Advisor and Valide Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Hijri 957-1028 (AH); Common Era 1550-1619 (CE)
Born Sofia Baffo, Safiye Sultan was of Venetian descent and daughter of the Governor of Corfu, who had been abducted by corsairs and sold to the Ottoman harem in her youth. She became the chief wife of the Sultan Murad III after over ten years of living in the harem and was the mother of the future Sultan Mehmed III. Safiye Sultan was known for her public presence in state politics and Safiye was an important advisors in matters of governance to both Murad III and Mehmed III. While she was able to increase her son’s patronage of the army, she also competed with other counselors, like viziers, the mufti, eunuchs, and other favorites. Safiye Sultan also exchanged gifts with Queen Elizabeth I, including jewels, robes, and a carriage, in which Safiye would go travel through the city, much to the scandal of the court. However, the perception that her interference was excessive, and that the unduly promoted her interests, caused her unpopularity, with people believing she had extended her reach beyond the bounds of the valide sultan. She was also seen as openly favoring Venetian interests. She also began the construction of the Yeni Valide Mosque in Istanbul in 1598, which would later be finished by Turhan Hatice. The Al-Malika Safiyya Mosque in Cairo was named in her honor. The rest of the Ottoman sultans were all descended from Safiye.