Fatima Cadem, daughter of Ali Pasha, asks Don John to release her captured brothers

October 14, 2010

Photo by Sailko

D. John of Austria’s kind heart was full of compassion for the misfortunes of the sons of Ali, and he ordered that, without being separated from their tutor Alhamet or their five servants, they were to be brought on board the “Real,” that he might have them under his own eye to protect and comfort them, which was the reason of an episode which shows the noble, great, and compassionate character of the hero of Lepanto.

The eldest of the sons of Ali, Ahmed Bey, was eighteen, handsome, strong, manly and arrogant. He accepted his misfortune with dumb and gloomy despair, which never lifted, but rather became stronger, making him churlish, hard and irritable, with no other wish or idea than to escape, like a wild bird shut up in a cage. The younger one, Mahomet Bey, was, on the other hand, a child of thirteen, affectionate and demonstrative, and without understanding the extent of his misfortunes, his innocent eyes sought everywhere love and protection from anyone, and finding both in D. John, he clung to him tenderly. This humbled the pride of his brother, and seeing him one day playing on deck with D. John’s monkey, he tore the little animal violently from him, saying in Turkish laconic words which may be translated, “the great infidel killed our father.”

The kindness of D. John and his great tact at last overcame the boy’s animosity and fierceness, and then desperation changed to profound sadness, which seemed to undermine him and consume him, without any illness. D. John was very much disturbed at the fate of these poor children, and to give hope and pleasure, on arriving at Corfu, he at once liberated their tutor Alhamet and sent him to Constantinople, to give news of them to their family, and to say how impossible it was then to give their freedom, but that it was his wish and intention to give it them later. The two orphans formed one prize of war, of which D. John’s share was only the tenth part, according to the articles of the League, the remainder in equal parts belonged to the Pope, the King of Spain, and the Signory of Venice.

Photo by PHGCOM

D. John then begged from the three Powers that the two boys should be set at liberty without loss of time, offering to give in exchange anything that they should demand. He, however, judged it prudent to send the brothers to Rome, with all their servants, to place them under the protection of the Holy Father. The orphans did not like leaving D. John, and so much did this absence aggravate the sadness and consumption which was undermining Ahmet Bey, the eldest of the brothers, that he died in Naples three days after their arrival, begging D. John, at his last hour, not to forget his generous intentions of setting his innocent brother at liberty, who, broken-hearted and afflicted, went on to Rome, where he was placed, by order of the Pope, in the castle of St. Angelo, with all the care and attention that his age, rank and misfortunes demanded. D. John then, on his part, took the same steps on behalf of Mahomet Bey as before for the two brothers, and wrote to Philip II and the Doge Mucenigo, urgently and effectually….

Photo by MatthiasKabel

The Pope, the King, and the Doge of Venice readily agreed to what D. John asked, and left him exclusive master of the poor captive child. The Generalissimo sent to set him at liberty with all his servants; but beforehand, and while D. John was at Naples, there arrived in the port a beautiful Turkish galley, with a safe conduct of embassy, sent by Fatima Cadem, a daughter of Ali Pasha, and the only remaining relation left to the orphan. Alhamet came in this galley, the tutor of the two brothers, bringing a letter and a rich present from Fatima for D. John of Austria. The following is the translation of her letter given by Vander Hammen:

“Great Lord: After kissing the earth Y.H. treads, that which this poor and miserable orphan wishes to make known to Y.H., Her Lord, is to tell you how grateful I am for the favor you have done to all of us, not only in giving liberty to Alhamet, our servant, but by sending him to give us news, that after the death of my father and the destruction of the Armada, my poor orphan brothers remained alive and in the power of Y.H., for which I pray to God to give Y.H. many years of life. What remains to us, My Lord, to me and all of us, is to beg Y.H. to do us the favor and charity by the Soul of Jesus Christ, by the life of Y. Royal H., by the head of your mother, by the soul of the Emperor, your father, by the life of the Majesty of the King, your brother, to give liberty to these poor orphans. They have no mother, their father died at Y.H.’s hand. They are under your sole protection. But if you are the courteous gentleman people say, so pious and generous a prince, pity the tears I shed for hours, and the affliction in which my brothers find themselves, and concede me this mercy. Of the things I have been able to get here, I send Y.H. this present, which I beg you will be willing to receive. I well know that it is not worthy of Y.H.’s greatness, which deserves greater things, but my resources are small. Do not look at the smallness of the service, but, like a great lord, accept the good-will with which it is made. Again, My Lord, I beg Y.H. by the Soul of Jesus Christ to do me the charity of giving liberty to my brothers, as in doing this good, even to enemies, you will gain a renown for liberality and piety; and, thinking of their tears, you were pleased to send Alhamet, to say that they were alive and of the good treatment Y.H. gave them (which all this Court thinks very noble and does nothing but praise the virtue and greatness of Y.H.), for you have ended in gaining this title from everyone, there remains nothing but that Y.H. should grant this mercy, of giving them liberty.

“Your slave, the poor sister of the sons of Ali Pasha, kisses the feet of Y.H.

“Fatima Cadem.”

Sixteenth Century painting

D. John received this letter, wrapped in a cloth of brocade, from the hands of Alhamet, and the eight Turkish slaves who came with him then brought in the magnificent present. It consisted of four garments of sable, two of lynx, one of ermine, another of lynx and crimson satin, which had belonged to the King of Persia, with a trimming, half a yard wide, of brocade, each piece seven ells long; two boxes of very fine Levantine porcelain, a box of handkerchiefs and towels embroidered with gold, silver and silk in the Turkish fashion; a cover of cut-out silk embroidered in relief with gold; another cover of quilted brocade; a quantity of table-covers of leather; perfumed leather tapestry; a damascene scimitar which belonged to the Grand Turk, set with gold and adorned with fine turquoises; five gilt bows with 500 arrows, which had belonged to the Grand Turk, much adorned with gold and enamel, and the quivers chased and perfumed; a quantity of all sorts of feathers; a little box of fine musk; some turban pieces of fine linen; six big carpets; six felt covers; a bow and quiver all of fine gold, enameled in blue, which had belonged to Soliman; a quantity of water-bottles and flasks of perfumed leather; four flasks of fine mastic of Chios; twenty-four damascened knives, worked in gold, silver and rubies.


D. John examined all these riches minutely with many expressions of courtesy and thanks; but then he made the slaves pack them up again as they had come, and ordered Alhamet to take them himself to Rome and make them over to the child captive, Mahomet Bey, to do as he liked with them. The son of Ali arrived at Naples at the end of May, and a few days afterwards embarked for Constantinople, with all his servants and some other prisoners whom D. John had redeemed to do him honor. The child took back this answer to his sister Fatima from the Generalissimo:

“Noble and virtuous Lady: From the first hour that Ahmet Bey and Mohamet Bey, your brothers, were brought to my galley, after having gained the battle over the Turkish Armada, knowing their nobility of mind and good morals, and considering the misery of human weakness, and how the state of man is subject to change, added to which that these noble youths came more for the pleasure and company of their father, than to do us harm, it was in my mind, not only to order that they should be treated as noblemen, but to give them liberty, when it seemed to me the time and place. This intention grew when I received your letter, so full of affliction and fraternal affection, and such demonstrations of desiring the freedom of your brothers, and when I thought I could send them both, to my very great sorrow, came to Ahmet Bey the end of his labors, which is death. I now send Mahomet Bey, free, and all the other prisoners he asked for, as I would have sent the deceased, if he were alive; and be certain, Lady, that it has been a special annoyance not to be able to satisfy you or gratify part of what you ask, because I hold in much esteem the fame of your virtuous nobility. The present you sent I did not accept, and I have given it to Mahomet Bey, not that I do not appreciate it as coming from your hand, but because the greatness of my ancestors was not accustomed to receive gifts from those who wanted favors, but to grant them; and for this reason receive your brother from my hand, and those I send with him; be certain, that if in another battle I should take any of his kinsmen, with the same liberality I will give them their liberty, and would procure them all pleasure and contentment.

“From Naples, 13th of May, 1573.  At your service,

“D. John”

Rev. Fr. Luis Coloma, The Story of Don John of Austria, trans. Lady Moreton, (New York: John Lane Company, 1912), pp. 276-277, 279-282.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 16


Previous post:

Next post: