Book of the Week: The Sultan and the Queen-The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam.

18brotton-master768Murad III, left, Elizabeth I, right. Credit Ullstein Bild, via Getty Images (left); The Print Collector/Getty Images (right)

Jerry Brotton, a professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary University of London, is the author of the forthcoming “The Sultan and the Queen: The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam.” A dear friend of mine sent me a summery of the forthcoming book that the Prof. Brotton has written…. I have copy pasted what he wrote as I thought that I simply couldn’t put it any better… I have pre ordered my hard copy, its coming out on the 20th of this month yay!

“Britain is divided as never before. The country has turned its back on Europe, and its female ruler has her sights set on trade with the East. As much as this sounds like Britain today, it also describes the country in the 16th century, during the golden age of its most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth I.

One of the more surprising aspects of Elizabethan England is that its foreign and economic policy was driven by a close alliance with the Islamic world, a fact conveniently ignored today by those pushing the populist rhetoric of national sovereignty.

From the moment of her accession to the throne in 1558, Elizabeth began seeking diplomatic, commercial and military ties with Muslim rulers in Iran, Turkey and Morocco — and with good reasons. In 1570, when it became clear that Protestant England would not return to the Catholic faith, the pope excommunicated Elizabeth and called for her to be stripped of her crown. Soon, the might of Catholic Spain was against her, an invasion imminent. English merchants were prohibited from trading with the rich markets of the Spanish Netherlands. Economic and political isolation threatened to destroy the newly Protestant country.

Elizabeth responded by reaching out to the Islamic world. Spain’s only rival was the Ottoman Empire, ruled by Sultan Murad III, which stretched from North Africa through Eastern Europe to the Indian Ocean. The Ottomans had been fighting the Hapsburgs for decades, conquering parts of Hungary. Elizabeth hoped that an alliance with the sultan would provide much needed relief from Spanish military aggression, and enable her merchants to tap into the lucrative markets of the East. For good measure she also reached out to the Ottomans’ rivals, the shah of Persia and the ruler of Morocco.

The trouble was that the Muslim empires were far more powerful than Elizabeth’s little island nation floating in the soggy mists off Europe. Elizabeth wanted to explore new trade alliances, but couldn’t afford to finance them. Her response was to exploit an obscure commercial innovation — joint stock companies — introduced by her sister, Mary Tudor.

The companies were commercial associations jointly owned by shareholders. The capital was used to fund the costs of commercial voyages, and the profits — or losses — would also be shared. Elizabeth enthusiastically backed the Muscovy Company, which traded with Persia, and went on to inspire the formation of the Turkey Company, which traded with the Ottomans, and the East India Company, which would eventually conquer India.

In the 1580s she signed commercial agreements with the Ottomans that would last over 300 years, granting her merchants free commercial access to Ottoman lands. She made a similar alliance with Morocco, with the tacit promise of military support against Spain.

As money poured in, Elizabeth began writing letters to her Muslim counterparts, extolling the benefits of reciprocal trade. She wrote as a supplicant, calling Murad “the most mighty ruler of the kingdom of Turkey, sole and above all, and most sovereign monarch of the East Empire.” She also played on their mutual hostility to Catholicism, describing herself as “the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries.” Like Muslims, Protestants rejected the worship of icons, and celebrated the unmediated word of God, while Catholics favored priestly intercession. She deftly exploited the Catholic conflation of Protestants and Muslims as two sides of the same heretical coin.

The ploy worked. Thousands of English traders crossed many of today’s no-go regions, like Aleppo in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq. They were far safer than they would have been on an equivalent journey through Catholic Europe, where they risked falling into the hands of the Inquisition.

The Ottoman authorities saw their ability to absorb people of all faiths as a sign of power, not weakness, and observed the Protestant-Catholic conflicts of the time with detached bemusement. Some Englishmen even converted to Islam. A few, like Samson Rowlie, a Norfolk merchant who became Hassan Aga, chief treasurer to Algiers, were forced. Others did so of their own volition, perhaps seeing Islam as a better bet than the precarious new Protestant faith.

English aristocrats delighted in the silks and spices of the east, but the Turks and Moroccans were decidedly less interested in English wool. What they needed were weapons. In a poignant act of religious retribution, Elizabeth stripped the metal from deconsecrated Catholic churches and melted their bells to make munitions that were then shipped out to Turkey, proving that shady Western arms sales go back much further than the Iran-contra affair. The queen encouraged similar deals with Morocco, selling weapons and buying saltpeter, the essential ingredient in gunpowder, and sugar, heralding a lasting craving and turning Elizabeth’s own teeth an infamous black.

The sugar, silks, carpets and spices transformed what the English ate, how they decorated their homes and how they dressed. Words such as “candy” and “turquoise” (from “Turkish stone”) became commonplace. Even Shakespeare got in on the act, writing “Othello” shortly after the first Moroccan ambassador’s six-month visit.

Despite the commercial success of the joint stock companies, the British economy was unable to sustain its reliance on far-flung trade. Immediately following Elizabeth’s death in 1603, the new king, James I, signed a peace treaty with Spain, ending England’s exile.

Elizabeth’s Islamic policy held off a Catholic invasion, transformed English taste and established a new model for joint stock investment that would eventually finance the Virginia Company, which founded the first permanent North American colony.

It turns out that Islam, in all its manifestations — imperial, military and commercial — played an important part in the story of England. Today, when anti-Muslim rhetoric inflames political discourse, it is useful to remember that our pasts are more entangled than is often appreciated”.

 

Selfridges Celebrates Shakespeare 400th Anniversary with the Most Creative Campaign Yet

 To honour Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, Selfridges has made its biggest and most creative campaign yet …. They are opening a temporary in-store theatre and a series of collaborations with designers, musicians and drama groups.

The campaign, created in-house, also sees Selfridges collaborating with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) and The Faction theatre company. Shoppers will be able to watch a play being rehearsed and musicians playing in the store throughout the event.

The window displays will include one-offs from Christopher Kane, Alexander McQueen, Maison Margiela, Marques’ Almeida, Dries Van Noten, Erdem, Craig Green, Givenchy, JW Anderson, Gareth Pugh, Rick Owens, and others.

The windows will launch in two phases (Act I and Act II) with the first inspired by the Bard’s romances and comedies and the second by the tragedies..

The campaign started from 4th of July but will stay until 24th of  September. It will be the longest-running creative project yet for the Selfridges… I just can’t wait to see it when I’m back in London.

One of the brands collaborating with Selfridges for their campaign is Olympia Le-Tan. She has  turned to the great bard’s most famous works to inspire a capsule limited edition bags that are exclusively sold at Selfridges during that period.

My favorite Shakespeare play of All Time is Othello!! Othello to me is what Romeo and Juliette is for others!…. Who doesn’t want to be loved the way Othello loved Desdemona?…. Anyways as I was writing this post I orderd The Othello bag even though I already got the Midsummer Nights Dream! Because … well why not!

Book of the week: To kill a Mockingbird

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Haper Lee, the reclusive author of two books – both amongst the most controversial of their time – has passed away on Friday at the age of 89. For an author who only published two books in her life, Lee’s place in literary history is assured by the quality of the two and the effect they had on American society.

1961’s To Kill a Mockingbird is considered to be the greatest American novel. It introduced the world to Atticus Finch, a principled lawyer who defended a black man against a rape charge in rural Alabama. Most American schools today mandate Mockingbird as required reading.

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The book  was adapted into an Academy Award winning film .. Here Harper Lee is pictured with Gregory Peck, who starred in the movie and won an academy award for best actor for his role as Atticus Finch.

Book of the Week: Dinner with Jackson Pollock (Assouline)

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Jackson Pollock the artist needs no introduction—but perhaps lesser known is Jackson Pollock the gardener, baker, and entertaining dinner-party host. From starters and entrees to side dishes, breads, and desserts, Dinner with Jackson Pollock features more than 50 recipes collected from handwritten pages scrawled by Jackson; his wife, artist Lee Krasner; his mother, Stella; or traded among their many friends in the town of Springs on Long Island, interspersed with Jackson’s masterworks, still lifes of Pollock’s home, and beautiful photographs of each delectable recipe, plus delightful tales from Jackson and Lee’s family and local friends, for a truly unique and insightful portrait of a great artist.

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Here is one of the recipes from the book

Pea Salad with Russian Dressing

This recipe comes from Pollock’s own mother, Stella, which she kept in a red faux-leather book together with other handwritten recipes and newspaper and magazine clippings. Serves 2 to 4.
Ingredients

For the Salad:
2 cups fresh baby spring peas, shelled
1⁄2 cup American cheese, cut into small chunks
3 tsp onion, finely chopped
3 tsp sweet pickles, finely chopped
8 pecans
2 cups shredded cabbage, if desired

For the Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
4 tbsp chili sauce
1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp red onion, very finely chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 dill pickles, chopped
Salt and pepper

Directions:
This salad may be combined all together in a large bowl before serving, or the elements layered individually onto the plates before adding small dollops of dressing. To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Book of the Week

 

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I think that I have a lot of catching up to do because I haven’t blogged in …. well forever!!! I’ve been meaning to post about this book for almost 2 years now! (oops). And although its not new anymore I’m posting about it today because I think that this is the book that started an entire genre of titles aiming to teach us how French women dress, what French women do and don’t do, what food they eat, what food they don’t eat, all claiming to have the answer to “je ne sais quoi”!

 How to Be a Parisian Wherever You Are: is a collaboration between Caroline de Maigret and Parisians girl friends Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, and Sophie Mas… Its a fun light hearted book … for those of you who haven’t read the book yet here are 5 tips from the book just to give you an idea of whats it about:

1. “Be aware of your qualities and your faults. Cultivate them in private, but don’t obsess.”

2. “Au naturel is the fruit of hard labor, meticulously passed down from generation to generation.”

3. “Like Coco Chanel, do your utmost to avoid dinners with more than six guests around the table.”

4. “Parisian women never try to appear to be something other than what they are. In truth, more than wanting to look young—which is but a fleeting illusion—they want above all to become the best possible version of themselves, outside and in, at any age.”

5.  And finally “Take time to take time, because nobody else will do it for you.”

I know that we are talking about books now but I wanted to show you the new collaboration between Caroline de Maigret and lancome which I love

Its called MES INCONTOURNABLES DE PARISIENNE from lancome

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It consists of the palette above and other products as well.

To me this palette sums up the book beliefs of what French beauty stands for: simple, timeless, and natural beauty and the appearance of effortless elegance.

PS: watch the ad that Caroline made on lancome’s website … I loved it and thought that it was so funny!

Book Of the Week: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

There is something truly magical about Christmas stories… My kids just love reading them over and over again…. This story in particular is a favorite …. maybe because they are Dr.Suess fans or maybe because they just love the movie so much!!!…who knows!!!

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Dr. Suess writes a whimsical Christmas tale in his word-play style that everyone always enjoys…..The Grinch hates Christmas, and wants to stop it from coming. So he forms a devious plan: to impersonate Santa Claus and steal Christmas presents. But to his amazement he did not stop Christmas from coming!….. He realizes something new. That maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. That maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!

via Amazon.com

Book Of The Week: Pro/Con Kid’s Journal

Ok this isn’t technically a book…. But I thought it might be useful for parents like me to know about it!!!….This Pro/Con Journal is supposed to be a great tool for introducing the concept to kids. It says that it could enable them to make right choices!!!…hmmm lets see…. I’m ordering a few copies right now… and I’m hoping that the journal is everything it says it is!!!😉

Via Kid Crave.

Book Of The Week: Rebel Chic

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Katharine Hepburn is another one of my style icons!!!…. She was glamorous when she wanted to be and tomboyish when she didn’t and as a result she developed a personal style and public image as a style rebel…. She never intend to change the face of American fashion; she just didn’t like wearing skirts!!!. I love this quote from the book that Hepburn told Calvin Klein “I realized long ago that skirts are hopeless….. Anytime I hear a man say he prefers a woman in a skirt, I say, ‘Try one. Try a skirt.’”

Via Amazon.com