Grand Vizier

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The daughters of the Grand Vizier: Scheherazade and Dunyazade.

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]

Seal of the the Mughal Empire during the final reign of Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Bairam Khan was the Grand Vizier of the Mughal Empire, who led the forces of Akbar to victory during the Second Battle of Panipat (in which the allies of the Mughal Empire were victorious but suffered the most casualties in a large scale battle).

Sadullah Khan, Grand Vizier of the Mughal Empire during the reign of Shah Jahan.

After the death of Aurangzeb, general Zulfiqar Khan Nusrat Jung became Grand Vizier, his fame as one of the most greatest military leaders in the Mughal Empire would lead to his downfall when rogue generals executed him after a power struggle.

In 1718, Balaji Vishwanath leader of the antagonistic Maratha Confederacy secured the right to collect Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from the Subahs of the Mughal Empire by the rogue Vizier Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha, whose grip over the Deccan had substantially weakened.[3] Asaf Jah I, however refused to grant Chauth to the Maratha Confederacy during its onset in 1718 and in 1721 after the nobility of the Mughal Empire had the two Sayyid Brothers assassinated. After becoming the Grand Vizier he advised the emperor Muhammad Shah to assist the collapsing Safavid dynasty (who had requested aid), when the ruler refused Asaf Jah I resigned and turned his attention to securing the Deccan from the Maratha Confederacy in the year 1722. However the Marathas had already expanded up to the Narmada River and entrenched themselves in that region thereafter. Baji Rao I later instigated war by collect Chauth in in 1723, and trying to expand Maratha rule in the Deccan and beyond causing the outbreak of the Later Mughal-Maratha Wars.

Qamaruddin Khan was handpicked to be the Grand Vizier of the Mughal Empire, by Asaf Jah I, he successfully repelled Baji Rao I during the Battle of Delhi (1737). He negotiated peace after the occupation of the Mughal Empire by the forces of Nadir Shah. He fell in battle after being struck by a stray artillery shell, by Afghan marauders in the year 1749.

After defeating Ahmad Shah Durrani, the new Mughal emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur posted Safdarjung, Nawab of Oudh as Mughal Grand Vizier, Feroze Jung III as Mir Bakshi and Muin ul-Mulk (Mir Mannu), the son of late Grand Vizier Qamaruddin Khan, as the governor of Punjab[4] The head eunuch of the Mughal court, Javed Khan, was given the official title of Nawab Bahadur and an army of 5000, he (together with the emperor's mother who was given a fore of 50,000) became effective regent in the emperor's place and initiated an internal conflict that would fracture the Mughal Empire.[5]

Shuja-ud-Daula served as the leading Grand Vizier of the Mughal Empire during the Third Battle of Panipat, he was also the Nawab of Awadh, and a loyal ally of Shah Alam II.

See also[edit]