St. Nicholas/Volume 40/Number 1/Whom the King Delighteth to Honor

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St. Nicholas, Volume 40, Number 1
“Whom the King Delighteth to Honor.” by John Kirby Cree

About events in the reign of the Sultan Selim and after the war against the Sultan of Egypt, Al-Ashraf Qansuh Al-Ghuri


(A case where “the office” certainly “sought the man”)


The old saying, “Some have greatness thrust upon them,” was never better exemplified than when, in 1516, Sultan Selim of the Ottoman Empire wished to promote his secretary, Mohammed, to be his Grand Vizir. This secretary was a man of high scientific attainments whom the sultan had appointed to the post of secretary as a mark of his regard, and in recognition of his learning.

A question came up one day in regard to declaring war against the Sultan of Egypt, Kanssou-Ghawri. The secretary, Mohammed, spoke so strongly in favor of war that the sultan, as a mark of his approbation, promoted him to the post of Grand Vizir on the spot. The position of Grand Vizir at that time was, in addition to the honor, one of some insecurity, also, for Sultan Selim was a monarch of quite uncertain temper, and his vizirs seldom enjoyed their office for much over a month before they received a visit from their sovereign’s mutes with the fatal bowstring. In fact, most of them kept their affairs settled up to date, and their wills made out, immediately from their accession to the office. Mohammed, therefore, while he appreciated the honor that Selim desired to confer upon him, expressed a desire to be excused from accepting it. Selim, however, was so bent upon having him for his vizir, that, with his own royal hands, he applied the bastinado to the unhappy secretary until he cried for mercy and expressed his willingness to accept the proffered honor.