Most Powerful Woman in Ottoman History
Hijri 997-1061 (AH); Common Era 1589-1651 (CE)
Born Anastasia and of Greek ancestry, Kösem Sultan is widely acknowledged as the most powerful woman in Ottoman history. Rising as the favorite concubine of Sultan Ahmet I, she became his consort, and later exercised power through their sons Murad IV and the mentally unwell Ibrahim I. She also acted as regent for their grandson Mehmed IV. When Murad IV became sultan in 1623, Kösem became valide sultan and de facto regent, and ruled the empire virtually independently. Even after Murad reached his majority, Kösem continued to meet with the divan. Murad died at 27 and his mentally unstable brother Ibrahim ascended to the throne. Thus Kösem ruled through Ibrahim, but allowed him to be deposed by the Janissaries. Her grandson Mehmed IV became sultan and again she became regent. During her life, she was admired for her charity work as well as her policy of manumitting her slaves after three years of service. After her death, the dwellers of Istanbul marked three days of mourning in her honor. Kösem’s death was very likely orchestrated by Mehmed’s mother, Turhan Hatice, after Turhan learned that Kösem was rumored to be thinking of deposing Mehmed and setting up another grandson—with a more easily controlled mother—as sultan.