Grand Vizier

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The Grand Vizier giving an audience "under the dome"

In the Ottoman Empire, the Grand Vizier was the prime minister of the Ottoman sultan, with absolute power of attorney and, in principle, dismissible only by the sultan himself.[1] He held the imperial seal and could convene all other viziers to attend to affairs of the state; the viziers in conference were called "Kubbealtı viziers" in reference to their meeting place, the Kubbealtı ('under the dome') in Topkapı Palace. His offices were located at the Sublime Porte.

Grand Viziers of the Ottoman Empire[edit]

Seal of the Ottoman Grand Vizier

During the nascent phases of the Ottoman state, "vizier" was the only title used. The first of these Ottoman viziers who was titled "Grand Vizier" was Çandarlı Kara Halil Hayreddin Pasha. The purpose in instituting the title "Grand Vizier" was to distinguish the holder of the Sultan's seal from other viziers. The initially more frequently used title of vezir-i âzam (وزیر اعظم) was gradually replaced by sadrazam (صدر اعظم), both meaning "grand vizier" in practice. Throughout Ottoman history, the grand viziers have also been termed sadr-ı âlî (صدر عالی, "high vizier"), vekil-i mutlak (وكیل مطلق, "absolute attorney"), sâhib-i devlet (صاحب دولت, "holder of the State""), serdar-ı ekrem (سردار اكرم), serdar-ı azam (سردار اعظم) and zât-ı âsafî (ذات آصفی, "vizieral person").

In Ottoman legal theory, the Sultan was supposed to conduct affairs of state exclusively via the Grand Vizier, but in reality this arrangement was often circumvented. As the Ottomanist Colin Imber writes, the Sultan "had closer contact with the pages of the Privy Chamber, the Agha of the Gate, the Agha of the Girls or with other courtiers than he did with the Grand Vizier, and these too could petition the Sultan on their own or somebody else’s behalf. He might, too, be more inclined to take the advice of his mother, a concubine or the head gardener at the helm of the royal barge than of the Grand Vizier".[2]

In the Köprülü era (1656–1703), the Empire was controlled by a series of powerful grand viziers. The relative ineffectiveness of the sultans and the diffusion of power to lower levels of the government was a feature of the Köprülü era.

After the Tanzimat period of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, the grand viziers came to assume a role more like that of the prime ministers of contemporary Western monarchies.

Grand Viziers of the Mughal Empire[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diplomatic documents relating to the outbreak of the European war, Volume 2. By Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. P.1411
  2. ^ Imber 2002, p. 175.