Safiye Sultan

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Safiye Sultan
Apartments Valide Sultan Topkapi March 2008pano.jpg
Reconstructed scene of a Vâlide Sultân and her attendants in her apartments at Topkapı Palace
Born Sofia Bellicui Baffo
c. 1550
Died 10 November 1605
Topkapı Sarayı
Resting place
Hagia Sophia Mosque
Ethnicity Italian (Venetian)
Known for Valide sultan
Religion Catholicism, subsequently converted to Islam after her capture
Spouse(s) Murad III
Children Mehmed III
Ayşe Sultan
Fatma Sultan
Şehzade Mahmud
Parents The daughter of the Venetian Governor of Corfu, Leonardo Baffo; a relative of Giorgio Baffo

Safiye Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: صفیه سلطان; c. 1550 – 10 November 1605), fully Devletli, İsmetli, Malika Safiyā Valide Sultan Aliyyetü'ş-şân Hazretleri;[1] née Sofia Bellicui Baffo, was the favourite consort and later wife of Ottoman Sultan Murad III, and Valide sultan to her son, Sultan Mehmed III.


There are two accounts of Safiye's background. According to one, she was of Venetian descent. Her father was the Venetian Governor of Corfu. Her future mother-in-law Nûr-Bānū was related to her. She was captured by Moslem pirates and presented to the Sultan's harem sometime in 1562.

According to the other account, Safiye was Albanian, and in 1563, at the age of 13, was presented as a slave to the future Murad III by Hüma, a granddaughter of Suleiman the Magnificent.[2]

She was given the name Safiye ("the pure one"), and became a concubine of Murad III (then the eldest son of Sultan Selim II). In 1566, she gave birth to Murad's son, the future Mehmed III. Murad succeeded as Sultan on Selim's death in 1574, and Safiye became his chief consort, while Nûr-Bānū became Valida Sultânā. Nûr-Bānū (and after her Safiye) wielded great political power; it was the beginning of the "Sultanate of Women".

In 1583, Nûr-Bānū persuaded Murad that Safiye had contacted witches and sorcerers to prevent Murad from taking new concubines. This resulted in the imprisonment and torture of Safiye's servants. Safiye was freed from her mother-in-law's persecution at the end of the year, when Nûr-Bānū died.[3]

When Murad died in 1595, Safiye arranged for her son Mehmed to succeed as Sultan, and she became Valida Sultânā - one of the most influential in history. Until her son's death in 1603, Ottoman politics were determined by a party headed by herself and Gazanfer Ağa, chief of the white eunuchs and head of the enderun (the imperial inner palace).[4]

Safiye is believed to have been strongly influenced by her kira, Esperanza Malchi. A kira was a non-Muslim woman (typically Jewish) who acted as an intermediary between a secluded woman of the harem and the outside world, and serving as a business agent and secretary. Malchi was killed by a lynch mob in 1600.

Mehmed III was succeeded by his son Ahmed I in 1603. One of his first major decisions was to deprive his grandmother of power: she was banished to the Old Palace in January 1604.[5]

All the succeeding Sultans were descended from Safiye.[6]

Foreign relations[edit]

Safiye, like Nûr-Bānū, advocated a generally pro-Venetian policy.

One unique aspect of her career is that she corresponded personally with Queen Elizabeth I of England. In 1599, Elizabeth presented Safiye with a carriage. Safiye had the carriage covered, and used it on excursions to town, which was considered scandalous. This exchange of letters and gifts between Safiye and Elizabeth I presented an interesting gender dynamic to their political relationship. In juxtaposition to the traditional means of exchanging women in order to secure diplomatic, economic, or military alliances, Elizabeth I and Safiye's exchange put them in the position of power rather than the objects of exchange.[7]

Public works[edit]

Interior design of Yeni Mosque in Eminönü, Istanbul. Construction began during the regency of Safiye Sultan
Exterior of the Yeni Mosque in Eminönü, Istanbul.

Safiye is also famous for starting the construction of Yeni Mosque, the "new mosque" in Eminönü, Istanbul, in 1598. Construction was halted for decades when Mehmed III died and Safiye lost power. The mosque was completed in 1665 by another Valida Sultânā, Turhan Hatice, mother of Mehmed IV. The Al-Malika Safiye Mosque in Cairo is named in her honor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Maria Pia Pedani, "Safiye’s Household and Venetian Diplomacy." Turcica, 32 (2000), p. 11.
  3. ^ Pedani, p.13.
  4. ^ Pedani, p.15.
  5. ^ Börekçi, Günhan. "Ahmed I." Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire. Ed. Gábor Ágoston and Bruce Masters. New York: Facts on File, 2009. p. 23.
  6. ^ See A. D. Alderson, The structure of the Ottoman dynasty. Oxford: Clarendon, 1956. Table XXXI et seq.
  7. ^ Andrea, Bernadette (2007). Women and Islam in Early Modern English Literature. New York City: Cambridge University Press. p. 13. ISBN 987-0-521-12176-7 Check |isbn= value (help). 
  • Maria Pia Pedani, Safiye’s Household and Venetian Diplomacy, Turcica, 32 (2000), pp. 9–32.

External links[edit]

Ottoman royalty
Preceded by
Nurbanu Sultan
Valide Sultan
15 January 1595 – 22 December 1603
Succeeded by
Handan Sultan