By Dr Michael Willis
Morocco and Britain have longstanding political and trading
links. Diplomatic relations date back to at least 1213 AD,
when King John of England dispatched envoys to seek the support
of Mohammed El-Nasir, Morocco's fourth Almohad ruler.
It seems that Mohammed El-Nasir was not impressed by what
he heard of the English King, and informed the envoys that
King John was unworthy of an alliance with him.
Relations improved in the 16th century, when news reached
England of the extensive trading opportunities in Morocco.
The first recorded English trade mission, to Safi and Agadir
in 1551-52, was sponsored by London merchants who traded English
cloth and other goods for Moroccan sugar, dates and almonds.
A highly profitable trade developed. Trade grew rapidly and
English merchants were granted special status in comparison
with Morocco's other trading partners.
In the early 17th century, a group of pirates at Sale known
in England as the "Sallee Rovers'' began to take English
merchants prisoner. This, and the English occupation of Tangier
from 1662 to 1684, complicated relations. But trade continued
to flourish, a series of treaties were signed and diplomats
were exchanged. The first Moroccan Ambassador to London, Kaid
Jaudar ben Abdallah, was appointed in 1637 and the first English
Consul to Morocco, Nathaniel Luke, in 1657.Morocco's second
Ambassador to London, Kaid Mohammed benHaduOttur, who was
appointed in 1682, made a deep impression on London society
because of his exotic dress, his courtesy and his horsemanship.
He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society and visited Oxford
In 1661, the King of Portugal gave Tangier to King Charles
II of England as part of a marriage dowry. An English garrison
was maintained there for twenty years, but Moroccan forces
under Moulay Ismail made life so difficult for the garrison
that the English decided to abandon Tangier in 1684. Relations
were re-established on a sounder footing in the 18th century.
Moulay Ismail wanted English help against the Spanish, and
the English needed Moroccan assistance to supply the garrison
of their newly acquired colony of Gibraltar. A Treaty of Peace
and Commerce was signed at Fes in 1721 and there were exchanges
of letters between Moroccan Sultans and Kings George II and
III of Britain.