In 1804, the struggle against Napoleon was being conducted on many fronts and in many ways. France wanted to gain influence and power in the eastern Mediterranean by assisting the Ottoman Sultan to modernise his armies. The British were determined that they would gain this contract and become the allies of Ottoman Turkey and its empire.
APRIL AND MAY
Tom Hawkesleigh is in the magnificent city of Constantinople to advise on reforms to update the Ottoman army. The Sultan is waiting, so he has just two more days to complete his secret report. His work is under threat from conservative Turkish officers as well as French agents. The last thing he needs is for three Englishwomen to arrive, wanting his help, especially when one of them is Rose, the girl he has been trying to forget....
Rose still detests Tom as the man who abandoned her without a struggle. Never again will she let any man have control over her. But Kerim Pasha, the Sultan's special envoy, is bewitched by her beauty. And now she is obliged to rely on Tom to guide her in the heated atmosphere of Ottoman society.
An Ottoman kiosk, made like the one where Rose and Tom meet in Kerim Pasha's garden.
Why does scandal follow Olivia Hartford everywhere - even in Constantinople? Is it because of her red hair...her inability to refuse a challenge...or maybe her zest for life gives people the wrong impression?
In 1810, Lord Byron and his friend John Cam Hobhouse arrived in Constantinople. During their stay, they accompanied the British Ambassador on a formal visit to the Sultan, Mahmud II. Hobhouse later wrote that the Sultan, dressed in yellow satin, his milk-white hands ‘glittering with diamond rings’, had an ‘air of indescribable majesty’. This was confirmed by the wife of the retiring British Ambassador, Robert Adair. She had attended the ceremony, disguised as a man.
The following year, Lady Hester Stanhope arrived in Constantinople. The Sultan ordered that she was to be treated with great honour, as befitted a close relative of a former British Prime Minister.
When Robert Adair left, Stratford Canning, [ later Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe ], became Minister Plenipotentiary in Constantinople in 1810. He was an energetic young man with robust ideas on protecting British interests. He helped to mediate the treaty of Bucharest between the Ottomans and Russia. This was signed on 28th May, 1812.
Life in the Ottoman harem was very different from what was imagined by Europeans. In Ottoman society, as an institution, harem life reflected the secluded privacy of family life.
The 'cariyes' served the sultan's wife or his mother. Under the guidance of the sultan's mother, they were taught to read and write, play music, and the intricate rules of palace etiquette and protocol. They were trained and educated in the skills and accomplishments considered appropriate for women at the time. After a certain number of years ( usually 9 years) in service, they were allowed to marry. Very few were honoured even by the privilege of waiting at the sultan's table, and still fewer became royal wives. Hurrem Sultan was a good, but rare, example of palace opportunities for cariyes. Among the cariyes it is commonly believed that there were many in the harem from noble families of
Hürrem Sultan, maiden name 'Alexandra', wife of Süleyman the Magnificent, Ukrainian- Polish
Nur-Banu "Princess of Light" , maiden name ' Cecilia Venier-Baffo' , wife of Sultan Selim II, Italian
Kösem Sultan "Mahpeyker", maiden name ' Anastasia', wife of Sultan Ahmet I, Greek
Hatice Turhan Sultan, maiden name 'Nadya' wife of Sultan Ibrahim, Ukrainian
Nakshidil "embroidered on the tongue " , maiden name 'Aimee du Buc de Rivery', wife of Sultan Mahmud I, French [ this one remains doubtful, although there is some evidence that she was Aimée, cousin of Napoleon's Josephine]
After nine years of service the harem girls or 'cariyes' were given their leaving document. In addition, they received a set of diamond earrings and ring, a trousseau and some gold as their marriage portion. After the harem, their lives and well-being were closely supervised or else suitable husbands were found for them. Outside harem life, they were renowned for their good breeding and for their discretion, never being known to reveal any intimate details about the royal family to outsiders. Nevertheless, graffiti on the harem walls shows that not all cariyes were content with their lot: 'Dilferib whose heart burns / Is wretched / O God / Alas alas.'
See my Blog - http://regencytales.blogspot.com for information on these topics as well.
The Structure and Hierarchy of the Harem
The Organisation of the Harem and its role in the government
Note: I am indebted to Umit Sonmezler of
for much of the information in the posts about the Harem.