Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Letter From Crown Prince Abbas Mirza To Napoleon I
Qajar, dated 1808 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold
120 x 58 cm
Diplomatic relations between the Qajars and the West began to open up again during the reign of Fath 'Ali Shah (r. 1798-1834 CE). The period between 1805 CE, when Napoleon inaugurated exchange with the Qajars, and 1808 CE - the date of this letter - saw a number of intense diplomatic exchanges and treaties between the Qajars and the French and British, as loyalties shifted in the context of the Perso-Russian wars. Crown Prince Abbas Mirza (1789-1833 CE), son and heir apparent of Fath 'Ali Shah, was governor of Azerbaijan and based at Tabriz, where he organised military campaigns - with the latest French military technology and training - for the control of Georgia and Azerbaijan. This letter, which arrived in Paris on 17 February 1809 CE according to an inscription on its reverse (“Lettre du Prince Abbas Mirza à S. M. Impériale, écrite à la fin de l’année 1808, et arrivée à Paris le 17 février 1809”) was written by nineteen-year-old Prince Abbas Mirza to the French emperor Napoleon I. The prince remarks upon the emperor’s two-year silence, describes how the Russians have been breaking their treaty, and asks Napoleon what he plans to do about it, since the Prince’s troops are ready for battle (see Layla Diba in Falk 1985, pp. 193-94, with further references). It was a British envoy, Sir John Kinneir Macdonald, who helped arrange the final treaty of Turkmanchai with Russia in 1828 CE and financially supported Prince Abbas Mirza after the loss of Tabriz to the Russians.
© 2007 The Aga Khan Development Network. This is the only authorised Website of the Aga Khan Development Network.