Visage of the Moon'), was the chief consort and legal wife of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I, valide sultan as the mother of sultans Murad IV and Ibrahim, and büyük ("elder") valide sultan of Sultan Mehmed IV. She became one of the most powerful and influential women in Ottoman history, as well as a central figure during the period known as the Sultanate of Women. Born in Tinos, Republic of Venice to a Greek Orthodox priest, she was kidnapped and sold as a slave in Bosnia before being sent to the Imperial Harem in Constantinople, the Ottoman capital. There she rose to prominence, becoming the favorite of Sultan Ahmed I, who later married her and made her his legal wife. Over time, her influence over the sultan grew, and she became his most trusted advisor. Historians credit her with persuading Ahmed to spare the life of his younger half-brother, Mustafa, thus putting an end to the centuries-old practice of fratricide in the Ottoman Empire. After Ahmed died in 1617, she was instrumental in the enthronement of Mustafa I. Upon Osman II's ascension, she was briefly banished to the Old Palace (Eski Sarayı). As a courtier to Ahmed I, Mustafa I, Osman II, Murad IV, Ibrahim and Mehmed IV, Kösem amassed immense notoriety and affection among her subjects, wielding unparalleled political power and influencing the empire's foreign and domestic policy. Her early years as regent were marked by turbulence and instability, which began when the Safavid Empire annexed much of Iraq and captured Baghdad in 1624, dragging the Ottomans into a 16-year conflict with the Safavids that sparked a series of rebellions, incursions, revolts, and independence movements across the Ottoman Empire.
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During escalating tensions between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice in the 1640s, she and her allies were blamed for pressuring Ibrahim to launch a naval assault on the Venetian-controlled island of Crete. She had to contend with a Venetian blockade of the Dardanelles, which culminated in the naval Battle of Focchies in 1649, as well as merchant uprisings sparked by a financial crisis in the years that followed. Her life was not without controversy, as some historians questioned her intents and motivations for espousing the Janissaries' cause during her 28 years of power. Some also claimed that she had accumulated a great fortune through illegal means. She did, however, put the money she acquired from her lands and income to good use, undertaking charitable works and construction projects as tangible manifestations of the dynasty's concern for its subjects. Greek Orthodox priest on the Aegean isle of Tinos whose maiden name was Anastasia. 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. Constantinople to join a cohort of other slave girls to be trained in the Imperial Harem as an imperial court lady. Upon her arrival at the Imperial Harem, she was taught religion, theology, mathematics, embroidery, singing, music and literature. According to sources, she was tall, slender, and appealing due to the whiteness of her complexion and the deep brown of her eyes.
39;s mother and valide sultan, died in November of the following year.
Ahmed was captivated by her beauty and intelligence, and in 1605, she became his leading haseki and legal wife. Kösem rose to prominence early in Ahmed's reign as part of a series of changes to the hierarchy of the Imperial Harem. Safiye Sultan, Ahmed's once-powerful grandmother and manager of the harem, was deprived of power and banished to the Old Palace (Eski Sarayı) in January 1604, and Handan Sultan, Ahmed's mother and valide sultan, died in November of the following year. These two vacancies allowed her to rise to the top of the Imperial Harem hierarchy. As haseki sultan to Ahmed, he favored her above all his concubines, lavishing on her the finest jewels from his hoard. Her stipend consists of 1,000 aspers a day. In the early years of their marriage, she bore Ahmed 4 daughters: Ayşe Sultan, Fatma Sultan, Hanzade Sultan and Gevherhan Sultan. As the mother of several princesses, she had the right to arrange their political marriages. One of her daughters, Ayşe Sultan, was married to Nasuh Pasha in 1612 at the age of seven. That same year, Gevherhan Sultan was married to küz Kara Mehmed Pasha at the age of five. George Sandys, an English traveler who was visiting Constantinople in the early 1610s, recorded Kösem's name as "Casek Cadoun" (haseki kadın) and believed that she was "a witch beyond beauty." He claimed that the sultan had a "passionate" love for Kösem, emphasizing that this was the result of witchcraft. Kösem's interest in succession did not pass unnotified by contemporary observers after the birth of her firstborn son Murad in 1612, and it is possible that the significant modifications in the pattern of succession to the throne from a system of primogeniture to one based on agnatic seniority owed something to her efforts.
Since fratricide was a common practice, she feared that if the throne went to one of the sultan's sons, it would go to the eldest, Osman, whose mother, Mahfiruz Hatun, may have been regarded by Kösem as a rival intent on lobbying in favor of her own son. She feared that Mahfriuz would compel Osman to execute her sons-Murad, Süleyman, Kasım and Ibrahim-if he succeeded his father, so she made efforts to keep her half-brother-in-law Mustafa safe from execution. Thus, by letting the brother of the sultan live, the "queen" was trying to make sure that Mustafa, if he happens to become sultan, would spare the life of her sons. Contarini does not mention the name Kösem but talks about a "queen" (regina). Moreover, Kösem was able to use her close alliance with Mustafa Agha, the Agha of the Janissaries, and his client Nasuh Pasha (her son-in-law) to wield influence over the sultan.
39;s indecency in socializing with a woman who was neither his mother nor his sister.
Contarini also reported that the sultan ordered a woman to be beaten for having irritated Kösem, which may have been Mahfiruz herself. The latter would later be banished to the Old Palace (Eski Sarayı), probably in the mid-1610s. After that incident, Kösem and her stepson Osman grew fond of each other. She used to let him join her in carriage rides, where he showed himself to the crowd when she made excursions into Constantinople. The reports of the Venetian bailos note that on these excursions, Osman enjoyed throwing a handful of coins to the passers-by who flocked to see the young prince, while his stepmother Kösem remained concealed behind a curtain. Eventually Ahmed interfered with this relationship between Osman and Kosem; the Venetian ambassador Bertuccio Valier reported in 1616 that the sultan did not allow the two eldest princes (Osman and Mehmed) to converse with Kösem. His motive perhaps, as Valier speculated, was fear that the princes' security was threatened by Kösem's well-known ambitions for her own sons, and to prevent rumors about a grownup prince's indecency in socializing with a woman who was neither his mother nor his sister. The Grand Vizier Nasuh Pasha, Kösem's son-in-law as the spouse of her daughter, Ayşe Sultan, was executed on the orders of Ahmed in 1614, Kösem herself tried to stop her husband from taking such action, but to no avail. Thus, she lost an important ally in the government.
39;s half-brother Mustafa on the throne.
From that point on, she probably concentrated her efforts on keeping Mustafa alive. Kösem's influence over the sultan increased in the following years, and it is said that she acted as one of his advisers. Reporting in 1616 claims that Kösem was the most valuable ally to be had in Constantinople because of her sway over the sultan, Valier claims that her pro-Venetian policy and contributions to Venice's good standing must be appropriately rewarded. The bailos also noted that Ahmed was deeply devoted to Kösem. However, she refrained from involving herself constantly in serious issues as the sultan refused to be overshadowed by his wife. Throughout her career as haseki sultan, she was accused of trying to save her own position and influence throughout her long career "rather than that of the sultan or of the dynasty". Ahmed's reign is noteworthy for marking the first breach in the Ottoman tradition of royal fratricide; henceforth Ottoman sultans would no longer systematically execute their brothers upon accession to the throne. On Ahmed's early death from typhus and gastric bleeding on November 22, 1617, Kösem was the head of a faction that supported Mustafa's accession to the throne. Through her bribery and influence, Kösem successfully maneuvered to place Ahmed's half-brother Mustafa on the throne. She probably feared for her sons' life, should their older half-brother, Osman, become sultan and have them executed. Therefore, it is more likely that she preferred Mustafa to become sultan as he would not see her sons as a threat.
Mustafa proved feeble and incompetent, as he was the second sultan (after Ahmed I) to ascend to the throne without any prior experience in governing. He had spent his entire 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 Agha, nourishing these fears to control him. Eventually, the Chief Black Eunuch Mustafa Agha spread stories that he was insane and secured his deposition on 26 February 1618, just 96 days after ascending to the throne, and was replaced by Osman, the eldest son of Ahmed and his deceased mother Mahfiruz Hatun. Osman's first act as sultan was to eliminate power 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 entourage were banished to the Old Palace (Eski Sarayı). During Osman II's reign and Mustafa I's second reign, Kösem and her 8 children settled at the Old Palace. Due to the emergence of seniority as the principle of succession, which meant that a prince's mother might mark time in the Old Palace between the death of her sultan and the accession of her son, Kösem was able to maintain her haseki status and daily stipend of 1,000 aspers during her retirement there; still, after the end of Kösem's tenure as haseki, the position lost its prominence.
During her retirement, she had the opportunity to meet Safiye Sultan. In 1619, Osman acted against Ottoman conventions by paying his stepmother Kösem a three-day visit at the Old Palace, during which he took part in her festivities, thus manifesting his special fondness for her. He had also given Kösem the income of eight villages in the north-west of Athens as a present, which she had incorporated into her waqf, which provided services to pilgrims traveling from Damascus to Mecca. Kösem may have cultivated this relationship with the intent that she could use her influence to persuade him to spare her sons. Indeed, when as Osman departed on the Polish campaign of 1621, he executed only Mehmed, the elder of his younger brothers, who was not one of Kösem's sons. His uncle Mustafa remained alive, as did Osman's younger brothers, protected by Kösem. Even if their relation was cultivated, though, it did not yield consequential results for the young sultan, whose most exceptional weakness was the lack of a valide sultan to lobby in his favour. He did, however, felt uneasy with Kösem's involvement in state issues. In May 1622, sensing that Osman might as well execute Mustafa and his younger brothers, the eunuch corps and the palace soldiery planned a counter-coup, backed by Mustafa's mother, Halime Sultan, and Kösem, who wanted her own children to ascend to the throne. They stormed into the harem and freed Mustafa from the Kafes. As for Osman, aged only seventeen, he was imprisoned in Yedikule, then forthwith strangled by members of the Janissary corps on 20 May 1622, largely through the efforts of Halime.