Many people are unaware that some of the most influential women in the Ottoman Empire, mothers and wives of sultans, came to Istanbul (Constantinople) from the Slavic countries. They adapted to the reality of their new country and became the legendary female rulers, whose impact on the politics was incredibly strong. It’s important to keep in mind that all of them came to the court as slaves. However, they are strong, intelligent and determined enough to become more than other women of their times. Women included in this short list belong the 1500s and 1600s, the times influenced by the rules of Suleiman the Magnificent. All of them were beautiful and dangerous.
Hurrem Sultan – good wife of Suleiman
One of the most powerful women in the history of the Ottoman Empire, and in the 16th century Europe. Her real name was Aleksandra and she was born in Rohatyn, Crown of Poland (now territory of Ukraine). She was bought as a slave to the harem of a sultan, but her beauty and intelligence made her one of the most important women in the history of the Ottoman Empire. She became the first legal life sultan in history, but also a real-life partner of the Muslim ruler. Her life was focused on improving the lives of the poorest citizens of her kingdom. Even the most skeptical resources cannot discuss with the unbelievable romantic tale from the court of the sultan. Under the penname Muhibbi, he wrote many poems for his beloved Hurrem:
“Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan, my one and only love.
The most beautiful among the beautiful…
My springtime, my merry faced love, my daytime, my sweetheart, laughing leaf…
My plants, my sweet, my rose, the one only who does not distress me in this world…
My Constantinople, my Caraman, the earth of my Anatolia
My Badakhshan, my Baghdad and Khorasan
My woman of the beautiful hair, my love of the slanted brow, my love of eyes full of mischief…
I’ll sing your praises always
I, lover of the tormented heart, Muhibbi of the eyes full of tears, I am happy.”
Safiye Sultan – the protector of the heritage
She grew up on the court of Suleiman the Magnificent. For her entire life, she tried to bring back the golden period in the history of the Ottoman Empire. Some historians pinpoint that she was the last of the great and prosperous women of the 16th century in her country. She was Albanian. Captured as a very young woman, or saying more precisely still a child, she arrived at Topkapi. When she was 13 years old she became a gift for Murad III. Instead of staying one of many favorites of a sultan, she became an iconic follower of the best court traditions. It brought her many allies. Safiye believed that her goal is to continue the vision of the kingdom created by Hurrem and Suleiman. Her son was born at the same age when Suleiman died.Safiye believed it was a sign from God, a confirmation that her life is supported by the highest power. She had a long life, her eyes saw the reigns of seven sultans: Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II, Murad III, Mehmed III, Ahmed I, Mustafa I, and Osman II.
Handan Sultan – diplomatic warrior
Handan care to Topkapi from Balkans, perhaps from Bosnia. Her charismatic personality brought her as many reasons to smile, as tears that fell down on her cheeks.Handan was born in an influential family and served in the household of Cerrah Mehmed Pasha, the governor-general (beylerbeyi) of Rumelia Eyalet. After the death of Mehmed III, she became a co-regent with her son, Ahmed I. Handan ruled the Ottoman Empire until Ahmed became an adult, but later she continued protecting her son. The court of Handan was full of Bosnians like Yavuz Ali Pasha (grand vizier) or Dervish Mehmed Agha. Although for centuries people gossiped that Handan was murdered, it seems that she died after long and exhausting disease.
Turhan Hatice Sultan – a killer queen
Some historians believe that she was the last great woman of the Ottoman Empire and the last prominent of the period known as Sultanate of Women. Her hunger for power was well known. Education in politics and diplomacy she took, came from Kosem Sultan, her mother in law. Kosem was cruel and only the person who was more clever and stronger could survive. She chose Turhan Hatice as a wife for her son Ibrahim. As a young woman, Turhan learned the hard rules of the Ottoman court. She came from the territory of the current Ukraine or Russia, ethnically she was an Eastern Slav. Turhan Hatice decided to finish the Kosem’s rules and killed her. She became the only woman in the history of her country who shared the power of ruling the Empire equally with a man. She died in 1683.