Turhan Hatice Sultan – She who made the lands of the people of faith safe




(public domain)

Turhan Hatice Sultan was one of the most powerful women in the Ottoman Empire. She was a captive who became the favourite concubine of the sultan, Ibrahim. She was known to be ambitious and was locked in a power struggle for three years with Kosem Sultan, whom she eventually murdered. However, when she became queen mother, she was recognised for her piety and building projects.

Turhan Hatice Sultan was twelve when she became a captive. She was captured in Russia and was sent to Topkapi Palace from the Khan of Crimea as a gift to Kosem Sultan.[1] It was most likely that Kosem Sultan gave Turhan Hatice to her son, Ibrahim, as a concubine.[2] Turhan Hatice gave birth to a son named Mehmed, who would later become Mehmed IV. She became his favourite and was given the title of “Haseki”.[3] 

When Ibrahim was deposed in 1648, Turhan Hatice’s son, Mehmed IV became sultan. Because Mehmed was seven years old, there had to be a regent. However, Kosem became regent. The reason why Turhan Hatice did not become regent was because she had no political backing in the court.[4] Kosem Sultan not only had more experience in ruling, but she had dominated the court. She had given her supporters important positions in the court.[5] Kosem was also backed by the Janissary Corps. Thus, Turhan Hatice would be locked in a power struggle with Kosem that would last three years.[6] Eventually, Turhan Hatice gained a faction within the court. She was supported by the chief black eunuch, Suleyman Agha and the grand vizier, Siyavus Pasha.[7] 

To end this power struggle with Turhan Hatice, Kosem planned to depose Mehmed IV in favour of Suleyman, his younger half-brother.[8] This was because Suleyman’s mother was more easily controlled and compliant than Turhan Hatice, who was ambitious.[9] However, Kosem’s plan never came to fruition because Turhan Hatice learned of Kosem’s plot through Melek Hatun, one of Kosem’s slaves.[10] On 2 September 1651, Turhan Hatice used Suleyman Agha and his followers to kill Kosem.[11] Kosem was strangled with a curtain-string.[12] In order to eradicate Kosem’s influence in the court, Turhan Hatice and her grand vizier had to execute her supporters.[13] This led to anger and outrage among the people so that Turhan Hatice was forced to let her grand vizier go.[14]

Now that Kosem was out of the way, Turhan Hatice had the power to rule. She gained more experience in ruling and widened her circle of advisors. Some of these were people outside the palace. When Mehmed IV attended the important meetings of state, Turhan Hatice was by his side.[15]  Turhan Hatice’s main problem was struggling to find the right grand vizier that was smart enough to overcome by factional strife that flourished during Turhan Hatice’s power struggle.[16]  Eventually, Turhan Hatice appointed Koprulu Mehmed Pasha as grand vizier in 1656.[17] 

Once Koprulu Mehmed Pasha became grand vizier, Turhan Hatice surrendered most of her authority as regent and transferred them to the grand vizier. Thus, Turhan Hatice’s political influence lessened, but her ceremonial and philanthropic roles increased.[18]

Turhan Hatice also engaged in cultural and political projects. She built or repaired fortresses along the Bosphorus, the Black Sea, and the Dardanelles.[19] Turhan Hatice also built a mosque in Istanbul and two smaller mosques on Canakkale Straits.[20] She also had libraries within her mosques. Forty-seven books were donated to the two small mosques, and over three hundred were in the New Valide Mosque.[21] However, her most significant contribution was the New Mosque in Eminonu.[22] Because of Turhan Hatice’s renown for her building projects, there is a famous poem about her composed by Abdi Pasa.[23] He praises Turhan Hatice for “building two fortresses, one on either side [of the straits]/ She made the lands of the people of faith safe from the enemy.” [24]

Turhan Hatice died in 1683. She is buried at the “New Valide Mosque”, known today as Yeni Mosque.[25] The catafalque of Turhan Hatice occupies the most prominent position at the head of the tomb.[26] She is buried with her son and her descendants.[27]  While Turhan Hatice had a rocky beginning in becoming the queen mother, it shows that she had experience in ruling. Her ambition made her carry out some murderous acts, but once she ascended to the throne, she became beloved by her people.

Sources:

Baer, Marc D. Honored by the Glory of Islam: The Ottoman State, Non -Muslims, and

         Conversion to Islam in Late Seventeenth-Century Istanbul and Rumelia, ProQuest

         Dissertations Publishing, 2001.

Erçetin, Åžefika Åžule., and Aylin Gorgun-Baran. “A Woman Leader in Ottoman History:

          Kosem Sultan (1589-1651).” Women Leaders in Chaotic Environments Examinations of

          Leadership Using Complexity Theory, Springer International Publishing, 2016, pp.

          71–100.

Gibb, Sir H. A. R., “Kosem Walide.” The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Brill, 1960, pp. 272–273.

Kadıoğlu, Muhsin. “Kosem Sultan.” The Turkish Influences On The Most Famous European

          Ladies, Business & Economics, 2016.

Peirce, Leslie P. Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. Oxford

          University Press, 1994.


[1] Kadıoğlu, “Kosem Sultan” para. 26

[2]  Kadıoğlu, “Kosem Sultan” para. 27

[3] Erçetin, Åžefika Åžule., and Aylin Gorgun-Baran, “A Woman Leader in Ottoman History: Kosem Sultan (1589-1651)” p. 81

[4]  Erçetin, Åžefika Åžule., and Aylin Gorgun-Baran, “A Woman Leader in Ottoman History: Kosem Sultan (1589-1651)” p. 81

[5] Erçetin, Åžefika Åžule., and Aylin Gorgun-Baran, “A Woman Leader in Ottoman History: Kosem Sultan (1589-1651)” p. 81

[6] Baer, p. 106

[7] Peirce, p. 252

[8] Peirce, p. 252

[9] Kadıoğlu, “Kosem Sultan” para. 28

[10]Kadıoğlu, “Kosem Sultan” para. 28

[11]Peirce, p. 252

[12]Gibb, “Kosem Walide” p. 273

[13] Peirce, p. 252

[14] Peirce, p. 252

[15] Peirce, p. 253

[16] Peirce, p. 254

[17] Peirce, p. 255

[18] Peirce, p. 257

[19] Baer, p. 106

[20] Peirce, p. 208

[21] Peirce, p. 208

[22] Baer, p. 107

[23] Baer, p. 106-107

[24] Baer, p. 107

[25] Peirce, p. 207

[26] Peirce, p. 207

[27] Peirce, p. 207






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