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ماه دوران
Mahidevran Turbesi3.jpg
The tomb of Mahidevran is located inside the türbe of Şehzade Mustafa in Muradiye Complex, Bursa
Bornc. 1500
Died3 February 1581(1581-02-03) (aged 80–81)
Bursa, Ottoman Empire
SpouseSuleiman the Magnificent
IssueŞehzade Mustafa

Mahidevran[1] (Ottoman Turkish: ماه دوران‎, c. 1500 – 3 February 1581;[2] also known as Gülbahar) was the consort[note 1] of Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire and the mother of Şehzade Mustafa.


Mahidevran's name (Turkish pronunciation: [ˌmaːhidevˈɾan], Persian: ماه دوران‎) means "one who is always beautiful", "one whose beauty never fades" or "beauty of the times" in Persian. Another meaning of her name is "Moon of Fortune." Some sources name her Gülbahar (Turkish pronunciation: [ɟylbaˈhaɾ], Persian: گل بهار‎), with gül meaning 'rose' and bahar meaning 'spring' in Turkish and Persian.

Title and status[edit]

Mahidevran was the mother of Şehzade Mustafa, the eldest surviving son of the reigning Sultan, who was first in line to ascend to the imperial throne. She held a prominent position in the harem of her son in Manisa. While Hürrem Sultan became Suleiman's new favorite and later his legal wife, Mahidevran Sultan retained the status of the mother of Suleiman's eldest son,[3] and was referred to as Suleiman's "first wife" by some diplomats, despite the fact that they were never married.[4]

Origins and early life[edit]

Little is known of Mahidevran's early life. Her ethnic background is a matter of controversy. She was either an Albanian or Circassian.[5] Theories of her origins are:

  • According to some contemporary Venetian sources, she was of Circassian origin.[6][7]
  • The name of Mahidevran's father, given in contemporary documents as Abdullah, Abdürrahman.[8] or Abdülmennan, suggests she was a Muslim convert slave of an unknown origin.[9]
  • By some other (unidentified) accounts, she was of "Montenegrin origin", ie from Montenegro.[6]
  • According to Nicolae Iorga, she was from Montenegro.[10]

Life with Suleiman[edit]

She was listed among the seventeen women of the harem of Suleiman while he was governor of Manisa; she did not belong at this time to the first ranked consorts, as she earned 4 aspers a day along with two other concubines, while three others earned 5 aspers.[5] Mahidevran became Sultan's favourite[11][12] (possibly at age 15, when Mustafa was born in 1515 while they were in Manisa). She possibly bore her husband another son, Şehzade Abdullah,[13] though he is generally attributed to have been the son of Hürrem Sultan.[14]

When Selim I died in 1520, Suleiman moved to Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, along with his family to ascend the throne. In 1521, Suleiman lost his two other sons, nine-year-old Mahmud and the toddler Murad, Mustafa became the eldest of his princely generation.[15] By the beginning of Suleiman's reign, Mahidevran encountered a new rival, Hürrem, who soon became Suleiman's favourite and later his Haseki and legal wife.[15]

Hürrem gave birth to her first son Mehmed in 1521 and then Selim (future Sultan Selim II) in 1524, destroying Mahidevran's status of being the mother of the Sultan's only son.[16] The rivalry between the two women was partially suppressed by Hafsa, Suleiman's mother.[17] Also born during this period was Sehzade Abdullah, son of Hürrem who died young, and is occasionally misunderstood to be the son of Mahidevran, when in truth Suleiman had become monogamous with Hürrem at that time.[14] According to Navagero's report, as a result of the bitter rivalry a fight between the two women broke out, with Mahidevran beating Hürrem, which angered Suleiman.[18] According to Necdet Sakaoğlu, a Turkish historian, Turkish and foreign writers have written fictitious novels with dramatic scenes using Hürrem, Mahidevran, Gülfem and Hafsa Sultan, but these do not reflect the truth. Mahidevran left Istanbul with her son Mustafa due to his appointment as governor of Manisa province and upon his death in 1553 she went into refuge in Bursa, where she eventually died.

The contention that Hürrem fought with Gülfem is rather dubious. On the contrary, Hürrem never left the palace with any of her sons. The rumor that Hürrem used witchcraft to bewitch Suleiman is untrue and fictitious. Hürrem had underage princes who were not to leave the Imperial palace until they reached the age of 16. The youngest of Suleiman's princes, Şehzade Cihangir, was sick from birth. This required Hürrem to stay in the palace while her sons were sent for Sanjak-bey.[19]

Foreign observers of the Ottomans, especially the ambassadors of the Venetian Republic followed Ottoman dynastic politics closely; their comments about Mahidevran glimpses of the vital role played by a prince's mother and of her necessary devotion to this welfare.[15] Pietro Bragadin, ambassador in the early years of Suleiman's reign, reported that while both were still resident in the imperial palace in Istanbul, Mustafa was his mother's "whole joy".[15]

It was recorded from Bernardo Navagero that Suleiman highly cherished Mahidevran in Topkapi Harem along with Hürrem.[20] But by 1526, bewitched by Hurrem he had stopped paying attention to her and devoted his full affection to Hurrem.[21]

Mustafa's provincial posts[edit]

According to Turkish tradition, all princes were expected to work as provincial governors (Sanjak-bey) as a part of their training. Mustafa was sent to Manisa in 1533, in the formal ceremony and Mahidevran accompanied him.[22] Describing his court at Kara Amid (Diyarbakır) near the Safavid border, Bassano wrote around 1540 that the prince had "a most wonderful and glorious court, no less than that of his father" and that "his mother, who was with him, instructs him in how to make himself loved by the people."[15] At some point Mustafa returned to Manisa, and in 1542 he moved to Amasya.[15] By 1546 three more of Suleiman's sons were in the field, and the competition for the succession began among the four princes, although the sultan would live for another twenty years.[15] The ambassador Bernado Navagero, in a 1553 report, described Mahidevran's efforts to protect her son: "Mustafa has with him his mother, who exercises great diligence to guard him from poisoning and reminds him everyday that he has nothing else but this to avoid, and it is said that he has boundless respect and reverence for her."[15]

Mustafa was an immensely popular prince. When he was only nine, that Venetian ambassador had reported that "he has extraordinary talent, he will be warrior, is much loved by the Janissaries, and performs great feats."[21] In 1553, when Mustafa was thirty eight years old, Navagero wrote, "It is impossible to describe how much he is loved and desired by all as successor to the throne."[21] The rumours and speculations said that, towards the end of Suleiman's long reign, the rivalry between his sons became evident and furthermore, both Hürrem and the grand vizier Rüstem Pasha turned him against Mustafa and Mustafa was accused of causing unrest. During the campaign against Safavid Persia in 1553, Suleiman ordered the execution of Mustafa[23] on charges of planning to dethrone his father; his guilt for the treason of which he was accused has since been neither proven nor disproven.[21]

As per Ottoman tradition, Mahidevran Hatun was at the head of Mustafa's princely harem. Up until the very end of her son's life, she endeavored to protect Mustafa from his political rivals, and most probably maintained a network of informants in order to do so.[15] The ambassador Trevisano related in 1554 that on the day Mustafa was executed, Mahidevran had sent a messenger warning him of his father's plans to kill him. Mustafa unfortunately ignored the message; according to Trevisano, he had consistently refused to heed the warnings of his friends and even his mother.[21]

Later years and death[edit]

The entrance of Mustafa's türbe at Muradiye Complex, where she is burried

For several years after her son's execution, Mahidevran lived a troubled life. She went to Bursa, where her son Mustafa was buried and became the last concubine to retire to Bursa. Less fortunate than her predecessors and presumably disgraced by her son's execution, she was unable to pay the rent on the house in which she lived, and her servants were taunted and cheated in the local markets. Mahidevran's situation improved towards the end of Suleiman's reign when her debts were paid at the sultan's order and a house was purchased for her, possibly by Suleiman's sole surviving son, Mustafa's half brother Selim. Financially secure at last, Mahidevran had enough income to create an endowment for the upkeep of her son's tomb.[21]

Her rehabilitation has been possible only after the death of her rival Hürrem in 1558. Mahidevran died in 1581 outliving Suleiman and all of his children and was buried in Mustafa's tomb.[21]

Depictions in literature and popular culture[edit]

In the 2003 TV miniseries, Hürrem Sultan, Mahidevran was played by Turkish actress Hatice Aslan. In the 2011–2014 TV series Muhteşem Yüzyıl, Mahidevran is portrayed by Turkish actress Nur Fettahoğlu.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mahidevran is described in academic history books (incl. Harem II by M. Çağatay Uluçay, p. 45, e.g., Mustafa'nin annesi Mahidevran baş kadinin mũeadelesi gelir by Pars Tuğlacı p. 189, 315 and in Tarih Dergisi, Issue 36 by İbrahim Horoz Basımevi, eg; Mustafa'nin annesi ve Kanuni'nin baş kadin olan Mahidevran Hatun... vya Gũlbahar Sultan p. 357) as Suleiman's consort.


  1. ^ Leslie Penn Peirce (2010). The imperial harem : women and sovereignitiy in the Ottoman Empire. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195086775. OCLC 723638763.
  2. ^ Sakaoğlu, Necdet (April 2012). Süleyman, Hurrem ve Diğerleri: Bir Dönemin Gerçek Hikayesi. pp. 26–27.
  3. ^ Isom-Verhaaren, Christine; Schull, Kent F. (11 April 2016). Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th to 20th Centuries. Indiana University Press. p. 152. ISBN 9780253019486.
  4. ^ John Freely (2001). Inside the Seraglio: private lives of the sultans in Istanbul. Penguin. p. 56. The bailo also noted that Mustafa was the 'whole joy' of his mother Mahidevran, who was still Siileyman's birinci kadın, though she had been supplanted as haseki by Roxelana.
  5. ^ a b Peirce 1993, p. 55.
  6. ^ a b Dr Galina I Yermolenko, Roxolana in European Literature, History and Culture, pg.2, citing Navagero ("la circassa"), Trevisano ("una donna circassa") in Eugenio Alberi, ed. Relazioni degli ambasciatori veneti al Senato, ser. 3: Relazioni degli stati ottomani, 3 vols (Firenze [Florence: Società editrice fiorentina], 1840–1855), 1: 74–5, 77; 3: 115.
  7. ^ Marie Broxup (1996). The North Caucasus Barrier: The Russian Advance Towards the Muslim World. Hurst. ISBN 978-1-850-65305-9. p.29
  8. ^ A. D. Alderson, The structure of the Ottoman dynasty, Oxford: Clarendon, 1956, table XXX, citing Kâmil Kepcioglu, Tarihî Bilgiler ve Vesikalar in Vakıflar dergisi, Volume 2 p.405
  9. ^ Uluçay, M. Çağatay (2011). Padişahların Kadınları ve Kızları. Ötüken Neşriyat. p.62 (p.39 of earlier edition)
  10. ^ Nicolae Jorga, Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches, vol.2, 1909, p.344. The Turkish translation by Nilüfer Epçeli, ISBN 975-6480-19-X p.291, translates it by "Euboean".
  11. ^ Zilfi, Madeline (22 March 2010). Women and Slavery in the Late Ottoman Empire: The Design of Difference. Cambridge University Press. p. 168. ISBN 9780521515832.
  12. ^ Singer, Amy (1 February 2012). Constructing Ottoman Beneficence: An Imperial Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem. SUNY Press. p. 67. ISBN 9780791488768.
  13. ^ Fisher, Alan (1993). Süleymân The Second [i.e. the First] and his time (ed. by H.İnalcık and C.Kafadar). Isis Press. (Mahidevran Sultan), mother of several sons, including Abdullah. p.10
  14. ^ a b Peirce 1993, p. 60.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i Peirce 1993, pp. 55–56.
  16. ^ Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire
  17. ^ Selçuk Aksin Somel: Historical Dictionary of the Ottoman Empire, Oxford, 2003, ISBN 0-8108-4332-3, p. 123
  18. ^ Peirce 1993, pp. 59–60.
  19. ^ Sakaoğlu, Necdet (2007). Famous Ottoman women. Avea. p. 89.
  20. ^ Hughes, Sarah Shaver; Hughes p. 38, Brady (29 April 2015). Women in World History: V. 2: Readings from 1500 to the Present. Routledge. ISBN 9781317451822.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Peirce 1993, p. 56.
  22. ^ Peirce 1993, p. 61.
  23. ^ Lord Kinross: The Ottoman Centuries, (Trans. by Nilifer Epçeli) Altın Kitaplar, İstanbul, 2008, ISBN 978-975-21-0955-1 p. 233.