Rabia Gulnus Emetullah Valide Sultan – An overlooked Ottoman Queen

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Rabia Gulnus Emetullah Valide Sultan has often been overlooked by historians of the Ottoman empire. While she was one of the most powerful Queens, she is not included in the “Sultanate of Women.” [1] Yet Gulnus Sultan was Mehmed IV’s favourite for 23 years. She was also the Valide Sultan for 20 years during her sons’ reigns. Throughout her reign as Valide Sultan, she was the patron of many building projects. Modern-day historians believe that Gulnus Sultan deserves her place among “Ottoman’s Greatest Queens.” [2]

Rabia Gulnus Emetullah Valide Sultan was born around Rethymno, Crete island, sometime around 1642.[3]  Ozgules claimed that her first name was Evmenia.[4] However, Argit claimed that her name was Eugenie.[5] She was from the powerful Verzizzi family, and her father was the Bishop of Rethymno.[6] As a young child, she was captured by the Ottomans and became a concubine in the imperial harem. When she was old enough, she caught the eye of Mehmed IV. Gulnus Sultan was described to be very beautiful.[7] She was said to be short with reddish-brown hair and blue eyes.[8]

In 1664 C.E, Gulnus Sultan gave birth to Prince Mustafa. Gulnus Sultan then bore the title of “Haseki” to Mehmed IV.[9] Haseki meant “Chief Consort of the Sultan.” [10] Because she gave birth to Prince Mustafa, Mehmed IV loved Gulnus Sultan.[11] Mehmed IV gave Gulnus Sultan fiefs as a gift for giving birth to Prince Mustafa. Gulnus Sultan was the only woman to accompany her husband on military campaigns.[12] Because Gulnus Sultan travelled throughout the empire and in Europe, she captured the imagination of European artists who always painted her on horseback.[13] 

Gulnus Sultan was also inspired by Hatice Turhan Sultan’s (her mother-in-law) building projects, and she wanted to conduct her own building projects.[14] After one of his successful campaigns, Mehmed IV gifted her a Catholic Church, which Gulnus Sultan converted into a mosque. This made Gulnus Sultan the only Haseki to convert a church into a mosque as a spoils of war.[15] She was also the second Haseki after Gulnus Sultan to have set up charities in Mecca, which included a health clinic and two hospitals.[16]

While she accompanied her husband for the second time on a military expedition, Gulnus Sultan gave birth to her second son named Ahmed on 31 December 1673. This was the first time an Ottoman Queen had given birth to a son away from the capital and during a military expedition.[17] It was said that Gulnus Sultan was a very jealous woman.[18]  She spent her time murdering Medmeh IV’s consorts and insisted that Mehmed IV kill his own brothers, Suleyman and Ahmed.[19] It was Hatice Turhan Sultan who put a stop to Mehmed IV murdering his own brothers.[20] Gulnus Sultan was also inspired by the Kadizadeli Movement, a conservative Muslim movement, and she became hostile to non-Muslims.[21] She became close to one participant of the movement named Feyzullah Efendi.[22] He became her son Mustafa’s tutor.[23] When Mehmed IV was so angry at Feyzullah Efendi that he wanted to execute him, Gulnus Sultan intervened and stopped him.[24]

Mehmed IV and Gulnus Sultan had a difficult reign. The Ottoman Empire was losing territories from Morea to central Europe.[25] There were financial crises, revolts, and famine.[26] Mehmed IV lost favour with his courtiers, who heavily criticized his pleasures of hunting.[27] They dethroned Mehmed IV in favour of his brother, Suleyman II, on 8 November 1687.[28] Gulnus Sultan was sent to the Old Palace, where she lived in solitude for eight years, and she focused solely on managing the harem.[29] Even though she was powerless in court, the Grand Viziers whom she installed when she was Haseki were still powerful and helped rule the court.[30]

On 7 February 1695, Gulnus Sultan’s son, Mustafa II, became Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Gulnus Sultan became Valide Sultan, which means “Queen Mother.” [31] Mustafa II decided to move his capital from Istanbul to Edirne.[32] Gulnus Sultan also accompanied her son on military campaigns and helped him gain support within the Ottoman Empire. She was Mustafa II’s main advisor.[33] Gulnus Sultan conducted many building projects. One of her most notable building projects was the Galata New Mosque.[34] This mosque was built on former Catholic land.[35]

Mustafa II signed the Treaty of Karlowitz on 26 January 1699. This treaty brought an end to the war with Austria and the Ottoman Empire.[36] This treaty helped fill the coffers of the Ottoman treasury, and Mustafa II and Gulnus Sultan returned to Istanbul.[37] Gulnus Sultan was heavily involved in politics. She often advised Grand Viziers.[38] However, there were increasing revolts among the Janissaries within the empire.[39] They strongly disliked Feyzullah Efendi’s influence on Mustafa II.[40] Gulnus Sultan pleaded with her son to abandon his former tutor, but it was already too late.[41] Before Mustafa II could remove Feyzullah Efendi as his official, there were rebellions that he could not put down.[42] The rebels sent a petition to Gulnus Sultan to dethrone Mustafa II in favour of her second son, Ahmed.[43]  On 22 August 1703, Gulnus Sultan was forced to dethrone her son and put his brother, Ahmed III, on the throne.[44] Mustafa II was confined in the palace, where he died on 29 December 1703 from natural causes.

Ahmed III and Gulnus Sultan moved the capital back to Istanbul.[45] They spent their time trying to gain public favour through events like archery competitions.[46] Gulnus Sultan was involved in politics by assigning and deposing grand viziers.[47] She even made her favourite servant, Uzun Suleyman Aga, the Chief Eunuch of the Imperial Harem.[48] Gulnus Sultan spent her free time focusing on her building projects like building fountains in the Galata New Mosque.[49] She even built her tomb, known as the Uskudar Yeni Valide Complex. Gulnus Sultan also persuaded Ahmed III to go to war for King Charles XII of Sweden’s cause. When King Charles XII of Sweden lost the Battle of Poltava against the Russians, he fled to the Ottoman Empire. King Charles XII vowed revenge against the Russians, and Gulnus Sultan advised her son to help him. They went to war, but the Ottoman General named Baltaci signed a peace treaty against Russia. This peace treaty angered both Ahmed III and King Charles XII of Sweden so that Baltaci was stripped of his position.

On 30 November 1712, the Ottomans again declared war on Russia. However, they signed the Treaty of Edirne on 14 June 1713. This treaty allowed the Ottomans to declare war against the Venetians to regain their lost territory of Morea.[50] Ahmed III and Gulnus Sultan were eager to regain Morea. Gulnus Sultan fell ill, but she wanted to be informed of every detail about the war.[51] In September 1715, the Ottomans regained Morea. The Ottoman army marched victoriously in Edirne on 4 November 1715. On 5 November 1715, Gulnus Sultan passed away in Edirne Palace.[52] On 8 November 1715, Gulnus Sultan was buried in Uskudar Yeni Valide Complex.[53] Thus, Gulnus Sultan came from humble beginnings, and she rose to become Valide Sultan to two sultans. Yet, her greatest legacy is her building projects, especially the Galata New Mosque and Uskudar Yeni Valide Complex. Through these projects, Gulnus Sultan’s name will never be forgotten.


Argit, B.T. (2017). “A Queen Mother and the Ottoman Imperial Harem: Rabia Gulnus Emetullah Valide Sultan (1640-1715).” Concubines and Courtesans: Women and Slavery in Islamic History: Illustrated Edition. (Gordon, M.S. Ed.; Hain, K. A. Ed.). London: Oxford University Press. pp. 207-224.

Ozgules, M. (2017). The Women Who Built The Ottoman World: Female Patronage and the Architectural Legacy of Gulnus Sultan (Library of Ottoman Studies). NY: I.B. Taurus. 

Sardar, Z. (2014). Mecca: The Sacred City. NY: Bloomsbury USA.

[1] Ozgules, p. 11

[2] Ozgules, p. 11

[3] Argit, p. 208

[4] Ozgules, p. 17

[5] Argit, p. 208

[6] Ozgules, p. 17

[7] Ozgules, p. 23

[8] Ozgules, p. 23

[9] Ozgules, p. 18

[10] Ozgules, p. 18

[11] Ozgules,  p. 19

[12] Ozgules, p. 19

[13] Ozgules, p. 19

[14] Ozgules, p. 19

[15] Ozgules, p. 22

[16] Sardar, p. 183; Ozgules, p. 4

[17] Ozgules, p. 23

[18] Ozgules, p. 23

[19] Ozgules, p. 23

[20] Ozgules, p. 23

[21] Ozgules, p. 24

[22] Ozgules, p. 24

[23] Argit, p. 209

[24] Argit, p. 209

[25] Ozgules, p. 25

[26] Ozgules, p. 25

[27] Ozgules, p. 25

[28] Argit, p. 210

[29] Argit, p. 210

[30] Argit, p. 209

[31] Ozgules, p. 26

[32] Ozgules, p. 26

[33] Ozgules, p. 28

[34] Ozgules, p. 28

[35] Ozgules, p. 29

[36] Ozgules, p. 29

[37] Ozgules, p. 29

[38] Ozgules, p. 29

[39] Ozgules, p. 29

[40] Argit, p. 212

[41] Argit, p. 212

[42] Argit, p. 212

[43] Ozgules, p. 30

[44] Ozgules, p. 30

[45] Ozgules, pp. 30-31

[46] Ozgules, p. 31

[47] Ozgules, p. 31

[48] Ozgules, p. 32

[49] Ozgules, p. 33

[50] Ozgules, p. 34

[51] Ozgules, p. 35

[52] Ozgules, p. 35

[53] Ozgules, p. 35

About Lauralee Jacks 171 Articles
I am a former elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!

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