou as Moroccan ambassador sent to the English court of Charles II.[28] Mohammed spent six months in England, in a highly commented visit. He visited Oxford, Cambridge and the Royal Society among many other places.[28] 


Another prominent ambassador was the Moroccan Admiral Abdelkader Perez, who carried out diplomatic duties in London between 1723 and 1737. As the name implies, he came from a family of Andalusian origin. As it is impossible to speak of the existence of a Moroccan navy, the title of admiral was associated with his origins as a privateer. The Anglo-Moroccan alliance was decisive in certain periods, ensuring the presence of the British fleet in the defense of the ports of Morocco and also in the resolution of conflicts between the Moorish corsairs themselves.

Morocco’s ambassador to England and the Netherlands in the 18th century, Abdelkader Perez Ph. Painting

These exchanges forty years of shifting alliances between England and Morocco, related to European conflicts, trade issues, Barbary Coast pirates and the exchange of captives.[28] Ambassador Admiral Abdelkader Perez, 1723–1737.

One of the high points of these contacts occurred in 1720–21, when English ambassadors John Windus and Commodore Hon. Charles Stewart visited Morocco. They succeeded in signing a diplomatic treaty with Morocco for the first time, and returned home with 296 released British slaves.[28] Moroccan ambassadors were again sent to England in 1726 (« Mahomet » and « Bo-ally »), and in 1727 a new treaty was signed by John Russel with Mulay Ismail’s successor.[28] A further treaty was signed by John Drummond-Hay in 1865.

Impact on literature

Shakespeare’s Othello and Desdemona in Venice, by Théodore Chassériau.

These intense relations between England and Morocco are thought to have had a direct impact on the literary productions of the age in England, especially the works of Shakespeare, or The Battle of Alcazar by George Peele.[29]

These contacts possibly influenced the creation of the characters of Shylock, or the Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice.[30] It has even been suggested that the figure of Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud may have inspired the character of Shakespeare‘s Moorish hero Othello.[31]

Mohammed ben Hadou

Mohammed bin Hadou, Moroccan ambassador to Great Britain in 1682.[1] Ambassador Ben Hadou, riding in Hyde Park, 1682.

Mohammed ben Hadou

Mohammed ben Hadou, also Mohammad bin HadouMohammad bin Hadu or Muhammad ben Haddu al’Attar, was a Moroccan ambassador sent to the English court of Charles II by Muley Ismail in 1681-82.[2] According to the contemporary English commentator John Evelyn, he was the son of an English woman.[3]

Mohammed ben Hadou

Mohammed ben Hadou arrived in England on 29 December 1681, and left on 23 July 1682.[4] His six month visit to England was highly commented upon, publicized in the London Gazette [4] and was even the subject of occasional poems. [5] 

He visited Oxford and Cambridge among many other places and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in April. [2] [6]

John Evelyn recorded that he was « the fashion of the season »,[2] and commented on him that he was « a handsome person, well featured and of a wise look, subtile and extremely civile ». [7] At the theater the ambassador behaved « with extreme modesty and gravity ».[7] He struck a magnificent figure riding in Hyde Park.[5]

Mohammed returned to Morocco with a draft Peace and Trade Treaty which was finally not ratified by his king because of outstanding issues regarding the English military presence in Tangiers and English captives in Morocco.[8] The exchanges started 40 years of a shifting Anglo-Moroccan alliance related to European conflicts, trade issues, Barbary Coast pirates and the exchange of captives.[2]

England Socinians wrote letters for Mohammed bin Hadou to remit to Mulay Ismail, in which they praised God for having « preserved your Emperor and his people in the excellent knowledge of that truth touching your belief in a onely sovereign God, who has no distinct […] or plurality of persons », and praising « Mahomet » for being « a scourge on those idolizing Christians ». [9] However, they also complained that the Qur’an contained contradictions that must have been a consequence of its editing after Mohammed’s death. [10]

During his stay Mohammed bin Hadou apparently married an English servant.[11]

Forty years of shifting alliances between the two countries would follow Mohammed’s embassy.[2]

Read also

Abdallah ben Aisha

Ambassador Admiral Abdallah ben Aisha during his visit to France.

Abdallah ben Aisha, also Abdellah bin Aicha, was a Moroccan Admiral and ambassador to France and England in the 17th century. Abdallah departed for France on 11 November 1698 in order to negotiate a treaty.[1]  He spoke Spanish and English fluently, but not French.[1]  His embassy followed the visit of François Pidou de Saint Olon to Morocco in 1689.

Abdallah met with Louis XIV on 16 February 1699.[1] He was welcomed warmly in Paris and visited many landmarks.[1] He also met with the deposed English king James II, exiled in France at that time, whom he had apparently known in his youth when he had been a captive in England. [1] The Ambassador of Morocco Abdallah ben Aisha in Paris in 1699.

One of Abdallah’s main missions had been to obtain an agreement to prevent the capture of Muslims by French ships, and to obtain the return of captured Moroccan pirates employed on French galleys.[1]  Louis XIV however denied a treaty, and on the contrary boasted about his power to the Moroccan king. [1]

After Abdallah’s return to Morocco, numerous letters continued to be exchanged with France, and the Moroccan ruler Mulay Ismail even offered James II military support to reinstal him on the English throne if he wished to convert to Islam, and if not, at least to Protestantism.[1]

Haj Abdelkader Pérez was a Moroccan Admiral and an ambassador to England in 1723 and again in 1737.[1] On 29 August 1724, he met with King George I and the Prince of Wales. [2]

Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud

Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun

Moorish Ambassador to Elizabeth I, Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud, Born 1558 Known as Morocco ambassador to the Court of Queen Elizabeth I in 1600.

Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun (Arabic: عبد الواحد بن مسعود بن محمد عنون‎ « Servant of The One, Son of Messaoud, Son of Mohammed Anoun ») was principal secretary to the Moroccan ruler Mulay Ahmad al-Mansur, and ambassador to the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1600,[1] whose primary task was to promote the establishment of an Anglo-Moroccan alliance.

After 1578, Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur developed relations between England and Morocco into a political alliance


The visit of Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud followed the sailing of The Lion in 1551, and the 1585 establishment of the English Barbary Company, which had the objective of developing trade between England and Morocco.[2][3] Diplomatic relations and an alliance were established between Elizabeth and the Barbary states.[3]

The last years of the 16th century saw major English successes against Spain, with the English victory against the Spanish Armada in 1588, and the Capture of Cadiz by the Earl of Essex in 1597. As a result, King Ahmad al-Mansur decided to send an embassy to propose a joint invasion of Spain.[3] [4] Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud was accompanied by al Haji Messa and al Haji Bahanet, as well as an interpreter named Abd el-Dodar, an Andalusian by birth, under cover of a trade mission to Aleppo with a stopover in London.[5] Altogether, the embassy numbered 16 (including some prisoners being returned to England), and sailed on board The Eagle under Robert Kitchen.[6] Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud reached Dover on 8 August 1600.[6]

Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud spent 6 months at the court of Queen Elizabeth I during 1600 with the aim of negotiating an alliance against Spain. [2] [7]  Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud spoke some Spanish, but he communicated to the Queen through his interpreter who spoke in Italian.[5] They met with the Queen on 19 August[6] and again on 10 September.[6]

The Moroccan ruler wanted the help of an English fleet to invade Spain. While Elizabeth refused, she welcomed the embassy and accepted the establishment of commercial agreements involving the two countries. [2] [3]  Queen Elizabeth and King Ahmad continued to discuss various plans for combined military operations, with Elizabeth requesting a payment of 100,000 pounds in advance from King Ahmad for the supply of a fleet, with Ahmad asking for an English ship to be sent to get the money. Discussions however remained inconclusive, and both rulers died within two years of the embassy.[8]

It has been suggested that Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud inspired the character of William Shakespeare‘s Moorish hero Othello, but others have argued that there is no connection. [9][10] In 2016, David Serero played Othello in a Moroccan adaptation inspired by Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud. [11][12]

The painting of Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud is held by the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon.[2]

Moroccan Ambassador Mohamed Abghali to King George August 14, 1725 – February 1727

File:Moroccan Ambassador Abghali 1725.jpg

Mohammed Ben Ali Abgali is Sultan Ismail’s last ambassador to England. In the 1720s, he was appointed by the Alaouite emperor and sent to London to meet King George I. Few sources recall, the mission of the Moroccan diplomat but London still has a significant piece of Abgali’s diplomatic voyage.

Mohamed Ben Othman Al Meknassi

Sent by Alaouite Sultan Mohammed III to the court of King Carlos III of Spain, Mohamed Ben Othman Al Meknassi had to discuss the release of another ambassador who was held hostage in Malta.

In 1779, Alaouite Sultan Moulay Mohammed Ben Abdallah, aka Mohammed III, sent Mohamed Ben Othman Al Meknassi to Spain. The diplomat had to negotiate the release of Muslim captives, held by King Carlos III.

Mohamed Zebdi, Sultan Hassan I’s ambassador to the European powers

Sent in 1876 by Sultan Hassan I to Europe, Ambassador Mohamed Zebdi met during his trip the French president, Queen Victoria, and the King of Italy.

According to the «Journal officiel de la République francaise» (June 1876), Haj Mohamed Zebdi arrived in Versailles on June the 10th, 1876. At 4 pm «the president received Sid El Hadj Mohamed el Zebdi, ambassador of His Majesty the emperor of Morocco», recalled the official document.

🌎 Recongnition and Trade 🌎 MOROCCO 🌐 USA 🌎

Morocco ★ USA ★ Morocco ★ CaliforniaArticles on Morocco – USA Relations by Said El Mansour Cherkaoui

Said El Mansour Cherkaoui
Sciences Po, Grenoble
Université Grenoble Alpes – IREP
Institut des Hautes Etudes de l’Amérique Latine, Paris
Université de la Sorbonne, Paris III

Morocco 1912 – 1972 Renaissance Subcapitalist

The Gradual Expansion of Colonization in Morocco Augustin Bernard, The Renaissance of Morocco; ten years of protectorate: 1912-1922 Said El Mansour Cherkaoui – March 5, 2015 at 12:04 PM The “colonization” of Morocco was slow and gradual: In 1823: signing of a commercial convention with Portugal, followed by comparable agreements with England in 1824, with France and Piedmont in 1825. To avoid any interference from… Continue reading Morocco 1912 – 1972 Renaissance Subcapitalist

Maroc 1912 – 1972 Renaissance Subcapitaliste

Said El Mansour Cherkaoui Leave a comment

The Gradual Expansion of Colonization in Morocco

Augustin Bernard,  The Renaissance of Morocco; ten years of protectorate : 1912-1922
Said El Mansour Cherkaoui – March 5, 2015 at 12:04 PM

The « colonization » of Morocco was slow and gradual:

In 1823: signature of a commercial convention with Portugal, followed by comparable agreements with England in 1824, with France and Piedmont in 1825. To rule out any interference by the Makhzen in Algeria, negotiations will be initiated guaranteeing neutrality Moroccan. This mission, which included the painter Eugène Delacroix, was led in 1832 by Count Charles-Edgar de Mornay.

L’Expansion Graduelle de la Colonisation au Maroc Augustin Bernard, La Renaissance du Maroc; dix ans de protectorat: 1912-1922 Said El Mansour Cherkaoui – March 5, 2015 at 12:04 PM La « colonisation » du Maroc fut lente et graduelle: En 1823 : signature d’une convention commerciale avec le Portugal, suivie d’accords comparables avec l’Angleterre en 1824, avec la France … Lire la suite

Ahmed Balafrej: Founder of the 20th Century Moroccan Diplomacy

Now independent, Morocco must urgently organize the international representation of its interests. the April 26 1956, Ahmed Balafrej officially becomes the Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of independent Morocco. He is reappointed to this post in the second government of M’barek Bekkai .

Ahmed Balafrej 1956 first Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Balafrej and his collaborators

He is the true founder and initiator of Moroccan diplomacy. It was he who opened the first Moroccan embassies abroad, who set up the first consulates and who concretized Morocco’s membership in major international organizations including the UN in July 1956, The League of Arab States and the Organization of African Unity. –1956, first Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Balafrej and his collaborators 8

The first mission of Ahmed Balafrej is the signing of the Franco-Moroccan convention of May 20, 1956 consecrating the foundation of a Moroccan diplomacy freed from French tutelage. Then there is the liberation of Tarfaya negotiated with Spain, then a Spanish colony, as well as the return of Tangier under Moroccan authority.

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