Real History of The Magnificent Century Kosem Sultan | Valide Sultan | Haseki Sultan | Ottoman Empire
Kosem Sultan was born in 1589. Her name was “Mahpeyker” which meant “The moon-faced”. Kosem Sultan succeeded to be one of the most powerful women in the Ottoman Empire. The reason behind her success and influence in the Ottoman Empire was that Kosem was the Haseki Sultan Ahmed (R. 1603 – 1617). Kosem gave birth to 5 sons and 4 daughters and as she was the Valide Sultan of Murad IV (R. 1623–1640) and Ibrahim (R. 1640–1648), and grandmother of Mehmed IV (R. 1648–1687).
If you look at the pages of history, there are very few women who have a famous history based on their power. Remember that the most powerful and authoritative position next to the Sultan is Haseki Sultan and Kosem Sultan is the name of that woman who not only lived as the wife of Sultan Ahmed I but also as the Haseki Sultan. She ruled the Ottoman Empire for almost thirty years. Kosem lived most of her life involved in governing the Ottoman Empire as a companion/ advisor/ vice president during the reign of six different Sultans. She was so influential in the affairs of the place that after her death it was decided that steps should be taken to keep any woman away from interfering in the affairs of the kingdom in the future. She was the only female who was awarded multiple titles. Among the most famous are “Valide-i Muazzama”, “Vālide-i Maḳtūle” and the third one is “Vālide-i Şehīde”.
Kosem was a priest’s daughter from Tinos Island and her actual name was Anatasia. Historians have different views about her early life so the doubts don’t make this information look-alike a reliable one. It is said that she came to Istanbul as a slave and was then sent to the harem of Ahmed I. At that time she was 15 years old. At the harem she accepted Islam and her Muslim name was decided as Mahpeyker. Ahmed I, once again changed her name to Kosem and the meaning of this name is the leader of the herd. This was the first indication by Ahmed I about Kosem’s intelligence and leadership skills. Soon she was the Haseki Sultan.
Haseki Sultan, the Imperial Consort:
As the control of the harem was taken back from the powerful grandmother of Ahmed I and later on with the death of the Sultan’s mother, two vacancies were open. Kosem rose to the top position of the harem from her previous position as the mistress of Ahmed I. Kosem was also the most favorite companion of Ahmed I. Together they had 9 children. With the birth of these children, she also became Haseki Sultan and was given 1,000 aspers every day. Kosem had 4 daughters. She married all her daughters for her political benefit.
Kosem’s influence grew over time on Ahmed I and this influence made her act as one of his important advisers. Ahmed I didn’t want Kosem’s involvement or advice in every decision made, so Kosem used to refrain herself from being involved in matters which Ahmed I don’t want to discuss with her. Historians state that Kosem was also accused of protecting her power/ control and influence over the orders of Ahmed I.
Retirement at the Old Palace:
In 1617 Ahmed I died and with his death, Kosem lost her position in the Palace and was sent to the old palace. She remained there during the governance of her brother in law and stepson. As she was the mother of her stepson Osman II, her Haseki status was intact and her daily stipend of 1,000 aspers, while here stay in the old palace continued. Osman II was very fond of Kosem and he paid Kosem a visit to the old palace. This relationship was strictly professional.
Valide Sultan, the Sultan’s Mother:
In 1623, when Murad IV was appointed as the emperor of the Ottoman Empire and Kosem was back in power as Murad IV was a minor. As she was a Valide Sultan, she was also appointed as the Regent due to the young age of Murad IV. From 1623 to 1632 Kosem ruled the Ottoman Empire with her son Murad IV. She used to attend all cabinet meetings from behind a curtain.
Kosem was again in power when her son Ibrahim took hold of the throne in 1640. It took Kosem and Vizier Mustafa Pasha a while to convince Ibrahim to become the emperor. Ibrahim was the last alive prince of Ahmed I family. His actions proved him to be mentally unstable and this helped Kosem to continue to lead the empire and maintain her power. Kosem used to send Ibrahim to harem girls and enjoy them. Ibrahim was choked to death with the request of Vizier Mustafa Pasha to Sheikh ul Islam in 1648.
With the end of Ibrahim’s tenure, Kosem Sultan presented Mehmed IV, her seven-year-old grandchild to the cabinet. For Mehmed IV, Kosem again declared herself as the Valide Sultan even when the actual mother Turhan of Mehmed IV was alive. Turhan was declared young, inexperienced, and immature to be Valide Sultan. This made Kosem Sultan rule the Ottoman Empire till 1651.
Turhan was Kosem’s rival. To avoid any loss in Kosem’s control, Turhan was sent to Topkapi Palace where Kosem sent her to Ibrahim as a mistress. Turhan was very clever and didn’t want to lose control without a fight to become the Valide Sultan. Kosem was experienced and was more trusted by viziers of the Ottoman cabinet. This tussle of power, between Turhan and Kosem, Kosem planned to dethrone Mehmed IV with a much younger grandson whose mother agreed to let Kosem by the Valide Sultan. This plan was informed to Turhan by one of her salves. It is rumored that Kosem was strangled on orders of Turhan in September 1651. Some historians say that Kosem was strangled with her hair. Others say she was strangled with her bed curtain. With her death, her body was moved from the Topkapi Palace to the Old Palace and she was buried along with her husband.
During her stay in the harem, Kosem started many charities and donations for everyone especially the poor people of the state. She had a habit of visiting prisons yearly and pay off the debts of prisoners. She used to train the young girls and daughters of prisoners, help them with their weddings, and continued to win their confidence. In 1640 she ordered the development of a mosque, school, and a fountain of Valide Madrasa in Anadolu Kavagi. It is also known as Kosem had ordered to make multiple fountains outside the city of Istanbul.
Kosem’s most famous contribution was the financing of Egyptian irrigation work and the provision of relief for the Meccan people. She used to free her slaves after 3 years of service. Due to these charities, Kosem was very famous among the general population, and on her death, three-day mourning was observed in Constantinople. Her popularity made her an important figure in history and following her popularity a TV Serial was also made on her life.
A TV Series “The Magnificent Century: Kosem” was on air in 2015. Consisting of two seasons this drama series got very famous among viewers especially among those who have read the history of Kosem Sultan. Although this drama doesn’t do justice to the character of Kosem Sultan but it is very near to her real life.