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Haseki Hürrem Sultan

suleyman-hurrem_s.jpg (8137 bytes)Western sources refer to her variously as Roxelana, Rosa, Rosanne, Rossa, Ruziac or La Rossa. She is generally believed to have been enslaved during raids by the Crimean Turks on Ukraine and Galcia during the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim, and presented to the Ottoman palace. Of the diverse theories about her ethnic origin, it is most likely that she was Russian or Polish. Although the opinion that she was Russian was widely held in both Europe and Turkey, there is evidence that Hürrem Sultan considered herself to be Polish. She was given the name Hürrem, on account of her cheerful temperament. As astute as she was attractive, and with a ready wit, Hürrem was to become Süleyman the Magnificent’s most beloved concubine. Her influence over him was proverbial. When her first child was born, Hürrem desired to leave the palace, at which Süleyman flouted tradition by officially solemnizing the marriage. Hürrem Sultan gave birth to four sons, Mehmed, Selim, Bayezid and Cihangir, and one daughter, Mihrumâh. To ensure that one of her own sons would succeed to the throne, she did everything in her power to turn Süleyman against his eldest son and heir Mustafa. She also conspired to bring about the execution of Grand Vezir İbrahim Paşa, who was a staunch supporter of Şehzade Mustafa. She persuaded Süleyman to appoint as grand vizier their daughter Mihrumâh husband Rüstem Paşa, then Governor-General of Diyarbakır. Both European and Ottoman writers agree that Hürrem Sultan, her daughter, and son-in-law schemed to bring about the death of Şehzade Mustafa.

From Hürrem Sultan’s letters written to Süleyman when he was on campaign, we learn that she advised him on political matters. The letters of congratulation and gifts sent to the Polish King Zigsmund II by Hürrem and Mihrumâh, and the correspondence between Hürrem and the sister of Shah Tahmasp of Iran are cited as evidence of her influential role in politics and foreign affairs.

During her later life, Hürrem Sultan became more concerned with charitable works and founded a number of institutions, becoming the first woman to endow a mosque complex in Istanbul. She first commissioned the architect Sinan to build the Haseki Külliye (complex) consisting of a mosque, medrese, school and imaret (public kitchen), adding a hospital later. The çifte hamam (double bath house with sections for both men and women) opposite Haghia Sophia and Kağıthane Mosque in Istanbul were also endowed by Hürrem Sultan. In addition she end Awed a mosque in Edirne, a mosque in Ankara, dervish lodges (zaviye) in Thrace and Karapınar, a mosque, kervansaray (caravansaray) and imaret in Jerusalem, and an imaret and four medreses in Mecca. The endowment deeds (vakfiye) for these have been preserved.

Hürrem Sultan died in April 1558 and lies in her tomb in the graveyard of Süleymaniye Mosque.

Other documents:
Letter written by Hürrem Sultan