Fourteen year-old Signorina Baffa, daughter of Baffa, the Governor of Corfu, stands tall on a hill overlooking the sea, her wheat-coloured hair tousled by the wind her hazel eyes wistful. She is a rosebud. A pearl that is fit for a Sultan: she’s to travel to the harem this day. She’s anxious and afraid but secretly, despite herself, excited.
Her excitement lasted for three years as they taught her how to read and how to speak and all else there was to learn. It was vigorous training, but she proved talented and clear-minded and soon mastered all she was taught. She wanted to succeed, because she knew that one day she’d be queen.
When she was seventeen and deemed ready, she was presented to the palace of Prince Şehzade Murad, the favourite grandson of Süleyman the Magnificent. For the occasion they renamed her “Safiye” and dressed her in embroidered satin and pearls and brought her to a room that was inlaid with ivory and lapis lazuli and the finest silk rugs on the floor. She felt as if she was entering a fairy tale where all her wishes would come true.
She craved power and was eager of glory. She set her mind on marrying Murad to achieve her ambitions, to become the first lady of the Ottoman Empire. And one magical evening, beautiful Safiye prepared herself to visit the young and handsome Murad. Bejeweled and alluring, she smiled at Murad and gazed with love into his fiery black eyes. She enchanted him and he fell in love. His first love, and a love that would endure and nourish both of them for the rest of their lives.
In the year 1597 Safiye Sultana, by now the powerful wife of Ottoman Emperor Sultan Murad III, laid the cornerstone of Yeni Camii (New Mosque) on the shore of the Bosphorus. This architectural masterpiece of the early Ottoman Era that was destined to become one of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks, prims on the silhouette of the City to this day. Safiye did not live long enough to see it completed.