You are the Valide Sultan.
As the absolute sovereign of the harem, everything is regulated by you and implemented according to your design.
Since harem women cannot interact with the public, all contact with the outside world shall be conducted by harem eunuchs.
However, within the harem, your enormous staff is made up of women.
Your kethuda usta (head of administrative affairs) carries out your orders related to state, and your haznedar usta (personal assistant) sees that your orders are carried out within the harem household. Beneath these two women are at least a hundred other workers of varied capacity.
You wonder if that will be enough…?
Your resources are bountiful, now.
In fact, dear ippetlu (‘she of highest dignity‘), your salary as Valide surpasses that of the Sultan’s — an indication of the reverence your son holds for you, as well as a sign of the importance of your position.
Moreover, after the Sultan’s war conquests, he showers you with new lands and castles, making sure you always receive the most valuable real estate before gifting less choice real estate to the men in his administration.
You, in turn, parcel off this real estate to these very men for favors, information, and whatever other needs you and the harem may have.
Such are the means of power over men for a Valide, and her harem.
If you so desire (and have honed your international diplomacy skills), you may request to receive foreign ambassadors — from which shall flow elaborate gifts of all manner of foreign treasures…white gold, ivory, jade, priceless ancient artifacts…the list is endless.
You also receive injections of wealth from worldwide land grants, and tax income. Your wealth accrues from every avenue now, and knows no limit.
However, from this vast fortune, you must — in your capacity as Valide — finance the construction of public buildings throughout the Empire: Mosques, hospitals, and hamams (public bath houses), schools and libraries…cemeteries/tombs, bazaars, and dervish hostels…caravanserai to store goods and temporarily house travelers…street carts of fire wood and public fountains of clean water for the poor.
You must also finance the implementation of religious services such as digging springs of freshwater, and providing food, public horse and camel provisions, and medical and veterinary care for Muslim pilgrim caravans en route to Mecca.
From your gargantuan harem purse must flow funds for all this and more — including maintenance fees, and personnel salaries for each of these public works. As Valide, your philanthropy must be expansive, and your business hours, long.
Indeed, devetlu (‘she of supreme authority’), there is much work to be done.
Any woman in your harem with dreams of laying around the hamam, soaking up warm sunshine and sipping on chilled wine, is in for a cold splash of harem reality.
Leave those lazing harem girl fantasies to Westerners.
You know there will, inevitably, be strife among the women; it’s unavoidable in sizable families (and ‘sizable’ does not even begin to measure your harem). But this is where your gift for mediation serves well.
Though your decisions as Valide are irrefutable law, you are patient, understanding, and careful to be just. This is, after all, your family. Each woman in the harem has a place in your heart — just as you occupy a very special place in theirs.
Nevertheless, in matters of harem interaction with the Sultan, you are the gatekeeper.
You alone decide if, when, how and with whom interaction with your son takes place. Seductively lowered lashes, nor coy smiles hold power as great as your word in the Sultan’s ear.
He may not be aware of this, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
A mere utterance from you that a particular harem girl has shown you disrespect, will see her unceremoniously reduced to cariye (harem slave girl), or worse, ousted from the harem completely.
Such is the power of a mother.
And, as with any mother-in-law in any family, those harem women with dreams of unfettered access to your son would do well to upset you as little as possible.
For, lo, if you are not pleased by the attitude or actions of any particular harem girl, she will no longer have the privilege of being in the Sultan’s company.
You will see to that. But always in a manner which leaves the Sultan believing it was his decision.
Such is the power of a shrewd Valide.
Even so, you are careful not to become too complacent in your cushy dominion. You are fully cognizant of just how far that fall from royalty can be, having watched prior Valides crash & shatter like the fine crystal to which they had become accustomed.
For, at the death of a ruling Sultan, a Valide’s life comes crashing down around her.
Not only would you lose your beloved son, you simultaneously lose all that his rule afforded you. His elaborate funeral — a typically grandiose affair — will be the last royal event you ever attend.
Only days after your son the Sultan’s death, a magnificent procession for the mother of the new Sultan relegates you to near-obscurity — without so much as a tiny parting gift…
Expressed by a poet of the era, Adni (who was believed to be a royal Sultan writing under an assumed name):
“Do not believe in the joys promised
By the rotating Celestial Orb in its elusive path.
And, even if it puts pleasures before your eyes,
These will be deceptive…for it prepares pain.”
Inshallah, your devoted son the Sultan shall live a long, long life…
Are you ready to transform your Mama’s boy into a Sultan so that you can rule the roost? (Or do you already??)
What say you about Ottoman Valides?
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