“Afford Refuge to Christians in Distress”: An (unofficial) British Humanitarian Response to the Arkadi Events of November 1866
In November 1866, Cretan Christians seeking enosis, union with Greece, occupied the monastery at Arkadi, holding it against the forces of Mustapha Pasha. Following a short siege, Ottoman forces stormed the monastery and fought their way in through a breach in the walls. Rather than surrender, the besieged ignited a powder magazine within the monastery. A few weeks later, a British gunboat anchored off south west Crete and embarked some 315 Christian refugees and wounded taking them to Piraeus.1 This action, carried out at the request of the British Consul in Crete, but without the knowledge or consent of the British government, was considered by the Ottomans to be a breach of their declared blockade of the island, and a breach of declared British neutrality. London, accepting, with reluctance, that the Consul and the ship’s Captain had acted for humanitarian reasons, distanced itself from the consequences of the evacuation and took steps to ensure that no such action would be repeated by a British vessel.