Shah Tahmasp was only ten when he succeeded to the throne of Persia in 1519 after the death of Shah Ismail. He was the second Safavid Shah and reigned for fifty three years. Tahmasb was content to leave the defence of the realm to his generals who contended with the Turks and the Uzbegs. He is particularly famous for the magnificent reception which he gave to the fugitive Indian sovereign, Homayun and which is depicted on the walls of the palace of Chehel Sotoon. A detail of this, showing Tahmasb seated on the right, can be seen above. Tahmasb assisted him to regain his throne.
It was during this reign that Britain attempted for the first time to establish diplomatic links with Persia. A British merchant, Mr. Anthony Jenkinson, was despatched to the court of Shah Tahmasb by Queen Elizabeth I. Jenkinson received scant reward for his efforts for as soon as he arrived Tahmasb asked him whether he was an unbeliever or a moslem. Jenkinson replied that he was neither, but a Christian, at which Shah Tahmasb told him he had no need of infidels and sent him on his way. Jenkinson was lucky to escape with his head which Tahmasb had considered presenting to the Turks.
Tahmasb was himself a skilled miniaturist but seems to have avoided spending any large sums of money on architectural projects, although, since he made his capital at Qazvin, which was later largely destroyed by an earthquake, there is little evidence of his impact today. He held a strong view of the divine right to rule and his principal religious official, the Sheikh al-Islam, Al-Karaki who died in 1534, laid down, in some ways, the precepts under which the present government of Iran seek to rule.
Tahmasb had made his capital at Qazvin. He was succeeded after his death in 1672 by his fifth son, Hyder Mirza, who was in turn slain by his older brother Ismail.