The Romance of the Harem: The City of Veiled Women of the King's Harem, the Royal Wives and Concubines, their Children and Slaves (Paperback)
The author is Anna Leonowens, the lovely English governess to the children of the King of Siam whose story is immortalized, highly romanticized, in the Rogers & Hammerstein musical "The King and I" (1951). "Truth is often stranger than fiction," writes Leonowens. Fiction based on fact, embellished to fascinate the reader and get the point across, is perhaps a more precise description of all the gruesome torture and persecutions of the ladies of the harem by the King who was a Buddhist monk and abbot for 26 years before ascending to the throne... King Mongkut's harem was so immense it encompassed an enormous complex within the Grand Palace in Bangkok called the Nang Harm ("Veiled Women"), surrounded by a high wall, housing the royal princesses, wives, and concubines of the king. It was a world of its own, complete with Amazon-women guards, prisons, judges and executioners, but also schools and theaters. Here the women carried out their connubial duty to produce the king's heirs. When King Mongkut died he left behind 67 royal children. After five years, Anna Leonowens left, traveling to England and Ireland before settling in the United States and eventually Canada, where she once again supported herself by teaching.