By Douglas Scott Brookes
Within the Western mind's eye, the center jap harem was once a spot of intercourse, debauchery, slavery, miscegenation, energy, riches, and sheer abandon. yet for the ladies and kids who truly inhabited this realm of the imperial palace, the truth used to be greatly diverse. during this choice of translated memoirs, 3 girls who lived within the Ottoman imperial harem in Istanbul among 1876 and 1924 supply a desirable glimpse "behind the veil" into the lives of Muslim palace ladies of the overdue 19th and early 20th centuries. The memoirists are Filizten, concubine to Sultan Murad V; Princess Ayse, daughter of Sultan Abdulhamid II; and Safiye, a schoolteacher who recommended the grandchildren and harem girls of Sultan Mehmed V. Their reminiscences of the Ottoman harem show the inflexible protocol and hierarchy that ruled the lives of the imperial kinfolk and concubines, in addition to the loads of slave ladies and black eunuchs in provider to them. The memoirists exhibit that, faraway from being a spot of debauchery, the harem used to be a relatives domestic during which well mannered and subtle habit prevailed. Douglas Brookes explains the social constitution of the nineteenth-century Ottoman palace harem in his creation. those 3 memoirs, written throughout a part century and through ladies of differing social periods, provide a fuller and richer portrait of the Ottoman imperial harem than has ever sooner than been to be had in English.
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Extra info for The Concubine, the Princess, and the Teacher: Voices from the Ottoman Harem
His face plainly registered fear, but still his mouth was frozen in a smile. What could be the verdict on our master, who returned to the harem after passing a day full of fright, anxiety, and agitation? At that time we were not in a position to know and understand. We simply had to content ourselves with what we heard. I myself could not make head or tails of why some concubines and hazinedars were shut up with the new Princess Mother in her rooms. That night, as we all went to our rooms, got into bed, and pulled the blankets over our heads, I had no way of knowing what my harem sisters were thinking.
Half asleep, the aides and eunuchs on duty that night were gathering, their dress disheveled, trying to pull their jackets over their arms. The aides huddled together, talking with one another, while the eunuchs gathered around Abdülkerim Ağa. Once he ﬁnished giving orders to the other oﬃcers, the bearded oﬃcer came over to the door behind which the aides and eunuchs had gathered. In a stern voice he demanded, “Open the door. ” One of the aides began to speak. “The door may not be opened without His Highness’s express order.
My duty as your servant is to issue this summons to you. ” Süleyman Ağa was standing beside the Lady Mother, whispering some things in her ear. ” With that our master came suddenly to life. He nearly ran to his apartments, got dressed, and came back in. In the meanwhile a colorful crowd of people ﬁlled the great hall. No one was sleeping anymore, all the kalfas and eunuchs had come in and the place hummed with their excited conversations. ¹⁰ Our master had gone quite pale in the face and seemed bewildered as to what he should do.
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