Nasi studied at the University of Louvain and then entered the Mendes banking firm. He was responsible for the firm’s foreign affairs, in connection with which he traveled throughout Europe. When his aunt departed for Italy in 1545, she left him in charge of the firm, but he was unable to save it from confiscation and he left Holland. After a period in France, he moved to Italy, but in 1554 joined his aunt in Constantinople, and married her daughter Reyna. An unfriendly observer reported, “This rogue came to Constantinople with over twenty well- dressed Spanish servants. They attend him as if he were a prince. He himself wears silk clothes lined with sable. Before him go two janissaries with staves, as mounted lackeys.... He is a large man with a trimmed black beard.” He left his Marrano guise, was circumcised, and openly professed Judaism tinder his Jewish name. Joseph Nasi.
He worked closely with his aunt and as she aged, his responsibilities increased. He was referred to as the court Jew because of his connections with the Sultan Suleiman, and later with Suleiman’s son and successor, Selim II. In appreciation of the extensive trade Nasi conducted, the Turkish rulers granted him special commercial privileges and the rank of gentleman of the royal retinue. Through his many contacts, he acquired much information and acted as confidential adviser to the sultan on foreign affairs. Nasi helped the ruler of Moldavia
regain his throne and encouraged William of Orange of the Netherlands to rebel against Spanish rule. Nasi’s relationship with France was less than harmonious. He had been pressing a claim of
150,0 ducats against the French crown when the Turkish authorities took his side in the dispute. They boarded French vessels in Turkish waters, seizing up to one-third of their cargo until the full sum was recovered. The French envoy to the sultan’s court engineered a plot to disgrace Nasi but was unsuccessful.
In 1528, Beatrice de Luna married her uncle, the very rich black pepper trader and new Christian in Lisbon, Francisco Mendes. Francisco also happened to belong to the same very prominent Jewish family as her mother – Benveniste from Castile and Aragon – and was also the great grandchild of Don Abraham Benveniste of Castile. The couple were believed to have been married in the great cathedral of Lisbon, in a public Catholic wedding, and then to have had a Crypto-Judaic ceremony with the signing of a ketubah. Francisco Mendes and his brother, Diogo, were the directors of a powerful trading company and bank of world renown, with agents across Europe and around the Mediterranean. The House of Mendes/Benveniste probably began as a company trading precious objects and currency arbitrage. Following the beginning of the Age of Discovery and the finding, by the Portuguese, of a sea route to India, the Mendes brothers became particularly important spice traders. They also traded in silver – the silver was needed to pay the Asians for those spices. In January 1538, when Beatrice was only twenty-seven years old, Francisco died. In his will Francisco divided his fortune between Beatrice and his brother and business partner, Diogo; this bold decision put Beatrice on the path to becoming the successful and renowned business woman of the sixteenth century that we know her for today.