Saturday, 11 August 2012



There exists an interesting account of communication between the Papacy and the Great Khan. Admittedly the contents of the presented letters - if they are real - does not go much further as primary school kids claiming their father is better and stronger than the others. Politically speaking the reply of great Khan Guyuk to Innocent IV's demand for submission was the more realistic one. 

"Thanks to the power of the Eternal Heaven, all lands have been given to us from sunrise to sunset. How could anyone act other than in accordance with the commands of Heaven?  Now your own upright heart must tell you:  "We will become subject to you, and will place our powers at your disposal." You in person, at the head of the monarchs, all of you, without exception, must come to tender us service and pay us homage; then only will we recognize your submission. But if you do not obey the commands of Heaven, and run counter to our orders, we shall know that you are our foe.

That is what we have to tell you. If you fail to act in accordance therewith, how can we forsee what will happen to you? Heaven alone knows."

But more interesting is the behaviour of the Fransican Friar John Plano Carpini. In his official account, where the many inaccuracies betray that all is not what it seems in this papal mission, he first makes his way to the court of Batu Khan himself. 

He reaches his court after failed attempts to unite eastern Monarchs and Princes in an eventual rebellion against the Monguls. Strangely enough Carpini is received rather well by Batu Khan, who is read the contents of the letter (!) and agrees with its contents and sends the mission forward to the newly to be elected and installed great Khan.

Batu Khan is the only prince who did NOT participate in the elections and did NOT pay tribute towards the newly to be installed great Khan. And that is strange, because quite a number of the monarchs previously polled by Carpini did attend the ceremony as vasals of the great Khan. 

This rises the question. Was Batu Khan politically astute or was he not? History shows he was, because the family enterprise the Genghis Khan dynasty was falling apart shortly afterwards. And we must not forget that Batu Khan was just one of the many sons of Jochi Khan, who were amongst the tribute paying vasal princes present. 

More interesting again is the fact Carpini also acts as a representative of Batu Khan during his stay in Karakorum. It must not have helped him...

We must not forget. It was the previous great Khan Ogedai who had given Batu Khan the mission to conquer the west. Allegedly - although strategically entirely incredible - he left that task in 1242 having succeeded half way and sure of success, because Ogedai died and Batu Khan stopped his undertaking to participate in the election and perhaps become great Khan himself. 

But strangely enough the family princes, although positive towards Batu's merits, attributed his success to the skills of his General Subutai. (in more than one way resembling Salladin). And now barely a few years later, still at the same elections held up by Ogedai's widow acting as regent, we see Batu Khan having no interest in any participation in any election of a great Khan whatsoever and not even being present. But also  not interested in any further conquest of Europe either.  

Carpini in the mean time excused Batu for not being present at the election of next great Khan and indeed it seems that Batu Khan had sent Carpini with Yaroslav of Novgorod to excuse him not being present. And as an interesting reminder towards the new great Khan of some form of competition.

This leaves the interesting question whether Carpini was not in one way or another the Ambassador to Karakorum for Batu Khan. In the meantime it is also good to emphasize that the alleged Innocent IV was not in Rome at the time of this mission. 

He stayed at Lyon at the border to where Batu Khan had approached in 1242. And there he still was, when Carpini returned from his mission to the east. It seems Batu Khan indeed had other plans than become a great Khan himself. And it is no co-incidence that around this time the Papacy shapes itself towards the model of the great Khan in the east. In name of the Alpha & Omega or the Aureus Ordu, the golden Horde. After all Batu is the same name as Peter, meaning firm and rock


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