Secrets of the harem are revealed. A democratic sultan and his harem are kept prisoners of the palace. The lives of an Ottoman princess and a revolutionary writer intertwine as they both search for love and freedom. Resonating with themes of sexual power and liberation in the turbulent collapse of the world’s greatest Islamic empire.
Istanbul, 1876. Prince Murad, a democratic leader, is deposed after only 93 days as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He will be kept under palace arrest for the next 28 years. Decades later his slave-concubine Filizten provides a detailed account of the years of intrigue, scandal, and repression.
Murad’s mother, Sevkefza, a former slave-girl, is the most powerful woman in the Ottoman Empire. But when her progressive son is deposed, she too is forced to give up her title. From the harem, Sevkefza plots to restore Murad to the throne.
Murad’s daughter Princess Hatice, born in secret, spends her entire life behind palace walls. Raised on the romance of French novels and the democratic ideals of her father, she yearns for a life beyond the harem. After more than two decades in Ciragan Palace, Sultan Abdulhamid II offers Princess Hatice a choice: to stay with her family, or accept the Sultan’s promise to arrange a marriage for her.
As the world enters the 20th century, Princess Hatice moves to a villa on the Bosphorus where she waits for a husband. But the husband the Sultan bestows on her is a crude brute. Beautiful and intelligent, the fiery princess risks everything through her intrigues including an affair with her cousin’s husband, in the quest for freedom.
Halide Edib, a daughter of polygamy, defies the sultan to get an education. Divorcing her husband when he takes a second wife, she becomes the champion of the Turkish nation defeated in World War I. Speaking to a crowd of 200,000 in 1919, she galvanizes the people of Turkey to demand freedom. From the pages of her memoirs, Halide Edib speaks for the rights and education of women around the world.
Set against an epic sweep of history, THE SULTAN’S WOMEN intercuts between the lives of these two women: a defiant princess seeking personal emancipation, a passionate activist fighting for the freedom of her people. Both their journeys will lead to exile.