The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus Blog Tour

The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus

Brothers bound by blood but fated to be enemies. Can their Empire survive or will it crumble into myth?

Istanbul, 1903.

Since his younger brother usurped the Imperial throne, Sultan Murad V has been imprisoned with his family for nearly thirty years.

The new century heralds immense change. Anarchy and revolution threaten the established order. Powerful enemies plot the fall of the once mighty Ottoman Empire. Only death will bring freedom to the enlightened former sultan. But the waters of the Bosphorus run deep: assassins lurk in shadows, intrigue abounds, and scandal in the family threatens to bring destruction of all that he holds dear…

For over six hundred years the history of the Turks and their vast and powerful Empire has been inextricably linked to the Ottoman dynasty. Can this extraordinary family, and the Empire they built, survive into the new century?

Set against the magnificent backdrop of Imperial Istanbul,The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is a spellbinding tale of love, duty and sacrifice.

Evocative and utterly beguiling,The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is perfect for fans of Colin Falconer, Kate Morton and Philippa Gregory.

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Author Bio –  Ayşe Osmanoğlu is a member of the Imperial Ottoman family, being descended from Sultan Murad V through her grandfather and from Sultan Mehmed V (Mehmed Reşad) through her grandmother. After reading History and Politics at the University of Exeter, she then obtained an M.A. in Turkish Studies at SOAS, University of London, specialising in Ottoman History. She lives in the UK with her husband and five children.

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Book Excerpt

The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is the book that I always dreamed of writing. Ever since I was a little girl… Initially I did not intend to publish – it was written to encourage my children’s interest and sense of pride in their heritage, and to teach them forgotten customs and traditions. I wanted to record stories and memories that my grandfather shared with me of his unique life before they are lost forever, and I also hoped to discover more about the characters and personalities hidden behind faded family photographs… Then one day my father persuaded me that others might enjoy this personal story set during the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire, so it was published and today celebrates its first birthday!

In this scene Prince Nihad is considering how best to influence the fate of his new born son, my beloved grandfather. In Ottoman tradition, where the umbilical cord is placed is of great importance and significance since it will determine the path you follow in life:

“Nihad, it is time to decide where to place the umbilical cord. We should take care of that now, while we are together,” Murad said once the ladies had left. “It is an important decision, for it will influence your son’s fate; I trust you have given the matter some thought?”

Nihad swallowed the slice of peeled apple had been eating. “Grandfather, I must admit that I have no idea where best to place it. I have indeed considered the matter, but have reached no conclusion. Could you possibly give me some advice?” He wiped his fingers on the napkin his kalfa had brought him and put his fruit plate on the table.

Fuad was puzzled. Before Murad could reply to Nihad’s question, he asked: “Baba, what is an umbilical cord?” Selahaddin quietly explained what it was to his younger son – while Nihad scowled at him, irritated at his interruption.

“Whatever you decide will be the right choice, I am sure, my dear Nihad,” Murad finally answered. “I chose to bury your father’s cord in the garden of a school: as you know, I believe that education is of paramount importance in life. Your father has grown into a very learned and knowledgeable man, and he has found much solace in books and philosophy during our long confinement here. So I think I made the right decision in his case.”

Selahaddin nodded in agreement. Then he addressed his son. “We asked for your cord to be buried in the courtyard of the Yahya Efendi Mosque. I prayed that you would grow up to be devout and pious. When I look at you now, my son, I can see with pride that you have indeed become such a man,” he said. Nihad smiled at his father.

“So where was my umbilical cord buried, Baba?” Fuad asked.

“Yours was thrown into the Bosphorus to be taken wherever the current chose, my dear Fuad,” Selahaddin replied.

Fuad looked a little dejected at this. Nihad’s cord had been buried in a holy place with care and deference, while his own, it seemed, had been tossed recklessly into the sea. Murad noticed the expression of bewilderment on his face. “It was done in the hope that you would find your destiny elsewhere, far from the locked gates and high walls of the Çırağan Palace,” Murad said. “You have a lively spirit, dear Fuad. I pray that you will not have to endure a life of imprisonment, as we have had to do, and that your destiny will be very different from ours.” Fuad was happy with this explanation. In any case, his grandfather’s observation was quite true: he dreamed constantly of adventure and exploration.

“There is only one other choice open to you,” Selahaddin said to Nihad. “If you would like your son to love animals and care for them, you can decide to bury the cord in a stable. So, what course will you decide upon for Vâsıb?”

Nihad thought for a moment. “I feel torn between all the different possibilities. Please help me decide, Grandfather! And you too, Father – please help me choose,” he said.

Murad answered first. “Liberty and freedom are precious things, and should never be taken for granted,” he said. “Every man has the right to be free, so my advice is to choose the waters of the Bosphorus. You can ensure that your son grows into a devout and righteous man by teaching him the lessons of the Holy Quran. You can employ the best tutors and scholars to ensure that he becomes an educated man. But you cannot guarantee that Vâsıb Efendi will have liberty and freedom. That is something that, as I myself have learned, lies beyond our control, and it is for this reason that I give you the advice I do.” Selahaddin placed his hand tenderly on his father’s arm. He knew how much he suffered, and how much it hurt him to have to watch his family endure imprisonment at the hands of Abdülhamid.

“I agree with my father,” Selahaddin said. “He speaks wisely, and from experience of life.”

Nihad, moved by his grandfather’s words and not wishing his voice to falter, paused for a moment to collect himself. Then he said: “You are indeed wise, dear Grandfather. The choice is clear now. Thank you for your advice, which I wholeheartedly wish to take.”

Murad stood up and kissed Nihad. Then he took Fuad by the hand and led the way into the garden. As Nihad passed Dilber Kalfa on his way out of the salon, she handed him the small box containing the cord. When they had gone, she went over to the window and watched as the four princes strode purposefully over to the high wall that skirted the seafront. She saw Nihad speak to a guard standing beside the sea gate; after a certain amount of gentle persuasion, he unlocked the gate and pushed it ajar just enough to allow Nihad to slip through onto the quay beyond. Nihad then opened the box and, after saying a prayer, tossed its contents into the water lapping at his feet.

Bismillah,” she murmured. “May the suffering of the family of Murad have an end. May they know freedom, and may they find their destiny beyond the walls of this palace prison.”

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