Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Roxelana
Her rehabilitation have been possible after the death of Hürrem in 1558.
More DetailsHide DetailsCihangir, Hürrem's youngest child, allegedly died of grief a few months after the news of his half-brother's murder.
Suleiman dismissed Rüstem and appointed Kara Ahmed as his grand vizier in October 1553. But almost two years later, Kara Ahmed was strangled by Suleiman's order in September 1555. It is said that the reason for the execution was due to political manoeuvrings of Hürrem, who wanted Rüstem to become the grand vizier again. After death of Kara Ahmed, Rüstem Pasha became the grand vizier (1555-1561) once more.
Although the stories about Hürrem’s role in executions of Ibrahim, Mustafa, and Kara Ahmed are very popular, actually all of them are not based on first-hand sources. All other depictions of Hürrem, starting with comments by sixteenth and seventeenth century Ottoman historians as well as by European diplomats, observers, and travellers, are highly derivative and speculative in nature. Because none of these people were permitted into the inner circle of imperial harem, both for Ottomans and foreign visitors, which was surrounded by multiple walls, they largely relied on the testimony of the servants or courtiers or on the popular gossip circulating around Istanbul. Even the reports of the Venetian ambassadors (baili) at Suleiman’s court, the most extensive and objective first hand Western source on Hürrem to date, were often filled with the authors’ own interpretations of the harem rumours. Most other sixteenth-century Western sources on Hürrem, which are considered highly authoritative today — such as Turcicae epistolae (English: The Turkish Letters) of Ogier de Busbecq, the Emissary of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I at the Porte between 1554 and 1562; the account of the murder of Şehzade Mustafa by Nicholas de Moffan; the historical chronicles on Turkey by Paolo Giovio; and the travel narrative by Luidgi Bassano — were derived from hearsay.
Hürrem died on 15 April 1558 and was buried in a domed mausoleum (türbe) decorated in exquisite Iznik tiles depicting the garden of paradise, perhaps in homage to her smiling and joyful nature.
More DetailsHide DetailsHer mausoleum is adjacent to Suleiman’s, a separate and more sombre domed structure, at the courtyard of the Süleymaniye Mosque.
Hürrem Haseki Sultan, or Roxelana, is well-known both in modern Turkey and in the West, and is the subject of many artistic works. In 1561, three years after Hürrem's death, the French author Gabriel Bounin wrote a tragedy titled La Soltane about the role of Hürrem Sultan in Mustafa's death. This tragedy marks the first time the Ottomans were introduced on stage in France. She has inspired paintings, musical works (including Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 63), an opera by Denys Sichynsky, a ballet, plays, and several novels written mainly in Ukrainian, but also in English, French, and German.
In early modern Spain, she appears or is alluded to in works by Quevedo and other writers as well as in a number of plays by Lope de Vega. In a play entitled The Holy League, Titian appears on stage at the Venetian Senate, and stating that he has just come from visiting the Sultan, displays his painting of Sultana Rossa or Roxelana. In 2007, Muslims in Mariupol, a port city in Ukraine, opened a mosque to honour Roxelana.
She commissioned a bath, the Haseki Hürrem Sultan Hamamı, to serve the community of worshippers in the nearby Hagia Sophia. In Jerusalem she established in 1552 the Haseki Sultan Imaret, a public soup kitchen to feed the poor and the needy.
More DetailsHide DetailsThis soup kitchen was said to have fed at least 500 people twice a day. She also built Imaret Haseki Hürrem, public soup kitchen in Mecca.
Some of her embroidery, or at least that done under her supervision, has also survived, examples being given in 1547 to Tahmasp I, the Shah of Iran, and in 1549 to King Sigismund II Augustus. Esther Handali acted as her secretary and intermediary on several occasions.
There are reasons to believe that these two letters were more than just diplomatic gestures, and that Suleiman’s references to brotherly or fatherly feelings were not a mere tribute to political expediency. The letters also suggest Hürrem’s strong desire to establish personal contact with the king. “Perhaps,” writes one Ukrainian author, “they express her concern about her land, which was under Polish Kings, and her desire to help it out in any possible way?” In his 1551 letter to Sigismund II concerning the embassy of Piotr Opalinski, Suleiman wrote that the Ambassador had seen “Your sister and my wife.” Whether this phrase refers to a warm friendship between the Polish King and Ottoman Haseki, or whether it suggests a closer relation, the degree of their intimacy definitely points to a special link between the two states at the time.
More DetailsHide DetailsAside from her political concerns, Hürrem engaged in several major works of public buildings, from Mecca to Jerusalem, perhaps modelling her charitable foundations in part after the caliph Harun al-Rashid’s consort Zubaida. Among her first foundations were a mosque, two Koranic schools (madrassa), a fountain, and a women's hospital near the women's slave market (Avret Pazary) in Constantinople (Haseki Sultan Complex). It was the first complex constructed in Istanbul by Mimar Sinan in his new position as the chief imperial architect. The fact that it was the third largest building in the capital, after the complexes of Mehmed II (Fatih) and Suleyman (Süleymaniye mosque), testifies to Hurrem’s great status. She also built mosque complexes in Adrianopole and Ankara.
In her first short letter to Sigismund II, Hürrem expresses her highest joy and congratulations to the new king on the occasion of his ascension to the Polish throne after the death of his father Sigismund I in 1548.
More DetailsHide DetailsShe also pleads with the King to trust her envoy Hassan Aga (her close servant who was by some accounts a convert to Islam of Ukrainian descent) who took another message from her by word of mouth. In her second letter to Sigismund August, written in response to his letter, Hürrem expresses in superlative terms her joy at hearing that the king is in good health and that he sends assurances of his sincere friendliness and attachment towards Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. She also quotes the sultan as saying, “with the old king we were like brothers, and if it pleases the All-Merciful God, with this king we will be as father and son.” With this letter, Hürrem sent Sigismund II the gift of two pairs of linen shirts and pants, some belts, six handkerchiefs, and a hand-towel, with a promise to send a special linen robe in the future.
In 1533 or 1534 (the exact date is unknown), Suleiman married Hürrem in a magnificent formal ceremony, making him the first Ottoman Sultan to wed since Orhan Ghazi (reign 1326–1362), and violating a 200-year-old custom of the Ottoman imperial house according to which sultans were not to marry their concubines.
More DetailsHide DetailsNever before was a former slave elevated to the status of the sultan’s lawful spouse, much to the astonishment of observers in the palace and in the city. Hürrem also received the title Haseki Sultan and became the first consort to hold this title. This title, used for a century, reflected the great power of imperial consorts (most of them were former slaves) in the Ottoman court, elevating their status higher than Ottoman princesses, and making them the equals of empresses consort in Europe. In this case, Suleiman not only broke the old custom, but created new tradition for the future Ottoman Sultans to marry with a formal ceremony and make their consorts have significant influence on the court, especially in matter of succession. Hürrem's salary was 2,000 aspers a day, making her one of the highest paid haseki.
Hürrem gave birth to her first son Mehmed in 1521 (he died in 1543) and then to four more sons, destroying Mahidevran's status as the mother of the sultan's only son.
More DetailsHide DetailsSuleiman's mother, Ayşe Hafsa Sultan, partially suppressed the rivalry between the two women. As a result of the bitter rivalry a fight between the two women broke out, with Mahidevran beating Hürrem, which angered Suleiman.
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