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Includes the name: Leslie Peirce

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20th Century



Not bad. Limited by availability of sources.
maryroberta | 2 andre anmeldelser | Apr 26, 2021 |
This is a book about the only queen of the Ottoman Empire. Suleiman the Magnificent received Roxelana as a slave. He eventually set her free, married her, and went on to have six children with her. All of this was unheard of in Ottoman society. Ambassadors to the Ottoman court claimed that Roxelana was a great favorite of the Sultan who was devoted to her and loved her greatly. It is for this that she is remembered today.

Nothing is known of Roxelana's life before she came to the Ottoman court. And very little is known afterwards. A few surviving letters in her voice are all we are able to use to understand her character. This book is not just about Roxelana. It is also about the times she lived in and it delves into the history of the Ottoman court and culture. In that respect, it can be a bit tedious reading. However, the snippets we get about Roxelana make the reading vastly worthwhile.… (mere)
briandrewz | 2 andre anmeldelser | Jul 26, 2020 |
I took a class on the history of the Balkans, and this book was on the suggested reading list. What a great choice I made!

This book tells the story of Roxelana, a Russian girl captured into slavery and sent to the harem of Suleyman I (later known as "the Magnificent"). Not much is known about her, but the author has done a lot of research to put together as complete a picture as possible. What I found especially interesting is how the social and political structures of the court worked. The Ottomans didn't believe that sultans should participate in dynastic marriages with royals from other countries; they felt this might divide the loyalties of any offspring, including successors to the throne. Nor did they follow the practice of primogeniture (where the first born son is the natural successor).

What this resulted in was a system where the sultan had sexual relationships with concubines from the harem who caught his eye. Now, here is where it gets interesting. The concubines favoured, or expected to be favoured, by the sultan were educated in speaking and writing Turkish (remember most were foreign slaves), in needlecraft and perhaps music. Once a concubine bore a child, her status was elevated to royal mother and she was given a budget and learned financial management. The head of the harem was the sultan's mother. She had great financial and managerial power as well as influence over the sultan.

While girls could not ascend to the throne, they were much prized by both parents, loved and educated as royal princesses. Once a concubine bore a son, however, her sexual relationship with the sultan ended. Her job was to prepare her son for becoming sultan by ensuring his education and advocating for him. It was felt that a mother could not and should not have her loyalties divided among sons; therefore, one son per mother was the rule. As sons were given governorships or other duties, their mothers accompanied them.

Then Suleyman met Roxelana and changed the system. They fell in love; the kind of love that is enduring and stronger than convention. Roxelana bore Suleyman five sons and a daughter. He was faithful to her; in fact, he freed then married her. She moved from the women's palace to his palace, where they had adjoining quarters. By adopting a lifestyle that we see as "normal", Suleyman was seen as a revolutionary. Roxelana was, by many, called a witch or sorceress. In this book, we learn of how she looked after her sons' interests without being able to favour any one of them (there's an older half-brother to complicate things a bit). We also learn about her role as "Empress" which never before, or since, existed.

This book is listed as biography/history -- and it is both -- but its real strength is as a cultural study. I found it fascinating.
… (mere)
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LynnB | 2 andre anmeldelser | Feb 22, 2018 |


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