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|Hürrem Haseki Sultan
16th century Latin oil painting of Hürrem Sultan
|Born||Alexandra Anastasia Lisowska
Rohatyn, Kingdom of Poland
|Died||15 April 1558 (aged 52-58)
Topkapı Palace, Istanbul
|Resting place||Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul|
|Known for||Haseki Sultan|
|Religion||Orthodox Christian converted to Islam|
|Spouse(s)||Suleiman the Magnificent|
|Children||Şehzade Mehmed (1521–1543)
Mihrimah Sultan (1522–1578)
Selim II (1524–1574)
Şehzade Beyazıt (1525–1561)
Şehzade Cihangir (1531–1553)
Hürrem Haseki Sultan (Turkish pronunciation: [hyɾˈɾem haseˈci suɫˈtaːn]) (Ottoman Turkish: خرم سلطان, c. 1500 – 15 April 1558) (née Roxelana or Alexandra Lisowska) was the wife and haseki sultan of Suleiman the Magnificent and mother of Şehzade Mehmed, Mihrimah Sultan, Selim II, Şehzade Beyazıt and Şehzade Cihangir. She was one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history and a prominent figure during the sultanate of women. She achieved power and influenced the politics of the Ottoman Empire through her husband and played an active role in state affairs of the Empire.
She was known mainly as Haseki Hürrem Sultan or Hürrem Haseki Sultan; in European languages as Roxolena, transliterated as "Roksolana" Roxolana, Roxelane, Rossa, Ruzica; in Turkish as Hürrem (from Persian: خرم Khurram, "the cheerful one"); and in Arabic as Arabic: كريمة Karima, "the noble one". "Roxelana" or "Roksolana" might be not a proper name but a nickname, referring to her Ukrainian heritage (cf. the common contemporary name "Ruslana"); "Roxolany" or "Roxelany" was one of the names of Ukrainians, East Slavs, inhabitants of the present Ukraine, up to the 15th century. Thus her name would literally mean "The Ruthenian One".
Early life 
Modern sources don't contain data on her childhood, being limited to a mention of her Russian origin. So Mikhalon Lytvyn who was in the middle of the XVI century the ambassador of Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the Crimean khanate, in the composition of 1548 — 1551 "About customs of Tatars, Lithuanians and moscow" (lat. De moribus tartarorum, lituanorum et moscorum) at the description of trade specifies by slaves that "and the most beloved wife of the present Turkish emperor mother of his primogenital [son] who will govern after it, was kidnapped from our earth" (Yermolenko G. Roxolana: «The Greatest Empresse of the East». — P. 234.). According to late-16th-century and early-17th-century sources, such as the Polish poet Samuel Twardowski, who researched the subject in Turkey, Hürrem was seemingly born to a father who was a Ukrainian Orthodox priest. She was born in the town of Rohatyń, 68 km southeast of Lviv, a major city of the Ruthenian Voivodeship in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland (today in western Ukraine). In the 1520s, she was captured by Crimean Tatars during one of their frequent raids into this region and taken as a slave, probably first to the Crimean city of Kaffa, a major centre of the slave trade, then to Istanbul, and was selected for Süleyman’s harem.
Life with the sultan 
She quickly came to the attention of her master, and attracted the jealousy of her rivals. One day Suleiman’s favorite, Mahidevran (also called Gülbahar, gül meaning "rose" and bahar meaning "spring"), got into a fight with Hürrem and beat her badly. Upset by this, Suleiman banished Mahidevran to the provincial capital of Manisa, together with her son, the heir apparent Mustafa. This exile was shown officially as the traditional training of heir apparents, Sancak Beyliği. Thereafter, Hürrem became Suleiman’s unrivalled favorite or haseki. Many years later, because of a fear of rebellion, the Sultan ordered Mustafa to be strangled. After the death of her son, Gulbahar lost her state in the palace (as being the mother of the heir apparent) and moved to Bursa.
French writer and historian Fontenelle mentions in his Dialogues of the dead the way Roxelane obtained marriage: she first asked to be instructed in the Muslim religion, to which Suleiman saw no objection. Once instructed, she told him she wished to convert, which made him happy, and he decided to free her. However, just after her conversion ceremony, she told him that her new religion would not allow her to have a sexual relationship with a man she was not married to. According to Fontenelle's sources, Suleiman resisted three days, then married her.
Hürrem’s influence over the Sultan soon became legendary. She was to bear five of Suleiman's fourteen children and in an astonishing break with tradition, she was eventually freed and became his legal wife, making Suleiman the first Ottoman emperor to have a wed wife since Orhan Gazi. This strengthened her position in the palace and eventually led to one of her sons, Selim, inheriting the empire. Hürrem also have acted as Suleiman’s advisor on matters of state, and seems to have had an influence upon foreign affairs and international politics. Two of her letters to King Sigismund II Augustus of Poland have been preserved, and during her lifetime, the Ottoman Empire generally had peaceful relations with the Polish state within a Polish-Ottoman alliance.
Aside from her political concerns, Hürrem engaged in several major works of public buildings, from Mecca to Jerusalem, perhaps modeling her charitable foundations in part after the caliph Harun al-Rashid’s consort Zubaida. Among her first foundations were a mosque, two Koranic schools (madrassa), a fountain, and a women's hospital near the women's slave market (Avret Pazary) in Constantinople. She commissioned a bath, the Haseki Hürrem Sultan Hamamı, to serve the community of worshippers in the nearby Hagia Sophia. In Jerusalem she established in 1552 the Hasseki Sultan Imaret, a public soup kitchen to feed the poor and the needy.
Esther Handali acted as her secretary and intermediary on several occasions.
Hürrem Sultan died on 15 April 1558 and was buried in a domed mausoleum (türbe) decorated in exquisite Iznik tiles depicting the garden of paradise, perhaps in homage to her smiling and joyful nature. Her mausoleum is adjacent to Suleiman’s, a separate and more somber domed structure, at the Süleymaniye Mosque.
Hürrem Haseki Sultan, or Roxelana, as she is better known in Europe, is well-known both in modern Turkey and in the West, and is the subject of many artistic works. She has inspired paintings, musical works (including Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 63), an opera by Denys Sichynsky, a ballet, plays, and several novels written mainly in Ukrainian, but also in English, French, and German.
All portraits are fictional.
La Sultana Rossa (Sultan Roxelana) by Italian painter Titian, 1550
Engraving of Roxelana by Johann Theodor de Bry, (1596)
See also 
- Ottoman Empire
- Ottoman Dynasty
- List of sultans of the Ottoman Empire
- Ottoman family tree (more detailed)
- The Imperial House of Osman GENEALOGY
- Ayşe Özakbaş, Hürrem Sultan, Tarih Dergisi, Sayı 36, 2000
- The Speech of Ibrahim at the Coronation of Maximilian II, Thomas Conley, Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer 2002), 266.
- Kemal H. Karpat, Studies on Ottoman Social and Political History: Selected Articles and Essays, (Brill, 2002), 756.
- Elizabeth Abbott, Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman, (Overlook Press, 2010), .
- Elizabeth Abbott, Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman, .
- The Speech of Ibrahim at the Coronation of Maximilian II, Thomas Conley, Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric, 266.
- Religious Information Service of Ukraine
Further reading 
- Thomas M. Prymak, "Roxolana: Wife of Suleiman the Magnificent," Nashe zhyttia/Our Life, LII, 10 (New York, 1995), 15–20. A nicely illustrated popular-style article in English with a bibliography.
- Zygmunt Abrahamowicz, "Roksolana," Polski Slownik Biograficzny, vo. XXXI (Wroclaw-etc., 1988–89), 543–5. A well-informed article in Polish by a distinguished Polish Turkologist.
- Galina Yermolenko, "Roxolana: The Greatest Empresse of the East," The Muslim World, 95, 2 (2005), 231–48. Makes good use of European, especially Italian, sources and is familiar with the literature in Ukrainian and Polish.
- Galina Yermolenko (ed.), Roxolana in European Literature, History and Culture (Farmham, UK: Ashgate, 2010). 318 pp. Illustrated. Contains important articles by Oleksander Halenko and others, as well as several translations of works about Roxelana from various European literatures, and an extensive bibliography.
- There are many historical novels in English about Roxelana: P.J. Parker's Roxelana and Suleyman (2012); Barbara Chase Riboud's Valide (1986); Alum Bati's Harem Secrets (2008); Colin Falconer, Aileen Crawley (1981–83), and Louis Gardel (2003); Pawn in Frankincense, the fourth book of the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett; and pulp fiction author Robert E. Howard in The Shadow of the Vulture imagined Roxelana to be sister to its fiery-tempered female protagonist, Red Sonya.
- For Ukrainian language novels, see Osyp Nazaruk (1930), Mykola Lazorsky (1965), Serhii Plachynda (1968), and Pavlo Zahrebelnyi (1980). (All reprinted recently.)
- There have been novels written in other languages: in French, a fictionalized biography by Willy Sperco (1972); in German, a novel by Johannes Tralow (1944, reprinted many times); a very detailed novel in Serbo-Croatian by Radovan Samardzic (1987); one in Turkish by Ulku Cahit (2001).
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