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Aimee Debucq de Riveıy (Nakshedil Sultana)

No sultana is more intriguing than Nakshedil. Her life is shrouded in such mystery that, to this day, no one is sure whether Nakshedil and Aimee de Rivery, the fair, blue-eyed girl from Martinique, were indeed one and the same. 1 learned about her from an early age because she figured in my own family history-or so said my grandmother Zehra. Among Zehra's many stories was the one about my great-great-grandmother Naime. It went like this.
During the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz, some time in the middle of the last century , the French Empress Eugenİe came to Istanbul. The empress wantedto vİsİt the women İn the sultan's harem; thİs was arranged, and the ladİes met. They fascİnated one another , but could not converse. ''Is there any among you who speaks French?'' the empress managed to convey. They al11ooked at each other, whİspered, and shook theİr heads. ''Then,'' my grandmother contİnued, ''an old woman spoke up: 'Be- fore Nakshedil Sultana died, there was a young girl she İlked. She named her Naime because İt sounded,' she said, 'like her own name before she was brought. She taught this girl, herselfthe language of the French. And 1 thİnk the girl still lives in the Old Palace"

Immediately Naime was delivered from the darkness of the Palace of the Unwanted Ones and brought to the empress. She was a shy little girl, but she indeed spoke fluent French, with a Martinique accent.
When the sultan saw how much Empress Eugenie lİked this forgotten girl, he offered Naime to her as a present to take back with her to France. However, a young man in Eugenie's entourage fel1 in love with Naime and fınal1y asked the empress for Naime's hand in marriage. At this, the sultan intervened, saying the girl was a Moslem and the only way a gavur (infıdel) could marry her was by converting to Islam. Though he was from a devout Catholic family , the young man did not hesitate to change his faith. As a Moslem, he was given a ward in Macedonia, a town called Prilep, near Skopje. The couple moved there, had many children, and started fırst a vineyard, which was a failure, then a successful gunpowder business, the name of which became our family's, Barutçu (gunpowder makers).

We do know that Aimet' DeBucq de Rivery was born in 1763 to a noble family in Martinique. Her cousin ]osephine Tascher de la Pagerie married Napoleon Bonaparte. A legend tel1s of the two young girls going to a Creole fortunetel1r in Pointe Royale, who predicted that they would both grow up to be queens, one to rule the East, the other the W est. In 1784, on her retum to Martinique, after attendingconvent school in Nantes, Aimee was kidnapped by Barbarossa's corsairs. Twenty-one years old, Aimee was sold to the Dey of Algiers. Captivated by her beauty , the dey saw an opportunİty to win the sultan's favor. He presented the gİrl to Abdulhamid I.

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