. (I'm sorry I forgot about the talking meme for a while there. All posts forthcoming, I swear.)
I have a whole historical tl;dr post about Mehmed, Radu and Vlad
, as well as some more talk about the time period (15th century Wallachia/Ottoman Empire)/what Vlad and Mehmed might be like without Radu in this reading wednesday post
(under La croisade des Carpathes
Long story short: Radu cel Frumos is the youngest brother to Vlad the Impaler. As children they were sent as hostages to the Ottoman Empire, where they met Mehmed. Despite a rocky start (RADU STABBED HIM AND RAN UP A TREE), Radu and Mehmed fall in love. Then they go to war against Vlad, somewhere in there Constantinople becomes Istanbul and biological warfare is invented.
Here's the bit I have to confess that I know less about Mehmed and Radu than I do about Vlad, because Vlad being "Dracula" was my in into this part of history, but I'll try my best to talk some more about Mehmed and Radu anyway.
A thing I've seen coming up over and over again in fiction about the period, mostly in regards to Vlad -- because Vlad is the one that's had the most fiction written about him, because "Dracula" -- but occasionally in regards to Radu as well, is that they were sexually abused as children while with the Ottomans. (Looking at you Helsing, looking at you Chronicles of Legion*, etc.) As far as I can tell from primary sources there's no evidence of this. So unless I missed something, a bunch of authors just decided to add this. Because I guess being torn away from your family and held hostage against your country's nominal freedom is not a tragic enough backstory (so let's add some shitty, xenophobic clichés).
At least a few of these work actually conflate Murad and Mehmed (for those keeping score at home: Murad is Mehmed's father), in which case I can see why 'Radu gets into a relationship with the Sultan' could get really creepy. On the other hand, while I'm not saying there wasn't any power imbalance in the Mehmed/Radu relationship -- because there was -- the actual age difference is only about five years and sources seem to point at the relationship being Radu's idea, past that initial STABBED HIM AND RAN UP A TREE incident.
I don't think the Mehmed/Radu relationship was as straightforward as "they were in ~love" or "Mehmed pressured Radu into it". Most notably it's hard to tell how Radu felt both on account of how there aren't that many sources and how if Radu had any reservations about it he sure as well wasn't gonna say anything. What I'm pretty confident about is that Mehmed, at least, really loved Radu. Look. Mehmed was married four times
and he had a harem yet his relationship with Radu is a constant for years.
But let's take a step back from the personal and look at the political for a moment.
I don't think it'd be much of a surprise to tell you that religious wars were all the rage in the Balkans in the 15th century. Christendom hates the Ottomans because they're Muslims, the Ottomans hate Christendom because it's not, the Orthodox hate the Catholics who hate the Orthodox (and prettymuch everyone hates on the Jews, big sursprise there). It's basically a clusterfuck/powderkeg of proto-nationalistic sentiment, xenophobia and religious fanaticism. In other words: if people aren't killing each other left and right, it's because veryone's already dead.
Mehmed conquering Constantinople in 1453 does nothing to help matters, obviously. But 1463 is when it gets interesting.
In 1463, Mehmed publishes an edict that reads "I, sultan Mehmet, inform the entire world that those who posses these imperial edicts, the Bosnia Fransiscans, are in my good graces and do hereby command: let nobody bother or disturb neither those mentioned nor their churches. Let them dwell in peace in my empire. And let those who have become refugees be allowed to do so and be safe. Let them return and let them settle in their monasteries without fear in all countries of my empire". It's not the first time Mehmed's tried to calm down religious tensions in his empire (there are sources that go back at least to the fall of Constantinople), but it's the first time he's made it official. I would be very very surprised if Radu had nothing to with any of this.
In 1462, Radu gets to become voivode of Wallachia by taking the title from Vlad, with Ottoman backing. If getting into a relationship with Mehmed was political gamble, it's one that paid off. (But he could have ran away to Vlad and Vlad would have taken him in -- for sure before the Night Attack, and maybe even after -- and he didn't.)
The other explanation for Radu's loyalty to the Ottomans is Stockholm Syndrome and/or the Ottoman devshirme brainwashing. Radu is five years old when he gets to the Ottoma court. Children taken by the devshirme are usually six years old -- then they get brainwashed into loyal Ottoman janissaries. (The Ottoman Empire is really good
at making janissaries.) That Radu end up as Janissary commander would lend weight to this.
Rau might have loved Mehmed too. After all, Vlad was there, at the beginning, and I find it very hard to believe Vlad would burn down Earth and Heaven if he thought he needed to to protect his brother. (See for example how he treated the boyards who tortured and murderd his brother Mircea.) Vlad never attacked Mehmed personally, though. Even during the Night Attack, where Vlad conducted the reconnaissance HIMSELF, Mehmed wasn't killed.
In all likelihood, Mehmed did love Radu, but Radu's feelings for him were a complicated mess of love, Stockholm syndrome and political gambling. We'll never know for sure, but it sure is interesting.
*I'm actually posting this now, before I do a review of Chronicles of Legion, because Chronicles of Legion is basically ALL VLAD AND RADU ALL THE TIME (+ body horror and vampires).