Valide sultan

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Valide sultan of
the Ottoman Empire
BustOfAyseHafsaSultan ManisaTurkey.jpg
A bust of Hafsa Sultan in Manisa, Turkey, first Valide Sultan
StyleValide Sultanefendi
Formation30 September 1520
First holderHafsa Sultan
Final holderRahime Perestu Sultan
Abolished11 December 1904

Valide sultan (Ottoman Turkish: والده سلطان‎, lit. "mother sultan") was the title held by the "legal mother" of a ruling Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The title was first used in the 16th century for Hafsa Sultan, consort of Selim I and mother of Suleiman the Magnificent, superseding the previous title of mehd-i ulya ("cradle of the great").[1] Normally, this title was held by the living mother of a reigning sultan. The mothers who died before their sons' accession to the throne were never bestowed with the title of Valide Sultan. In special cases, there were grandmothers and stepmothers of a reigning sultan who assumed the title Valide Sultan.


The word valide (والده) literally means "mother" in Ottoman Turkish, from Arabic. The Turkish pronunciation of the word valide is [vaː.liˈde].

Sultan (سلطان) is an Arabic word originally meaning "authority" or "dominion". By the beginning of the 16th century, this title, carried by both men and women of the Ottoman dynasty, was replacing other titles by which prominent members of the imperial family had been known (notably hatun for women and bey for men). Consequently, the title valide hatun (title for living mother of reigning Ottoman sultan before 16th century) also turned into valide sultan. This usage underlines the Ottoman conception of sovereign power as family prerogative.

Western tradition knows the Ottoman ruler as "sultan", but the Ottomans themselves used "padişah" (emperor) or "hünkar" to refer to their ruler. The emperor’s formal title consisted of "sultan" together with "khan" (for example, Sultan Suleiman Khan). In formal address, the sultan’s children were also entitled "sultan", with imperial princes (şehzade) carrying the title before their given name, with imperial princesses carrying it after. Example, Şehzade Sultan Mehmed and Mihrimah Sultan, son and daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent. Like imperial princesses, the living mother and main consort of reigning sultans also carried the title after their given names, for example, Hafsa Sultan, Suleiman’s mother and first valide sultan, and Hürrem Sultan, Suleiman’s chief consort and first haseki sultan. The evolving usage of this title reflected power shifts among imperial women, especially between Sultanate of Women, as the position of main consort eroded over the course of 17th century, the main consort lost the title "sultan", which replaced by "kadin", a title related to the earlier "khatun". Henceforth, the mother of the reigning sultan was the only person of non imperial blood to carry the title "sultan".[2]

Title valide carried before or after given name. According to a genealogical website, the formal way of addressing a valide is Devletlû İsmetlu (given name) Vâlide Sultân Aliyyetü'ş-Şân Hazretleri.[3] Many westerner often translated their official title, sultan, to title which not exist in Ottoman royalty officially, sultana, possibly for distinguished them from Ottoman ruler and other male member of Ottoman dynasty.

Role and position[edit]

An Eighteenth Century painting of a Valide Sultan by Jean Baptiste Vanmour.

Valide sultan was perhaps the most important position in the Ottoman Empire after the sultan himself. As the mother to the sultan, by Islamic tradition ("A mother's right is God's right"),[4] the valide sultan would have a significant influence on the affairs of the empire. She had great power in the court and her own rooms (always adjacent to her son's) and state staff.[1] Valide sultan also traditionally had access to considerable economic resources and often funded major architectural projects. In particular during the 17th century, in a period known as the "Sultanate of Women", a series of incompetent or child sultans raised the role of the valide sultan to new heights.[5]

The most powerful and well-known of all valide sultans in the history of the Ottoman Empire were Nurbanu Sultan,[6] Safiye Sultan, Kösem Sultan and Turhan Hatice Sultan.

Most harem women who were slaves were never formally married to the sultans. Nevertheless, their children were considered fully legitimate under Islamic law if recognized by the father.[7] However, only very few harem women who became Valide Sultans upon their son's ascension to the throne were indeed freed from slavery and married to their spouses, the former Ottoman Sultans. These Sultanas were Nurbanu Sultan, Kösem Sultan and Rabia Gülnuş Sultan.

List of Valide Sultans[edit]

The list does not include the complete list of mothers of the Ottoman sultans. Most who held the title of valide sultan were the biological mothers of the reigning sultans. The mothers who died before their sons' accession to throne, never assumed the title of valide sultan, like Hürrem Sultan, Muazzez Sultan, Mihrişah Kadın, Şermi Kadın, Tirimüjgan Kadın, Gülcemal Kadın, and Gülüstü Hanım. In special cases, there were grandmothers and stepmothers of the reigning sultans who assumed the title of valide sultan, like Kösem Sultan and Perestu Kadın. Most of the information on the origins of Valide Sultans are disputed, especially in the early stages of the title, like with Hafsa Sultan, Nurbanu Sultan and Safiye Sultan. A lot of information about the concubines of the Sultans wasn’t recorded because they were only thought of as mother of a Şehzade.

Name Maiden Name Origin Became Valide Ceased to be Valide Death Sultan(s)
Hafsa Sultan
حفصه سلطان
Hafsa (Disputed) Crimean Tatar princess, daughter of Crimean Khan Meñli I Giray 30 September 1520
son's ascension
19 March 1534 Suleiman the Magnificent (son)
Nurbanu Sultan
نور بانو سلطان
Cecilia Venier-Baffo (Disputed) Venetian noblewoman, daughter of Niccolo Venier-Baffo and Violanta Baffo 15 December 1574
son's ascension
7 December 1583 Murad III (son)
Safiye Sultan
صفیه سلطان
Sofia Leonardo Bellucci Baffo (Disputed) Venetian noblewoman, daughter of Leonardo Bellucci Baffo 15 January 1595
son's ascension
22 December 1603
son's death
10 November 1618 Mehmed III (son)
Handan Sultan
خندان سلطان
Helena[8] Greek[8] 22 December 1603
son's ascension
9 November 1605 Ahmed I (son)
Halime Sultan[9]
حلیمه سلطان
Altunsah Abkhazian 22 November 1617
son's ascension
(first tenure)
26 February 1618
son's deposition
(first tenure)
10 September 1623 Mustafa I (son)
19 May 1622
son's reinstatement
(second tenure)
10 September 1623
son's deposition
(second tenure)
Kösem Sultan
ماه پیکر كوسم سلطان
Anastasia Greek. Born on Tinos, Republic of Venice 10 September 1623
son's ascension
2 September 1651 Murad IV (son)
Ibrahim (son)
Mehmed IV (grandson)
Turhan Sultan

ترخان خدیجه سلطان

Nadia Ruthenian noblewoman, born in Kingdom of Russia 2 September 1651
mother-in-law's death
4 August 1683 Mehmed IV (son)
Aşub Sultan

صالحه دل آشوب سلطان

Katarina[8] Serbian noblewoman born in Kingdom of Serbia[8] 8 November 1687
son's ascension
4 December 1689 Suleiman II (son)
Rabia Gülnuş Sultan

رابعه گلنوش سلطان

Evmania Voria Greek 6 February 1695
son's ascension
6 November 1715 Mustafa II (son)
Ahmed III (son)
Saliha Sultan

صالحه سلطان

Aleksandra[8] Greek[8] 20 September 1730
son's ascension
21 September 1739 Mahmud I (son)
Şehsuvar Sultan

شهسوار سلطان

Maria Serbian noblewoman born in Kingdom of Serbia[8] 13 December 1754
son's ascension
16 April 1756 Osman III (son)
Mihrişah Sultan

مهر شاه سلطان

Agnes Daughter of Georgian Orthodox priest[10] 7 April 1789
son's ascension
16 October 1805 Selim III (son)
Sineperver Sultan

سینه پرور سلطان

Sonia Bulgarian 29 May 1807
son's ascension
28 July 1808
son's deposition
11 December 1828 Mustafa IV (son)[11]
Nakşidil Sultan

نقش دل سلطان

Aimée du Buc de Rivéry (Disputed) French noblewoman, born in Martinique, Kingdom of France 28 July 1808
son's ascension
22 August 1817 Mahmud II (step-son)
Bezmiâlem Sultan

بزم عالم سلطان

Suzi Georgian 2 July 1839
son's ascension
2 May 1853 Abdülmecid I (son)
Pertevniyal Sultan

پرتو نهال سلطان

Hasna Khater Arabian noblewoman, member of the noble Alkhater family 25 June 1861
son's ascension
30 May 1876
son's deposition
5 February 1883 Abdülaziz I (son)
Şevkefza Sultan
شوق افزا سلطان
Vilma Georgian. Born in Russian Empire 30 May 1876
son's ascension
31 August 1876
son's deposition
17 September 1889 Murad V (son)
Perestu Sultan
رحيمه پرستو سلطان
Rahime Gogen Russian noblewoman, member of the ruling Ubykh tribe of Circassia 31 August 1876
step-son's ascension
11 December 1904 Abdul Hamid II (step-son)[12][13]

Exceptional cases[edit]

Normally, living mother of reigning sultan held title Valide Sultan. But in exceptional cases, there were women who didn't hold this title when their sons became Sultan.

Name Maiden Name and Origin Period[14] Son Note
Mahfiruz Eudoxia 26 February 1618 (son's ascension) – 26 October 1620 (her death) Osman II Privy Purse registers no Valide Sultan during Osman's reign. Apparently, Mahfiruz fell into disfavour, was banished from the palace at some point before Osman's accession, and never recovered her status. Banishment in disgrace would explain both Mahfiruz's absence from the palace and her burial in the popular shrine of Eyüb rather than in her husband's tomb. The Venetian ambassador Contarini reported in 1612 that the sultan had a beating administered to a woman who had irritated Kösem, perhaps this woman was Mahfiruz[2]
Reconstructed scene of a Valide Sultan and her attendants in her apartments at Topkapı Palace.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Davis, Fanny (1986). "The Valide". The Ottoman Lady: A Social History from 1718 to 1918. ISBN 0-313-24811-7.
  2. ^ a b Peirce, Leslie P. (1993). The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. ISBN 0-19-507673-7.
  3. ^ "RoyalArk-Turkey". Archived from the original on April 18, 2002. Retrieved 2006-09-26.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ "Muslims can celebrate Mothers Day because honoring your mother comes right after worshipping God". 2011-02-17. Retrieved 2015-05-15.
  5. ^ Peirce, Leslie P., The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, Oxford University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-19-508677-5 (paperback)
  6. ^ Peirce, Leslie P. (1993). The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195086775.
  7. ^ Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh, ed. (1980). "The Imperial Family of Turkey". Burke's Royal Families of the World. Volume II: Africa & the Middle East. London: Burke's Peerage. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-85011-029-6.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g A. D. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty, Oxford: Clarendon, 1956, p.83
  9. ^ According to Yavuz Bahadıroğlu, Resimli Osmanlı Tarihi, Nesil Yayınları (Ottoman History with Illustrations, Nesil Publications), 15th Ed., 2009, page 245, ISBN 978-975-269-299-2, Mustafa I's mother is Handan Sultan.
  10. ^ Y. İzzettin Barış (2002). Osmanlı padişahlarının yaşamlarından kesitler, hastalıkları ve ölüm sebepleri. Bilimsel Tıp Yayınevi. p. 184. ISBN 978-975-6986-17-2. Selim'in annesi olan Mihrişah, Gürcistan'dan kaçırılan bir papazın kızıydı
  11. ^ Yavuz Bahadıroğlu, Resimli Osmanlı Tarihi, Nesil Yayınları (Ottoman History with Illustrations, Nesil Publications), 15th Ed., 2009, page 387 & 395, ISBN 978-975-269-299-2
  12. ^ Brookes, Douglass Scott, The Concubine, the Princess, and the Teacher, p.287. University of Texas Press, 2008. ISBN 0-292-71842-X
  13. ^ "Sultan II. Abdülhamid Han". Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Retrieved 2009-02-06.
  14. ^ The period that she had to be a Valide Sultan

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]