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Known For: Princess of the Ottoman Empire
Dates: 1192-1264 Hijri
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. She is known for exercising 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. She was also a property owner who possessed a palace in Divanyolu and kiosks in cities throughout the empire.
Her influence in the Ottoman Empire expanded following a Janissary revolt, which placed her brother Mustafa on the throne. However, Mustafa IV ruled briefly and was then deposed in 1808 by his half-brother Mahmud II. During Mahmud II’s thirty-one-year reign, Esma Sultana was powerful and her siblings appear to have been close. Mahmud II died at his sister’s palace, though 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 Bosphorous 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.
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