THE BYZANTINE OPERATION
During the early part of 1716 a caravan of coaches and wagons, bearing an English family and their numerous retinue, rumbled across Europe towards Constantinople. The journey could have been more easily and cheaply made by sea, but Edward Wortley Montagu, newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to the Sublime Porte, had decided that the special mission he was entrusted with might stand a greater chance of success if he called in at Vienna on the way.
The Ottoman Empire at that time still thrust deep into south-east Europe. Attempts by the Turks to push the frontier even further westward had been foiled in 1683, when their assault on Vienna was repulsed. But the two imperialisms, Turkish and Austro-Hungarian, still faced each other with mutual antipathy, which in 1716 seemed likely to break out again into open hostility. For complex reasons the British government was anxious that the Austrians should not be caught up in a war in eastern Europe, and the new ambassador's task was to try to head them off and reach some form of settlement with the Turks.
Wortley Montagu was accompanied by his wife, Lady Mary, and their three-year-old son, Edward junior. Lady Mary enjoyed travelling and was said to be 'charmed with thoughts of going into the East', which was just as well. The initial appointment was for a period of five years, but for all they knew they might be going into a long and possibly permanent exile.
The ambassador's negotiations in Vienna were largely unprofitable and after a brief stay the party set out towards the end of March 1717 on the next stage of their journey. This took them as far as Adrianople (now Edirne), at that time the capital of the Turkish empire, to which the Sultan usually retired in order to escape the summer heat of Constantinople. From the time of their entry into Turkey, Lady Mary embarked with enthusiasm on the course known to later generations