Monday, April 25, 2011

Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette Receive the Ambassadors of Tipu Sultan, 1788.

In late August of 1788 the King and Queen of France received ambassadors from the Far East. Here is an account:
After the Treaty of Paris (1763), the French could no longer dream of an empire in India. However, they retained five trading posts there, and continued to espouse any opportunity of extending their influence, especially at the expense of the British. After supporting the colonists in the American War of Independence (1776), the French now aspired to expel the British from India. To this end, St Lubin considered an alliance with the Marathas in return for a port on the West coast of India; Louis XVI and Madhu Rao Narayan signed a treaty of alliance in 1782 which brought the great Bussy to the Ille de France (Mauritius). The French Admiral, De Suffren, met Haidar Ali, and ceremonially presented him with a portrait of Louis XVI. The Treaty of Versailles (1783) halted Tipu's attempts to recover Mangalore from the British, but in 1786, he was able to dispatch an embassy to Constantinople and thence to Paris, although this second stage had to be abandoned. Impatiently, Tipu dispatched another embassy direct to Paris in July 1787. The three ambassadors, Mohammed Dervich Khan, Akbar Ali Khan and Mohammad Osman Khan arrived at the port of Toulon with M.Monneron, a French merchant from Pondicherry.... It was not until late August 1788 that Louis XVI granted the ambassadors an audience in the Salon d'Hercules at the Palace of Versailles....

The French courtiers were somewhat contemptuous of Tipu's ambassadors, but the Queen was fascinated by these 'turqueries' and hoped to obtain a wax portrait of them....No surviving wax portrait is known, but a splendid oil portrait of Mohammed Dervich Khan, by Mme Vigée Lebrun, shows a tall, imposing figure, clad in elegant muslin, richly embroidered, an exotic figure which Mme Vigée Lebrun herself describes in her Memoirs: 'They (Mohammed Dervich Khan and his son) were both dressed in gowns of white muslin, embroidered with gold flowers, a kind of tunic with large sleeves folded back...fastened at the waist with richly decorated 'belts.'

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