Samuel Pallache was a Jewish-Moroccan-born merchant, diplomat and pirate of the Pallache family, who, as envoy, concluded a treaty with the Dutch Republic in 1608. He is likely an ancestor of Haim Palachi of 19th-Century Izmir.
Samuel Palache was born on 1550 in Fez, Morocco. The Palaches were one of the most distinguished families of Spanish refugees to settle in Morocco. Samuel and his brother, Joseph, were leading advisers on the country’s finances and the sultan of Morocco even entrusted them with negotiations with Philip II of Spain. On one of their visits to Spain, the brothers aroused the wrath of the Inquisition, probably for helping Marranos to leave the country and return to Judaism. They had to be hidden by the French ambassador before they escaped.
His family originated from Islamic Spain, where his father had served as rabbi in Córdoba. According to Professor Mercedes García-Arenal, "The Pallaches were a Sephardi family perhaps descended from the Bene Palyāj mentioned by the twelfth-century chronicler Abraham Ibn Da’ud as 'the greatest of the families of Cordoba'."
Samuel, a skilled diplomat and linguist, was appointed Moroccan ambassador to Amsterdam early in the 17th century, and helped to obtain permission for Jews to settle in the Netherlands. The first minyan (Jewish prayer quorum) in Amsterdam met at his home, and he is said to have built the first synagogue. As ambassador he negotiated the first treaty of alliance between a Christian state and a Muslim state — the Netherlands and Morocco — and was firmly devoted to the fight against Catholic Spain.
His problems began in 1614 when, with the permission of the sultan, he himself assumed command of a small Moroccan fleet that captured Spanish galleons, laden with gold and precious cargo, on their return from America. He took his booty to Rotterdam and returned to his ships, but later — because of a storm, had to find shelter in Plymouth harbor, in England. At that time, England and Spain were at peace and the Spanish ambassador in London had Palache arrested on charges of piracy and of abandoning Christianity to return to Judaism, and demanded the death penalty.
The Dutch Representative Assembly protested his arrest to the king of England, explaining the nature of Palache’s mission and demanding his release. However, initial intervention was not strong enough and Palache remained in prison. The Spanish ambassador used his influence and expended considerable sums of money to bribe members of the aristocracy to sentence Palache to death. The Dutch ruler now sent a sharp letter demanding the release of his friend Palache. “Victim of a libelous attack by the Spanish ambassador.”
He also told the English king that the Spanish were torturing the Protestants no less than the Jews and that they therefore shared a common cause.
When Palache was brought to trial before the King’s Council, some of the nobles rose at his entrance as an expression of honor and the president of the Court seated him at his side and permitted him to keep his head covered (at that time, no Jews were permitted to live in England). Palache’s successful defense was that he was a Moroccan subject, in the service of the sultan, and at war with Spain. He was acquitted, and in protest the Spanish ambassador resigned.
In 1614, Pallache, having captured a Portuguese ship, was unable to bring its cargo ashore in Morocco and so sailed for the Netherlands. A heavy storm forced him to seek refuge in an English port where, by request of the Spanish ambassador, he was arrested and imprisoned. Eventually, Prince Maurice came to his aid and helped bring him back to the Netherlands. However, he had lost all his money by then and fell ill shortly thereafter.
On February 4, 1616, he died in The Hague, and was buried with gravestone in the Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, a "cemetery of the Portuguese Jewish community" in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel near Amsterdam. The record for his grave spells his name as "Palache" and describes him as Morokkaans Gezant (Moroccan envoy). It cites a birth place of Fez (Morocco). It states a burial date in Hebrew calendar Sebat 16, 5376 (February 4, 1616). It lists three sons: Isaac, Moses, and David.
“The Dutch representative in England, addressing the nobles, said, “It is true that Palache is a Jew and therefore should not be treated differently from a dog and heaven forbid that I should support his false faith — but he is the representative and ambassador of a powerful ruler and should therefore be set free.””
Both Les noms des juifs du Maroc and A Man of Three Worlds describe several generations of Pallache family members, which forms the basis of the family descent shown below.
Samuel's wife was Reina (Hebrew Malca) (English "Queen"). Les noms cites two sons, Isaac and Jacob, One Man cites only Isaac. Samuel's brother Joseph had five sons: Isaac, Joshua, David, Moses, and Abraham. One Man cites Moses (and David) as most influential person after Samuel's death and de facto leader of the family, even before his own (elderly) father Joseph.
19th Century descendants included four grand rabbis, three in Izmir, Turkey (Haim Palachi, Abraham Palacci, and Rahamim Nissim Palacci) and one in the Netherlands (Isaac Juda Palache)–spellings of the surname varied considerably over the centuries).