Legitimacy Through Female Lineage? The Role of In-Laws (aṣhār) in the Royal Mamluk Households of the Fifteenth Century

In: Eurasian Studies

Abstract

Presently, the role of in-law relationships in the Middle Eastern historical context has been understudied, even as it is known that high officials could bolster their political prestige and claim to power by marrying or being married to a royal princess. This is especially true in the Mamluk context of the fifteenth century, when it became impossible for sons of reigning sultans to succeed their fathers. These sons were only allowed to ascend the throne for short periods as mere placeholders, as the effective successors who replaced their fathers were usually drawn from among the membership of the inner circle of the Mamluk military elite. Their marker of identity was that they had been imported as young slave boys from regions to the north of the Black Sea or the Caucasian region. Because there were no direct dynastic ties present, a new Mamluk sultan would create a family bond to the old sultan and bolster his legitimacy by becoming his in-law. The following article will therefore look at the process of becoming an in-law at the Mamluk court and the possible consequences of a royal wedding in terms of transmission of legitimacy.

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