The tale of Morocco, Magna Carta and a Muslim England

England may have become an Islamic caliphate without the Magna Carta were it not for a wise Moroccan king, it was revealed at a celebration at the British Library to mark the 800 years of English and Moroccan ties.

In 1213, England’s weak King John was in need of a powerful ally and having alienated the European powers, he sought assistance from a powerful Muslim ally, Morocco.

Two emissaries were secretly despatched to the court of the fourth Almohad Sultan, Mohamed Ennassir, with an offer: in exchange for military aid, the English king would covert to Islam and offered to turn his kingdom into a caliphate. But the Moroccan sultan suspected the trustworthiness of an ally who would give up his faith so easily and sent the envoys back to home empty handed.

Faced with open rebellion from his barons, King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta, recognised as England’s first bill of rights.

Were it not for the links with Morocco, England may never have produced the Magna Carta, and nor would Shakespeare have written Othello. It’s widely thought the Moroccan Ambassador to the Court of Queen Elizabeth I, Abdel-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun, inspired the Bard.

A portrait of this impressive ambassador was on display with other famous Moroccan envoys through the centuries during the event.

As a symbol of enduring ties between the two countries, Middle East Minister Hugh Robertson presented to Minister of State for

Foreign Affairs Mr Salaheddine Mezouar a copy of a letter from Edmund Hogan to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I reporting his arrival and first negotiations as Ambassador to Morocco in June 1577.

Celebrating 800 years – Baroness Blackstone, Middle East Minister Hugh Robertson,
the Ambassador of Morocco Princess Lalla Joumala, Moroccan Foreign Minister
Mr Salaheddine Mezouar and the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps Mr Charles Gray