Kösem Sultan

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Kösem Sultan
Mâh-Peyker Sultan
Vera Effigies Turcorvm Imperatoris Ibrahim Filii, Et Sultanæ, Eiusdem Matris (1707).jpg
Born Anastasia
c. 1589–1590
Died 3 September 1651
Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Cause of death
Resting place
Fatih, Istanbul, in the mausoleum of her husband Ahmed I
Residence Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Ethnicity Greek[1][2]
Known for Valide Sultan
Religion Orthodox Christian at birth, subsequently converted to Islam after her capture
Spouse(s) Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I
Children Murad IV
Şehzade Suleiman
Şehzade Kasim
Ayşe Sultan
Fatma Sultan
Gevherhan Sultan[3]
Relatives Mehmed IV (grandson)

Kösem Sultan (Turkish pronunciation: [cøˈsem sulˈtan]) (fully Devletlu İsmetlu Mahpeyker Kösem Valide Sultan Aliyyetü'ş-Şân Hazretleri; c. 1590 – 3 September 1651) – also known as Mahpeyker Sultan[4] (Turkish pronunciation: [mahpejˈkeɾ sulˈtan]) – was one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history.[4][5][6][7] Favourite consort and later wife of Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I (r. 1603–1617), she achieved power and influenced the politics of the Ottoman Empire through her husband, then through her sons Murad IV (r. 1623–1640) and Ibrahim (r. 1640–1648), and finally through her minor grandson Mehmed IV (r. 1648–1687). She was Valide Sultan (queen mother of the Sultan) from 1623 to 1648,[4] when her sons Murad IV and Ibrahim reigned as Ottoman sultans. She was a prominent figure during the Sultanate of Women. She was official regent twice[citation needed] and was thereby one of two women to have been formal regents of the Ottoman Empire.[citation needed]


Kösem Sultan's sons who were Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. Left: Murad IV (ca. 1612–1640) Right: Ibrahim I (ca. 1615–1648)

Early life[edit]

Kösem was of Greek origin,[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] the daughter of a priest on the island of Tinos.[16][17] Her maiden name was Anastasia.[8] She was bought in Ottoman Bosnia by the Bosnian beylerbey,[1][17] and sent to Istanbul, the Ottoman capital, at the age of fifteen, to the harem of Sultan Ahmed I after cancelling her education in Istanbul. Upon her conversion to Islam, her name was changed to Mahpeyker (Moon-Shaped), and later by Sultan Ahmed I to Kösem.[15] She was transferred to the old palace on the death of Sultan Ahmed in 1617, but returned as Valide Sultan (Queen Mother), when her son Murad IV was enthroned in 1623.

First reign[edit]

She was appointed not only Valide Sultan but also, as her son was a minor, as official regent during his minority; after Hurrem Sultan between 1623 and 1632 she became the first of two women in history who ruled the Ottoman Empire officially and alone. While women had been de facto regents in the empire before her, no woman had ever formally been regents, and her position was thereby new. During most of the reign of Murad IV she effectively ran the empire, attending meetings of the Divan (cabinet) from behind a curtain, even after 1632, when she was no longer official regent.

Second reign[edit]

When her son Ibrahim succeeded his brother in 1640, he proved too mentally unstable to rule. This enabled Kösem to continue in power. Eventually Ibrahim was deposed and Kösem presented her seven-year-old grandson Mehmed IV to the divan with the words "Here he is!, see what you can do with him!" Thus, she declared herself official regent for the second time, and ruled openly again between 1648 and 1651.


It was Mehmed's mother Turhan Hatice who proved to be Kösem's nemesis. It is rumoured that Turhan ordered Kösem's assassination when she heard that Kösem was said to be plotting Mehmed's removal and replacement by another grandson with a more pliant mother. Furthermore, some have speculated that Kösem was strangled with a curtain by the chief black eunuch of the harem, Tall Süleyman. The Ottoman renegade Bobovi, relying on an informant in the harem, states that Kösem was strangled with her own hair.[18]

After her death her body was taken from Topkapi to the Old Palace (Eski Sarayı) and then buried in the mausoleum of her husband Ahmed I.[19] Kösem was renowned for her charity work and for freeing her slaves after 3 years of service. When she died the people of Istanbul observed three days of mourning.




  1. ^ a b Amila Buturović, İrvin Cemil Schick (2007). Women in the Ottoman Balkans: gender, culture and history. I.B.Tauris. p. 23. ISBN 1-84511-505-8. Kösem, who was of Greek origin. Orphaned very young, she found herself at the age of fifteen in the harem of Sultan Ahmed I. 
  2. ^ Singh, Nagendra Kr (2000). International encyclopaedia of Islamic dynasties. Anmol Publications PVT. pp. 423–424. ISBN 81-261-0403-1. Kosem Walide or Kosem Sultan, called Mâh-Paykar (ca. 1589–1651), wife of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I and mother of the sultans Murad IV and Ibrahim I [q.vv.]. She was Greek by birth, and achieved power in the first place through the harem, exercising a decisive influence in the state 
  3. ^ Singh, Nagendra Kr (2000). International encyclopaedia of Islamic dynasties. Anmol Publications PVT. pp. 423–424. ISBN 81-261-0403-1. Through her beauty and intelligence, Kösem Walide was especially attractive to Ahmed I, and drew ahead of more senior wives in the palace. She bore the sultan four sons – Murad, Süleyman, Ibrahim and Kasim – and three daughters – 'Ayşe, Fatma and Djawharkhan. These daughters she subsequently used to consolidate her political influence by strategic marriages to different viziers. 
  4. ^ a b c Douglas Arthur Howard, The official History of Turkey, Greenwood Press, isbn= 0-313-30708-3, p. 195
  5. ^ Bator, Robert, – Rothero, Chris (2000). Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Istanbul. Twenty-First Century Books. p. 42. ISBN 0-8225-3217-4. When such a son became sultan, his slave mother would become the most powerful woman in the Ottoman Empire. The Greek slave Kösem earned this distinction 
  6. ^ Akbar, M. J. (2002). The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict Between Islam and Christianity. Routledge. p. 89. ISBN 0-415-28470-8. His mother, Valide Kosem, said to be the most powerful woman in the history of the dynasty, ruled in his name. 
  7. ^ Westheimer, Ruth Karola, – Kaplan, Steven (2001). Power. University of Virginia: Madison Books. p. 19. ISBN 1-56833-230-0. Maypeyker Sultan, better known as Kösem Sultan, is remembered by the Turks as the most powerful woman of her time 
  8. ^ a b Sonyel, Salâhi Ramadan (1993). Minorities and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. Turkish Historical Society Printing House. p. 61. ISBN 975-16-0544-X. Many of the women of the harem were non-Muslim, for example Kösem Sultan was born in 1590 as Anastasia. The Governor of Bosnia had sent her to the Sultan. She was the wife of Ahmet I (1603–17), and the mother of Murat IV (1623–40), and of Ibrahim I (1640–8) 
  9. ^ al-Ayvansarayî, Hafiz Hüseyin  ; Crane, Howard (2000). The garden of the mosques : Hafiz Hüseyin al-Ayvansarayî's guide to the Muslim monuments of Ottoman Istanbul. Brill. p. 21. ISBN 90-04-11242-1. Kosem Valide Mahpeyker, known also simply as Kosem Sultan (c. 1589–1651), consort of Sultan Ahmed I and mother of Murad IV and Ibrahim I. Greek by birth, she exercised a decisive influence in the Ottoman state 
  10. ^ Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh (1980). Burke's Royal Families of the World: Africa & the Middle East. Burke's Peerage. p. 239. OCLC 311403844. Valide Sultan (who was of Greek origin) 
  11. ^ "Kosem Sultan (Ottoman sultana) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 11 March 2012. 
  12. ^ E. van Donzel, Islamic Desk Reference: Compiled from the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Brill Academic Publishers, p 219
  13. ^ Robert Bator, Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Istanbul, Runestone Press, p 42
  14. ^ Gibb, Sir Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen (1954). The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Brill. p. 597. ISBN 90-04-07026-5. Kosem [qv] Mahpeyker, a woman of Greek origin (Anastasia, 1585–1651) 
  15. ^ a b Davis, Fanny (1970). The Palace of Topkapi in Istanbul. Scribner. pp. 227–228. OCLC 636864790. Kosem was said to have been the daughter of a Greek priest of one of the Aegean islands, probably captured during one of the Ottoman-Venetian maritime campaigns. Her name was Anastasia but was changed after her conversion, no doubt on her admission to the palace, to Mâh-Peyker (Moon-Shaped), and later by Sultan Ahmet to Kosem 
  16. ^ Hogan, Christine (2006). The Veiled Lands: A Woman's Journey Into the Heart of the Islamic World. Macmillan Publishers Aus. p. 74. ISBN 9781405037013. Kosem was born on the Greek island of Tinos, where she was born as Anastasia, the daughter of a Greek Orthodox priest. Captured by slavers, she was sent to Istanbul by Bosna beylerbeyi 
  17. ^ a b Freely, John (1996). Istanbul: the imperial city. Viking. p. 215. ISBN 0-14-024461-1. Then around 1608 Ahmet found a new favourite, a Greek girl named Anastasia, who had been captured on the island of Tinos and sent as a slave to the Harem, where she took the name of Kosem 
  18. ^ Thys-Senocak, Lucienne. Ottoman Women Builders. Aldershot: Ashgate 2006. Page 28.
  19. ^ Singh, Nagendra Kr (2000). International encyclopaedia of Islamic dynasties. Anmol Publications PVT. p. 425. ISBN 81-261-0403-1. Kosem Walide…Her body was taken from Topkapi to the Eski Saray and then buried in the mausoleum of her husband Ahmad I. 
  20. ^ Hurriyet Daily News, 14 September 2010, Turkish screenwriter tells Ottoman history through one woman's life
  21. ^ IMDB, Mahpeyker - Kösem Sultan
Ottoman royalty
Preceded by
Safiye Sultan
Haseki Sultan
26 November 1605 – 22 November 1617
Succeeded by
Turhan Hatice Sultan
Preceded by
Alime Sultan
Valide Sultan
10 September 1623 – 12 August 1648
Succeeded by
Turhan Hatice Sultan