Charles Marie François Olier, marquis de Nointel

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Charles-Marie-François Olier, marquis de Nointel[1] (1635—1685), a councillor to the Parlement de Paris, was the French ambassador to the Ottoman court, 1670 to 1679, charged from the first with renegotiating the Capitulations under which French merchants and others did business within the Ottoman Empire.[2]

Nointel, born and bred in Paris, came of a family of the noblesse de robe that was originally from Picardy. His father Édouard Olier, secretary to the King and councillor of the Parlement, had obtained a marquisate for his lands at Nointel near Clermont in the Beauvaisis. His wife, whom he had married in 1634, was Catherine Mallon, a relative of the seigneurs of Bercy.[3] Charles-François, the future ambassador was the eldest of four sons.[4] At a young age he accompanied P.-E. de Coulanges on a memorable grand tour in 1658[5] through the courts of Germany and Turin and to Venice and Rome, assembling a cabinet of drawings and antiquities on his limited resources.[6]

Returned to France, he was made a councillor to the Parlement of Paris.[7] His charming manners and agreeable personality won the interest of Arnould de Pomponne, through whom he reached the circle of Jean-Baptiste Colbert and the Paris salons, where he developed the gallant, unattached reputation of an honnête homme, a sympathetic audience, a splendid host, a patron to the depletion of his limited fortune.

His appointment as ambassador, after a successful campaign by his friends, combined political and commercial expectations. The embassy was to reopen strained relations with the Porte, which hung by a thread, without compromising in the least detail the grandeur of Louis XIV of France. For the Christians living under the Sultan's rule, and above all the Latin institutions, hospices, chapels, and the like, France wished to be declared official protector in an explicit article in renewed Capitulations. For the commerce of France he was urged to get the customs duties lowered from 5 to 3%, in line with those paid by the English and the Dutch, and to open the commerce of the Red Sea to France, for which enterprise he was accompanied by a director of the newly founded Compagnie du Levant, a prominent merchant of Marseille, Augustin Magy.[8]

The embassy was fitted out with unusual grandeur and accompanied by four ships of the line with a detachment of marines and a troop of twenty-seven noble gentlemen, well representing France. The interests of Port-Royal required that Nointel try to collect some signed declarations of faith from Eastern Catholics over the point of transubstantiation, contested with the Protestants; to aid him in these pursuits, somewhat beyond his usual competence, he had the assistance of the young orientalist Antoine Galland, the future translator of The Thousand and One Nights, as translator and theological attaché. Galland's anecdotal and picturesque journal of the embassy formed a counterpart to Nointel's official correspondence and dispatches.[9] He shared Nointel's passion for Classical Antiquity.

The embassy fleet left from Toulon, 21 August 1670.

By June 1673 he had achieved a reduction in customs charges, putting France on an equal footing with England and Holland and giving new life to French commerce in the Levant. The project of placing Christians and Christian institutions under French patronage was less successful, resulting in numerous actions at law. In September 1673 he made a tour to enregister these new prerogatives; it took him to Chios, the Cyclades, Palestine and Egypt ending at Athenes; it lasted seventeen months.

From his tour in the East he made precious acquisitions of coins and medals, marbles and other Antiquities, occurring such debts in the process that Louis XIV, unwilling to pay them, recalled him in 1680.

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Denis de La Haye
French Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire
Succeeded by
Gabriel de Guilleragues


  1. ^ He bore the additional title of marquis de Angervilliers.
  2. ^ A. Vandal, L'Odyssée d'un Ambassadeur: Les voyages du marquis de Nointel (1670-1680), 1900.
  3. ^ Vandal 1900:37.
  4. ^ Three sisters all became nuns at the Abbaye aux Bois.
  5. ^ They began with the coronation of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, in July 1658.
  6. ^ Coulanges, Mémoires de M. de Coulanges: suivis de lettres inédites de madame de Sévigné... 1820, noted in Vandel 1900:38.
  7. ^ In 1661 or 1668, according to the contrary documentation (Vandal 1900:39 and note
  8. ^ Vandel identifies him as "un des directeurs de la Compagnie des Indes, le sieur Magy" (Vandal 1900:50); Paul Masson, Histoire du commerce français dans le Levant au XVIIe siècle"l'un des plus célèbres marchands de Marseille au XVIIe siècle", noting a memoire presented to the court in 1685, Mémoire de M. Magy (de la Compagnie du Levant) arch. Nat. F12,645.".
  9. ^ Edited by Schefer (Vandal 1900:48).