Wednesday 19 April 2023

Kösem Sultan-kidnapped by Ottoman Raiders, as a Slave in Bosnia: Queen of Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I. Her Tragic End.

Kösem Sultan (1589 1651), also known as Mahpeyker Sultan, was Haseki Sultan of the Ottoman Empire as the chief consort and legal wife of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I, valide sultan as the mother of sultans Murad IV and Ibrahim, valide sultan as the grandmother of Sultan Mehmed IV.

She oversaw 3 generations of the Ottoman Empire

Upon ascending to the throne, the triumphant new Sultan would shout his first decree, usually something like “All my brothers are to be immediately killed.”

Princes Ahmed and Mustafa lived together in the Golden Cage. When Ahmed became sultan, he did not have the heart to murder his brother, but he did keep Mustafa in the Cage-with just a few women.


Ahmed built a wall to block the entrance, leaving a small window through which food was passed to Mustafa, as well as alcohol and opium.


Fourteen years later, this same wall was hammered down, and the utterly demented Mustafa was declared sultan.

Background of Kösem Sultan

In 1604, at the age of 14 or 15, she was kidnapped by Ottoman raiders and bought as a slave in Bosnia by the beylerbey (governor-general) of the Bosnia Eyalet. She was tall, slender, and appealing woman due to the whiteness of her complexion and the deep brown of her eyes.

Kösem Sultan

Her beauty and intelligence were noticed by the kızlar ağa of Sultan Ahmed I's court, who sent her to Constantinople to join a group of other slave girls marked by their striking appearance or intelligence to be trained in the harem of Sultan Ahmed I as an imperial court lady.


Kösem rose to prominence early in Ahmed's reign as part of a series of changes to the hierarchy of the imperial harem.

Slave Market

She was instrumental in putting an end to the centuries-old practice of fratricide in the Ottoman Empire by convincing Ahmed to spare his brother Mustafa.

Ahmed favoured Kösem above all his concubines, lavishing on her the finest jewels and a stipend of 1,000 aspers a day. 

Slave Market

During the reigns of Ahmed I, Mustafa I, Osman II, Murad IV, Ibrahim and Mehmed IV, Kösem gained both notoriety and affection among her subjects, wielding unparalleled political power and influencing the empire's foreign and domestic policy.

On Ahmed's early death (1617), Kösem became the head of a faction that successfully supported his half-brother Mustafa's accession to the throne.


She probably feared for her sons' life, should their older half-brother, Osman, become sultan. She probably preferred to see Mustafa become sultan as he was less likely to see her sons as a threat.

In the Ottoman Empire, the fratricide culture was at its peak at the time.

When Ahmed’s father Mehmed III ascended to the throne, he executed all his nineteen brothers. In 1603, he also executed his eldest living son Şehzade Mahmud, leaving only two of his sons, Ahmed I and Mustafa I as his heirs.

Ottoman Sultan Ahmad I (Kösem Sultan was his queen)

Kösem was fifteen years old when she became the favorite of fifteen- year-old Ahmed 1.

Ahmed ruled from 1603 to 1617, leaving Kösem a young widow. Mustafa was released from the Cage, to become sultan, while Kösem’s own sons, Murad, Beyazit, and Ibrahim, took his place there.


Reign of Mustafa I (Brother of Sultan Ahmad I)

Kösem, the widow of Ahmed I and mother of Murad IV was in league with the eunuch corp. Kösem and the eunuchs ruled through the mentally disabled Mustafa, while the Janissaries ruled through Osman II… whom they decided they didn’t like after all, and killed.

Mustafa I

As only the second sultan (after Ahmed I) to ascend the throne with no prior experience of government, Mustafa proved feeble and incompetent.


He had spent his entire early life in the harem, learning only what the eunuchs and women could teach him, and constantly fearing execution at the hands of the ruling sultans, with several palace officials, particularly the Chief Black Eunuch Mustafa Ağa, nourishing these fears to control him.


Eventually, Mustafa Ağa spread stories that he was insane and secured his deposition on 26 February 1618, just 96 days after he ascended the throne.

He was replaced by Osman, the eldest son of Ahmed I and his deceased mother Mahfiruz Hatun.


Reign of Osman II

Osman's first act as sultan was to take power away from Mustafa's supporters, as well as those who had secured his accession and planned to rule over him.


As a result, Kösem and her eight children and entourage were banished to the Old Palace. Nevertheless, Kösem was able to maintain her haseki status and daily stipend of 1,000 aspers during her retirement.


While at the Old Palace, she had the opportunity to meet Safiye Sultan (grandmother of Sultans: Ahmed I and Mustafa I)

Osman II

In 1619, Osman acted against Ottoman convention by paying Kösem a three-day visit at the Old Palace and taking part in her festivities, thus showing his particular affection for her.


He also gave Kösem the income from eight villages to the north-west of Athens; she then incorporated them into her waqf, which provided services to pilgrims traveling from Damascus to Mecca.


His uncle Mustafa was kept alive, as were Osman's younger brothers, protected by Kösem, who were at this time not old enough to pose a threat to Osman's regime.


In May 1622, sensing that Osman might still execute Mustafa and his younger brothers, the eunuch corps and the palace soldiery planned a counter-strike, backed by Mustafa's mother, Halime Sultan, and Kösem, who wanted her own children to ascend to the throne.


Storming into the harem, they freed Mustafa from confinement in the Kafes.


As for Osman, aged only seventeen, he was imprisoned in Yedikule, then strangled by members of the Janissary corps on 20 May 1622, largely through the efforts of Halime.


Halime Sultan was a consort of Sultan Mehmed III, and the mother of Sultan Mustafa I.

The first woman to be Valide Sultan twice. Halima lived in the Ottoman Empire as a courtier during the reign of six Sultans: Murad III, Mehmed III, Ahmed I, Mustafa I, Osman II, and Murad IV. 

Halima Sultan

Second reign of Mustafa I

In place of Osman, the weak and incompetent Mustafa was restored to the throne with the support of Kösem.


During the closing months of Mustafa's second reign, he ordered the execution of everyone involved in Osman's death, including Kösem's sons.


But before his orders could be carried out, both Kösem and the eunuch corps intervened and deposed him again. 

Kösem eventually reached an agreement with the viziers to install her son Murad as sultan. Mustafa would go on to spend the rest of his life in the Kafes.


Kösem Sultan as Valide sultan: Reign of Ottoman Sultan Murad IV

Murad IV was, son of Sultan Ahmed I and Kösem 


He was brought to power by a palace conspiracy when he was just 11 years old, and he succeeded his uncle Mustafa I. Until he assumed absolute power on 18 May 1632, the empire was ruled by his mother, Kösem Sultan, as nāʾib-i salanat (regent

The reign of Sultan Murad IV, known as the conqueror of Baghdad, is notable for halting the prevailing lawlessness and rebelliousness while restoring the authority of the state


Kösem entered the Topkapı Palace with a great ceremony which included having a thousand dervishes marching with prayers to celebrate her forthcoming. 

Ottoman Sultan Murad IV

She was once again thrust into the political arena when her son ascended to the throne in 1623 as Murad IV. Since he was a minor, she was appointed not only as valide sultan but also as official regent


As regent, Kösem effectively ran the empire through her son, Murad, attending and arranging divan (cabinet) sessions from behind a curtain. She was in charge of appointing political figures and overseeing the state's administration, which allowed her to establish connections with statesmen, judges, and other court figures.

Called Murad the Mad, though probably not to his face, the 17th sultan was just a lad of 11 when he began his reign, although his mum did much of his homework as his regent until he turned 20.


He used to hang around taverns at night in disguise, trying to snare a drinker having a crafty smoke. Once the unsuspecting drinker lit up his pipe, the sultan would suddenly reveal who he was and cut down the unlucky smoker there and then by his own hand


After catching a gardener and his wife puffing away, he had their legs cut off before the pair were wheeled around the capital on the back of a cart, so the public could watch them bleed out in agony.


He also didn’t like people getting too close to the palace walls, personally shooting people that did so. It was the sultan’s prerogative to take at least ten innocent lives per day, and he almost always did.


He once came across a group of women singing in a park and drowned them there and then because he didn’t like the din they were making. 

His musician played a Persian melody that upset him greatly so he cut his head off. Having ordered the consumption of coffee to be illegal, he executed anyone who drank it and even likewise for alcohol despite the fact that he was a raging alcoholic himself.


A group of singing women were drowned because they disturbed his peace and he often forced the harem women to jump naked into a pool while he fired pellets at their bodies.


Mad Murad’s reign did not last long, and he died at the early age of 27 from cirrhosis of the liver.

Rumours had circulated that on his deathbed, Murad IV ordered the execution of his mentally disabled brother, Ibrahim (reigned 1640–48), which would have meant the end of the Ottoman line. However, the order was not carried o


Reign of Mad Ibrahim: (The Mad Sultan on to the throne).

After Murad’s death Kösem promptly placed Ibrahim.Of Kösem's last surviving sons, the mentally unstable Ibrahim, lived in fear of being the next of his brothers to be executed by Murad.


Following Murad's death at the age of 27, Ibrahim was the sole surviving prince of the dynasty. When the Grand Vizier Mustafa Pasha asked him to assume the sultanate, Ibrahim suspected Murad was still alive and plotting to trap him.

It took the combined persuasion of Kösem and the grand vizier to make him accept the throne. For instance, Kösem ordered his brother's corpse to be displayed before him and even threatened Ibrahim with 'strangulation, not inauguration' if he refused to be crowned sultan.


With the accession of Ibrahim, Kösem once again became politically active as his principal advisor.

However, she enjoyed a less compatible relationship with the Grand Vizier Mustafa Pasha than she had with the grand viziers of Murad's early reign.

Ibrahim was in no shape to rule a nation. Odd to begin with, it didn’t help that he had spent his entire life living as a prisoner in the golden cage, staring longingly out the unreachable stained glass windows.


Inside the prince was kept company by a few deaf-mute servants, and a couple of harem girls, barren ones, to prevent him from fathering possible heirs to the throne. (The servants were, by default, prisoners as well.)

Ibrahim also lived under the constant and reasonable fear of deaf-mute eunuchs throttling him with a silk rope. So it makes sense that when guards showed up to bring him to the throne, he refused to go, thinking it was a trick.


Ibrahim wouldn’t even open the door until Murad’s body was produced. When Ibrahim was finally convinced that he was not about to be garroted to death, he ran deliriously through the halls screaming “the butcher is dead”, “the butcher of the empire is dead.” 

Suddenly out of the cage and the supreme ruler of an enormous empire, Ibrahim barely knew what to do with himself. While his mom did most of the actual decision making, Ibrahim busied himself with his new harem.


He first decorated his room with mirrors so that he might get a better view of himself in action. He then called the girls in.


One time the Mad Sultan saw the beautiful daughter of the Grand Mufti, the empire’s highest religious authority, and asked for her hand in marriage.


Her father, aware of Ibrahim’s depravities, urged his daughter to decline. So the Mad Sultan ordered her kidnapped and carried to his palace, where he ravished her for days, before returning her to her father. 

Ibrahim’s harem was full of young, nubile, girls from around the world. But after a while, the slender things from Russia and the Balkans didn’t do it for him anymore.


One day Ibrahim happened to see the genitalia of a female cow.

Pleased by what he saw, Ibrahim had a gold cast made and, hoping to find a human match to the bovine privates, he ordered his aides to “bring him the fattest woman in the world.”

They did their best, finding a 300 pound Armenian girl named “Sugar Cube” (Sechir Para or more literally translated “Sweet Lump of Sugar”).


Ibrahim loved her, and spent many a night curled in her large arms. It wasn’t long until the big woman had gained power over Ibrahim equal only to that of her girth.

It would be Sugar Cube who would spell the final downfall of Ibrahim the Mad.

Sugar Cube told Ibrahim that a member of his concubine was sleeping with an outsider and conspiring against him. The paranoid Ibrahim, decided to clean house and had the majority of his harem, some 280 girls, tied up in sacks and drowned in the river.


This worried his mother Kösem, who was actually ruling the foundering empire. Concerned about Sugar Cube’s rising power, she in turn had Sugar Cube strangled. The palace was indeed a rough place.


They knew her everywhere as “the Filthy Sultana.” One day one of her many enemies caught up with her and poisoned her coffee with chopped hair and ground glass, causing a long and painful death.”) 

With permission from Kösem, the Grand Mufti whose daughter Ibrahim had had his way with, lead the overthrow.


Between heavy taxes, the mismanaged wars, and with a Venetian blockade reducing the Ottoman capital to starvation, discontent boiled over. In 1648, a popular revolt broke out, and an angry mob tore Ibrahim’s Grand Vizier to pieces.


Ibrahim was deposed in favor of his 6 year old son, and a fatwa was then issued for the Mad Sultan’s execution, which was carried out by strangulation.


Ibrahim was deposed, sent back to the golden cage, and 10 days later his worst fears were realized at the hands of a deaf-mute eunuch wielding a silk rope. This time Ibrahim met his end gleefully, assuming that the guards were there to replace him as Sultan.


Reign of Mehmed IV seven-year-old grandson of Kösem

On the same day that Ibrahim was dethroned, Kösem presented her seven-year-old grandson, Mehmed, to the divan with the words: "Here he is! See what you can do with him!"


When some government official insisted that he be sent to be enthroned and receive the Janissaries' and sipahis' (cavalryman) oath of allegiance at the Blue Mosque, Kösem demanded that they instead come to the palace, pointing out that no sultan had ever been enthroned in a mosque before. 

7 year old Young Sultan Murad IV

Her purpose was undoubtedly in part to force the situation so that she could have some influence over the outcome.


Murder of Mad Sultan Ibrahim

Ten days after Ibrahim's dethronement, the newly appointed Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasha asked the Şeyhülislam Abdürrahim Efendi for a fatwā sanctioning Ibrahim's execution which was granted, with the message: "If there are two caliphs, kill one of them."


Kösem expressed the fact that only she could make the final decision whether the sultan lived or died, exclaiming: "They said my son Ibrahim was not suitable for the sultanate. 

killing of Sultan Ibrahim

I said 'depose him.' They said his presence is harmful, I said 'let him be removed', and then I said 'let him be executed.' If anyone is under my protection, it is my son."


"It being an ancient custom that upon the accession of a new sultan the mother of the previous sultan remove to the Old Palace and thus give up her honored office, the elder valide requested permission to retire to a life of seclusion.


But because the loving mother of the new sultan Mehmed IV was still young and truly ignorant of the state of the world, it was thought that if she were in control of government, there would result the possibility of harm to the welfare of the state.


Therefore, the elder valide was reappointed for a while longer to the duty of training and guardianship, and it was considered appropriate to re-new the assignment of crown lands to the valide sultan."


Thus Kösem was reinstated as regent by Mehmed's council and was entrusted with his training and guardianship.


Rivalry with Turhan Sultan Mother of Mehmed IV

Mehmed's mother, Turhan Sultan, was presented to Kösem as a gift from Kör Süleyman Pasha, the Khan of Crimea, when she was around 12 years old, so it was presumably Kösem who offered Turhan to Ibrahim as a concubine.

Turhan Sultan (Mother of Sultan MEHMAD IV)

The post of valide sultan and regent should have gone to Turhan when her son Mehmed became sultan, but she was passed over because of her youth and inexperience.

Turhan must also have resented the stipend of 2000 as pers that she received in comparison with Kösem's 3000 aspers and so she began to assert what she saw to be her rightful authority.


Assassination of Kosem Sultan

In a certain irony, Kösem’s reign would finally come to an end at the hands of another woman. Her daughter-in-law and Mehmed’s IV mother Turhan had Kösem killed and started her own rule of the Ottoman Empire. (She was the only other woman besides Kösem to officially rule the Ottoman Empire.)

On the 16th day of Ramadan, the night of 2 September 1651, the Chief Black Eunuch Süleyman Ağa and his armed men, consisting of over 120 armed black and white eunuchs, descended on the palace in support of the sultan, proceeded to Kösem's quarters, which was guarded by over 300 armed Janissaries and loyal black eunuchs.

Murder of Kösem Sultan

Süleyman Ağa and his men managed to kill some of the guards, while the majority fled. Hearing the commotion, Kösem thought the Janissaries had arrived, so she called out, "Have they come?" "Yes, they have come", Süleyman Ağa answered, hoping to deceive her.


When Kösem recognised his voice, she began stuffing her jewels into her pockets and fled along the Golden Way and through the Court of the Black Eunuchs to the Dome with Closets, probably hoping to escape from the palace through the Carriage Gate.


Black Eunuch

The gate was locked, so she crept into a small cabinet, hoping that Turhan's eunuchs would pass her by and that the Janissaries would come to her rescue.


Eventually Kösem was betrayed to a halberdier by a piece of her dress that protruded from under the cabinet door. Dragged out by one of her assailants, she told him, "O brave man, be not cruel unto me", while tossing gold coins onto the floor as a distraction.


One of the men then held her down, while they seized her garments, jewellery, bracelets, garters and other valuables.


Kösem was then dragged by her feet to the gateway leading from the harem into the Third Court, where Süleyman Ağa ordered his men to kill her. A group of four men, all of them young and inexperienced, then strangled her with a piece of cord ripped from the curtains.


Then, assuming she was dead, they screamed out, 'She is dead, she is dead!' and went to notify the sultan and his mother.

Painting OF Kösem Sultan 

The next morning, Kösem's body was taken from Topkapı Palace to the Old Palace (Eski Sarayı) to be washed.


The Black Eunuchs immediately took up the Corpse, and in a reverent manner laid it stretched forth in the Royal Masjid; which about 400 of the Queens Slaves encompassing round about with howlings and lamentations, tearing the hair from their heads after their barbarous fashion, moved compassion in all the Court."

She was buried without ceremony in the mausoleum of her late husband Ahmed I. Her slaves were also taken to the Old Palace and eventually married to suitable Muslims with dowry money taken from her estate.

Blue Masjid( Sultan Ahmad Masjid) Istanbul

The End

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