Tuesday, November 16, 2010


No known portraits of her exist. This painting...Image via WikipediaAs part of the Notable Eastern Women series this month, we've done a mythical woman, Scheherazade and we've done a modern woman, Tansu Çiller. Today we'll move along to a historical figure Hürrem Sultan, more commonly known as Roxelana. Cool name, don't you think?

Her story is a complex tale of tragedy and triumph. Neé Alexandra Anastasia Lisowska, she was the Ukranian wife of  Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and an influential woman. There are no known official portraits of her, but there is plenty of documentation of her beauty and power.

Born into an educated family, the daughter of an orthodox priest, her early life was disrupted when the Tatars captured her in one of their raids and sold her off as a slave. Her beauty eventually landed her in the sultan's harem in Istanbul, which was a mixed blessing, especially when the jealous favorite wife had her beaten when the sultan started visiting too often.

But the sultan was angered and sent the favorite wife away with her son, the heir apparent. Roxelana took top position in the Harem. Amazingly, she managed to have the Sultan free her and then even married him, legitimizing her own son as the next heir in the process. Their love story has inspired artists and composers all over Europe.

via un.org

I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention Queen Noor of Jordan here. She's a modern equavalent of Roxelana in my eyes, a brilliant foreigner in the king's bedroom and an influential women who actively promotes world understanding of the Middle East and many other worthy causes

Here's some more classical music for you, since many enjoyed the clip last week. Haydn's Symphony No. 63 "La Roxelane" presented by Philharmonia Hungarica

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Christopher said...

sounds like quite the alluring woman

LTM said...

oh! I love that story--I can't believe I've never heard it! Inspiring indeed~ :o) And love love love Queen Noor. She's fantastic. I also love the little Jordanian princess... trying to remember her name~ beautiful! :o) <3

Carol Kilgore said...

I love learning about these women.

Old Kitty said...

Beautiful story - tragic in its way but Roxelana is triumphant in turning the story round to her advantage!! Brilliant!!!

Thanks for the clip - will listen to it when I'm home! Take care

Golden Eagle said...

Interesting post--I've never heard of Roxelana before!

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