Imperial Review of eighty thousand Cavalry - The Palace - Introduction to the Emperor - Visit the Seraglio - Beauty of the Sultana - Her Indisposition - Her Influence over the Emperor - His Person described.
Fez, - - 1806.
Late in the evening of the day of my arrival, I was visited at my house by an officer, who informed me that his royal master would review his troops the following morning, and that, if I chose to be present, I must repair to the palace precisely at four o'clock.
I was there exactly at the time, and in a few minutes the Emperor appeared, mounted on a beautiful white horse, attended by an officer of state, holding over him a large damask umbrella, most elegantly embroidered, and followed by all his great officers, body-guards, and a numerous band of music. He was greeted with huzzas in the Moorish style by the populace, and received at all the gates and avenues of the town with a general discharge of artillery and small arms, the people falling upon their knees in the dust as he passed. The streets were covered with mats, and the road, as far as the plain where the troops were drawn out, was strewed with all kinds of flowers.
The army was formed into a regular street of three deep on each side, each corps distinguished by a standard; it extended to a great length, through the immense plain of Fez, and presented a grand military spectacle. There were not less than eighty thousand cavalry. This review was finished in six hours, and His Imperial Majesty was so much pleased with the steady, orderly, and soldierlike appearance of his troops, that he commanded a horse to be given to each of the officers, and an additional suit of clothes and six ducats more than is customary to the men. No other exercise was performed on this occasion, than charging, firing off their pieces, and priming and loading at full gallop, by alternate divisions. Thus an incessant fire was kept up during the day.
The ground being perfectly level and good, no accident occurred. The dress of the Moorish army differs very little from that of the people. The officers are distinguished by their turbans, from the privates, who wear red caps. They are considered most excellent horsemen, and appeared to be supplied with very fine young horses, and well appointed. I can say but little of the infantry and artillery of His Imperial Majesty, not having had an opportunity of seeing them assemble in any sort of exercise. The cavalry are unquestionably most capital marksmen, and very capable of annoying and harassing and checking the progress of an invading army. The men are stout, strong, and robust, accustomed to a continual state of warfare, and, from their simple and moderate manner of living, fully adequate to sustain the fatigues and privations of the most arduous campaign.
In the Moorish army there is a prodigious number of blacks, who are reckoned very loyal, and perfectly devoted to the Emperor. This accounts for so many black governors being at the head of the most important districts and provinces of Barbary,
I returned very late from the review, and had scarcely dined when a messenger came to request my early attendance the following morning, to be presented to His Imperial Majesty. I repaired betimes to the palace, which is an immense pile of buildings, enclosed by a strong wall and a large deep ditch. It has four great gates, plated, both on the outside and in, with sheets of iron. I entered the front gate, and by a covered way reached a spacious court, surrounded by a piazza, under which several field-pieces and small mortars were placed. Here I was met by Sidy Ameth, a black officer, who acts as master of the ceremonies, and lord in waiting. He received me with great politeness, and conducted me, through another gate and covered way, to a second square more spacious than the first. In the centre was a most beautiful white marble basin, into which played a fountain of water clear as crystal. Over it was a kind of rotunda, supported by columns of elegant black marble. This superb square is paved with small pieces of marble, intermixed with pebbles of various colours, in the mosaic style. It is formed by four wings of the building. The front wing, exclusive of its magnificent entrance, contains several apartments and waiting-rooms, occupied by the great officers of state; the right, the library, and the treasury of the Emperor; the left, a superb mosque, and a school-room for the use of the Emperor's children, where they are taught to read and write, and study the Alcoran; and finally, the back, the great hall of audience, in which His Imperial Majesty was seated cross-legged upon a kind of couch, under a crimson velvet canopy, most beautifully decorated with figured work in gold.
I was introduced by Sidy Ameth; and after making my obsequious reverence, I stood at a great distance, waiting the Imperial commands, when His Majesty was graciously pleased to order me, by signs, to draw near, and then, by means of an interpreter, he informed me, that, in consequence of the good I had done his subjects during my residence at Larache, he had long been anxious to see and consult me. He desired me to ask any favours I chose, either for myself or my country, and they should be granted immediately. I thanked His Majesty for his condescension, and then presented him with a patent pistol, with seven barrels, which he examined very attentively in every part, and appeared highly pleased with its construction.