Volume 1, Chapter 8, Sections 26-30 -- The Travels of John de Plano Carpini and other Friars, sent about the year 1246, as ambassadors from Pope Innocent IV, to the great Khan of the Moguls or Tartars: *section index*


Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 26 -- Of the Reception of the papal Nuncios at the court of Kujak, or Cuyne-Khan.

On our arrival at the court of Cuyne, he ordered us to be provided with a tent, and all necessary expences, after the Tartar customs, and his people treated us with more attention and respect than they shewed to any other messengers. We were not admitted into his presence, as he had not been formally elected and invested in the empire; but the translation of the Pope's letters, and of our speech, had been transmitted to him by Baatu. After remaining in this place for five or six days, we were sent to his mother, who kept a solemn court. In this place we beheld an immense tent, so vast, in our opinion, that it could have contained two thousand men; around which there was an enclosure of planks, painted with various figures. All the Tartar dukes were assembled in this neighbourhood, with their attendants, and amused themselves in riding about the hills and vallies. The first day these were all clothed in white robes. The second day, on which Cuyne came to the great tent, they were dressed in scarlet. The third day they were dressed in blue, and on the fourth in rich robes of Baldakin.[1] In the wall of boards, encircling the great tent, there were two gates, through one of which the emperor alone was allowed to enter; and though it stood continually open, there were no guards, as no one dared to enter or come out by that way. All who were admitted entered by the other gate, at which there were guards, armed with bows, arrows, and swords. If any one presumed to approach the tent beyond the assigned limits, he was severely beaten, if caught; or if he attempted to run away, he was shot at with arrows. Many of the people whom we saw here, had upon their saddles, bridles, and other trappings of their horses, to the value of twenty marks in pure gold, according to our estimation.[2]

The dukes assembled in the great tent, and consulted together, as we thought, about the election of the emperor. The rest of the people were collected all round the wooden walls, and at a considerable distance; and in this manner they continued till almost noon. Then they began to drink mare's milk, or cosmos, and continued to drink amazing quantities till evening. We were invited among them, and they treated us with ale, as we did not drink cosmos. They intended this as a great honour, but they made us drink so much, in comparison with our ordinary diet, as we were not able to endure; but on making them understand that it was hurtful to us, they desisted from insisting on our compliance. On the outside of the door stood Jeroslaus, duke of Susdal in Russia, a great many dukes of the Kithayans and Solangi, the two sons of the king of Georgia, the envoy of the caliph of Bagdat, himself a sultan, and more than ten other Saracen sultans. We were informed by the agents, that there were above four thousand messengers present, partly from those who paid tribute or sent presents, and from other sultans and dukes who came to make their submission, or who had been sent for, and from the various governors of countries and places under their authority. All these were placed on the outside of the wooden wall of the great tent, and were supplied with drink; and they almost all gave to us and the duke Jeroslaus the place of honour, when in their company.

[1] This term probably signifies the manufacture of Baldach or Bagdat, and may refer to silken stuffs damasced, or woven with gold flowers.--E.
[2] Taking the mark of gold at 84 oz. and valuing the ounce at 4£ 17s, 6d, the sum of 20 marks amounts to L. 780 Sterling.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 27 -- Of the Exaltation of Cuyne as Emperor.

We remained in this place, called Syra Orda, about four weeks. In our opinion the election was made here, though it was not published, because always when Cuyne came out of the tent he was greeted with a noise of music, and was saluted with beautiful rods tipt with scarlet wool, which was not done to any of the other dukes. Leaving this place, we all rode three or four miles to a fine plain, near a river among the mountains, where we found another tent erected, called the Golden Orda, in which Cuyne was to have been installed in the imperial seat on the festival of the Assumption, 15th August; but on account of a vast fall of hail, formerly mentioned, the ceremony was deferred. This tent was erected upon pillars, covered over with plates of gold, and other beams were fixed to the pillars by gold nails. The whole was superbly covered over with Baldakin, having other cloth on the outside. We remained here till the feast of St Bartholomew, 24th August; on which day an immense multitude convened, standing with their faces to the south. Certain persons, at about a stone's throw distance from the rest, were continually employed in making prayers and genuflexions, always proceeding slowly to the south. We did not know whether they were making incantations, or whether they bowed their knees to God or otherwise, and we therefore made no genuflexions. When this ceremony had continued a long while, the whole company returned to the tent, and Cuyne was placed upon the imperial throne. On which all the dukes knelt before him, and the same was done by all the people, except by us, who were not his subjects.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 28 -- Of the Age and Demeanour of Cuyne, and of his Seal.

When exalted to the imperial dignity, Cuyne seemed to be about forty or forty-five years old. He was of middle stature, exceedingly prudent, politic, serious, and grave in his demeanour, and was hardly ever seen to laugh or to behave lightly in any respect, as was reported to us by certain Christians who were continually about him. These Christians of his family assured us likewise, that he would certainly become a Christian, because he always kept some Christian priests about his person, and had at all times a chapel of Christians established near his great tent, in which the clergy sang their devotions publickly and openly, and struck the regular hours on bells, according to the custom of the Greek church, whatever number of Tartars or others might be in the presence; while no other of the Tartar dukes did any thing like this.

It is the custom of this emperor never to converse himself with any stranger, however high his rank, but always to hear, as it were, and to answer through an intermediate person: Whoever proposes any matter to his consideration, or listens to his reply, however great his quality, must remain on his knees the whole time; and no one must presume to speak on any subject after the determination of the emperor is expressed. For the dispatch of affairs, both public and private, he has agents, secretaries, scribes, and officers of all kinds, excepting pleaders; as every thing is concluded according to his will and pleasure, without strife or judicial noise: and the other princes of the Tartars act exactly in the same manner.

While we remained at his court, the emperor and all his princes erected a standard of defiance against the church of God, the Roman empire, and all the Christian kingdoms and nations of the west, unless they should become obedient to his commands. Their avowed intention is to subdue the whole earth under their authority, as they were commanded by Zingis-khan, and they have only abstained from this intention of late, on account of the death of Occaday-khan, the emperor's father, who was poisoned. Of all the nations under heaven, they are in some fear of the Christians only, and on this account they are now preparing to make war on us. In all his letters their emperor styles himself the Power of God and the Emperor of Mankind; and the seal of the present emperor is thus inscribed:




Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 29 -- Of the Admission of the Papal and other Envoys to the Emperor.

We were called into the presence of the emperor, in the same place where he had been inaugurated; and Chingay, his chief secretary, having written down our names, and the names of those who sent us, and the name of the duke of Solangi and others, he read over all these names in a loud voice to the emperor and the assembled dukes. Then everyone of us bowed the knee four times before him, and having warned us to beware of touching the threshold, we were carefully searched lest we might have any concealed weapons; after which, we entered within the precinct of the imperial tent at the east gate; not even the Tartar dukes dare presume to enter at the west gate, which is reserved for the emperor alone; yet the lower people do not pay much regard to this ceremonious injunction. At this time, likewise, all the other envoys now at the imperial residence were presented, but very few of them were admitted within the tent. On this occasion, infinite quantities of rich gifts of all kinds were presented to the emperor, by the various envoys and messengers, in samites, purple robes, baldakins, silken girdles wrought with gold, rich furs, and other things innumerable. Among these there was a splendid umbrella, or small canopy, to be carried over the head of the emperor, all covered over with gems. The governor of one of the provinces brought a great number of camels, having housings of baldakin, and carrying richly ornamented saddles, on which were placed certain machines, within each of which a man might sit. Many horses and mules likewise were presented to him, richly caparisoned and armed, some with leather, and some with iron. We were likewise questioned as to what gifts we had to offer, but we were unable to present any thing, as almost our whole substance was already consumed. At a considerable distance from the court, there stood in sight on a hill, above five hundred carts all filled with gold and silver and silken garments. All these things were divided between the emperor and his dukes, and the dukes divided their portions among their followers, each according to his pleasure.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 30 -- Of the Separation between the Emperor and his Mother, and of the Death of Jeroslaus Duke of Russia.

Leaving this place we came to another, where a wonderfully grand tent, all of red cloth, was pitched, the gift of the Cathayans. At this place likewise, we were introduced into the presence; and always on these occasions we were offered beer and wine to drink, and boiled flesh to eat when we were inclined. In this tent there was a lofty gallery made of boards, on which the imperial throne was placed, most exquisitely carved in ivory, and richly decorated with gold and precious stones; and, if we rightly remember, there were several steps by which to ascend the throne. This throne was round above. There were benches all around, where the ladies sat on the left hand, upon stools, and no one sat aloft on the right hand, but the dukes sat below on benches, in the middle of the tent. Others sat behind them, and every day there came great numbers of ladies to the court. These three tents which we have mentioned, were of wonderful magnitude; and the wives of the emperor had other tents, sufficiently large and beautiful, made of white felt. At this place, the emperor took leave of his mother, who went to one part of the land, and he to another, to distribute justice. About this time, a concubine belonging to the emperor was detected, who had poisoned his father, at the time when the Tartar army was in Hungary, and owing to which incident, they had been ordered to return. She, and a considerable number of her accomplices, were tried and put to death. Soon afterwards, Jeroslaus, the great duke of Soldal[1] in Russia, being invited, as if to do him honour, by the emperor's mother, to receive meat and drink from her hand, grew sick immediately after returning to his lodging, and died in seven days illness, his whole body becoming strangely of a blue colour; and it was currently reported that he had been poisoned, that the Tartars might freely and totally possess his land.

[1] Called Susdal in a former passage.--E.


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