Princess of the Ottoman Empire
Hijri 1192-1264 (AH); Common Era 1778-1848 (CE)
An Ottoman princess, Esma Sultana was the daughter of Sultan Abdul Hamid I and later the sister of the Sultans Mustafa IV and Mahmud II, who exercised influence during the reigns of the men in her family. Married in 1792 to the high-ranking Küçük Hüseyn Pasha, who was Captain of the Sea, she swayed Ottoman society through this high rank. Not only did she affect society during her early years, but she was also a property owner. She possesses a palace in Divanyolu, a mansion on the Bosporus waterfront, and kiosks in cities around the empire. Her influence in the Ottoman Empire expanded following a Janissary revolt, who placed her brother Mustafa on the throne. However, Mustafa IV ruled briefly and was then deposed in 1808 by his half-brother Mahmud. During Mahmud II’s 31-year reign, Esma Sultana was powerful and the siblings appear to have been close. Mahmud II died at his sister’s palace. Although some said that he had been murdered there, perhaps under Esma’s orders. Perhaps the true indicator of her power in the Ottoman Empire were the salacious stories which surrounded her. She was reputed to be a beautiful seductress who sailed the Bosporous on her golden gondola, bringing youths back for a night. Then, according to gossip, in the morning, she would kill them and dispose of the evidence in the Bosporus. When she died, she was buried alongside her brother.