Haseki sultan

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Haseki Sultan of
the Ottoman Empire
Contemporary painting of Hürrem Sultan, Ruthenian-born legal wife of Suleiman the Magnificent, first consort of an Ottoman Sultan to hold the title Haseki Sultan.
Style Haseki Sultan
Residence Topkapı Palace
Formation 1534
First holder Hürrem Sultan
Final holder Rabia Sultan
Abolished 1695

Haseki Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: خاصکى سلطان‎, Ḫāṣekī Sulṭān; Turkish pronunciation: [haseˈci suɫˈtaːn]) was the imperial title used for the chief consort of an Ottoman Sultan. Haseki sultan meant "chief consort" or "single favorite" of the sultan. In later years, the meaning of the title changed to "imperial consort".[1] Hürrem Sultan, principal consort of Suleiman the Magnificent, was the first holder of this title.[2]

The title haseki sultan was only used until the 17th century. After that, Kadınefendi became the highest ranking title for imperial consorts.


The word haseki (خسكي-خاصکي-خاسكي) comes from the Arabic and means "to attribute something exclusively to". Haseki is, therefore, one who belongs exclusively to the sultan.[3]

Sultan (سلطان) is a word of Arabic origin, originally meaning "authority" or "dominion". By the beginning of the 16th century, this title, carried by both men and women of the Ottoman dynasty, was replacing other titles by which prominent members of the imperial family had been known (notably hatun for women and bey for men). This usage underlines the Ottoman conception of sovereign power as family prerogative.

Western tradition knows the Ottoman ruler as "sultan", but the Ottomans themselves used "padişah" (emperor) or "hünkar" to refer to their ruler. The emperor’s formal title consisted of "sultan" together with "han" (for example, Sultan Suleiman Han). In formal address, the sultan’s children were also entitled "sultan", with imperial princes (şehzade) carrying the title before their given name, with imperial princesses carrying it after. Example, Şehzade Sultan Mehmed and Mihrimah Sultan, son and daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent. Like imperial princesses, the living mothers and main consorts of the reigning sultan carried the title "sultan" after their given names, for example, Ayşe Hafsa Sultan, Suleiman’s mother and first valide sultan, and Hürrem Sultan, Suleiman’s chief consort and first haseki sultan. The evolving usage of this title reflected power shifts among imperial women, especially during the Sultanate of Women. As the position of the chief consort eroded over the course of the 17th century, the main consort lost the title "sultan", which was replaced by "kadin", a title related to the earlier "hatun". Henceforth, the mother of the reigning sultan was the only person of non-imperial blood to carry the title "sultan".[4]

Title haseki carried before or after given name. According to a genealogical website, the formal way of addressing a haseki is Devletlû İsmetlu (given name) Haseki Sultân Aliyyetü'ş-Şân Hazretleri.[5] Many westerner often translated their official title, sultan, to title which not exist in Ottoman royalti officially, sultana, possibly for distinguished them from Ottoman ruler and other male member of Ottoman dynasty.

Usage in Ottoman royalty

During early period of the usage of haseki, this title was held by the chief consort of the sultan with special status, and surpassed other titles and ranks by which the prominent consorts of the sultans had been known (hatun and kadin). A haseki sultan had an important place in the palace, being the second most powerful woman and enjoyed the greatest status in the imperial harem after valide sultan and usually had chambers close to the sultan's chamber. Haseki Sultan's position, used for a century, reflected the great power of imperial consorts, who were former slaves, in the Ottoman court, elevating their status higher than the Ottoman princesses, and making them the equals of the empress consorts in Europe.

When the position of valide sultan was vacant, a haseki could take valide's role, have access to considerable economic resources, become chief of imperial harem, sultan's advisor in politic matters, and even have an influence upon foreign policy and on international politics. These cases happened during Hürrem Sultan and Kösem Sultan's eras.

Hürrem, the first imperial consort who became haseki sultan, was given several special rights during her tenure, especially after the death of Suleiman’s mother, Hafsa Sultan, the first valide sultan, in 1534. Hürrem was allowed to give birth to more than one son, which was a stark violation of the old imperial harem principle of “one concubine mother — one son” that was designed to prevent both the mother’s influence over the sultan and the feuds of the blood brothers for the throne. 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. Later, Hürrem became the first prince’s mother to remain in the Sultan’s court for the duration of her life. In the Ottoman imperial family tradition, a sultan’s consort was to remain in the harem only until her son came of age (around 16 or 17), after which he would be sent away from the capital, accompanied by his mother, to govern a faraway province. Hürrem became Suleiman’s partner not only in household, but also in state affairs. Thanks to her intelligence, she acted as Suleiman’s chief adviser, and she seems to have had an influence upon foreign policy and international politics. Hürrem’s great power signaled the rise of the chief imperial consort under the title of haseki.

A mother’s political role traditionally began with the creation of a separate household for her son. The establishment of her public politic identity entailed her separation from the sultan and his household. As noted above, this kind of functional division appears to have occurred with Nurbanu and Safiye, in spite of the fact that they never left the sultan’s household like their predecessor Hürrem, the shift in their roles, that is, their assumption of candidly political role as haseki may well have coincided with their sons’ assumption of their political posts.[6]

Even though it became a great position, haseki was not used during reign of Mehmed III, son of Murad III. He may have followed the one mother-one son policy, since his eldest surviving son, Mahmud, and the future sultans Ahmed and Mustafa each had different mothers. The absence of a haseki and reinstution of polyconcubinage was probably influenced by two reason: Mehmed’s experiences as şehzade and strong personality of his mother Safiye.[7]

Haseki was used again during the reign of Mehmed’s son Ahmed. The career of Ahmed was very much like that of Suleiman. He chose his second consort, Kösem, as his haseki. Kösem’s career was similar to that of Hürrem in an important respect.[8] Like Hürrem, Kösem is blamed for acting to preserve her own power rather than that of the sultan or of the dynasty. It is certainly worth nothing that the two women of the dynasty to suffer the harshest judgment by history had two things in common: the absence of a valide sultan during most of their career as haseki and an unusually large number of sons. What appears to have earned them their unsavory reputation was their power to influence the fate of the empire by favoring one of their sons over another.[9]

The greatest contribution of Kösem during her tenure as haseki possibly was the significant modifications in the pattern of succession to the throne from a system of primogeniture to one based on agnatic seniority. She must have realized the personal gain that might stem from the transition to seniority, coupled with the fact that she was no longer haseki but had son "in waiting". According to Venetian ambassador, Kösem "lobbied to spare Mustafa the fate of fratricide with the ulterior goal of saving her own son from the same fate."[10] This new system meant that potential rulers had to wait a long time in the kafes before ascending the throne, hence the old age of certain sultans upon their enthronement, made all of şehzades lost their chance to become ruler of one of the Ottoman province as part of their training to become worthy heir to the throne.

Decline of the Haseki

One outcome of all these changes was that the position of haseki lost its traditional logic. A mother’s political role traditionally began with the creation of a separate household for her son. The establishment of her public politic identity entailed her separation from the sultan and his household. But when under agnatic seniority, şehzades lost access to public adulthood, their mothers lost their public roles as well. It went against the protocol of the dynastic politics to publicly honor the mother of the son who had yet to achieve public identity. The position of haseki as a true favorite of the sultan was thus incompatible with the practice of agnatic seniority.[11]

Kösem was the last of the influential Ottoman hasekis. The other explanation for the decline of the haseki and the re-emergence of the valide in the first decades of the seventeenth century has much to do with Kösem’s personality and the fact that in 1617 she had ceased being a haseki, and if she were to regain power, she could obtain it only from the position of valide sultan.

After Ahmed I's death in 1617, the position of haseki lost its special status. Osman II had a consort with haseki rank, but all that can be determined about her is that her name was Ayşe.[note 1] As with Osman, very little is known about the concubines of his brother Murad IV. Privy purse registers record the presence of a single haseki, Ayşe, until the very end of Murad’s seventeen years reign, when second a haseki appears. It is possible that Murad had only a single concubine until the advent of the second one, or that he had a number of concubines but singled out only one of them as haseki. Ibrahim had eight hasekis, of whom the first three –Turhan Hatice, Saliha Dilaşub, and Hatice Muazzez– each had one son.[13]

The presence of more than one haseki was a significant change in the reign of Murad and Ibrahim, signaling that the age of the haseki was coming to an end. With Kösem's strong personality and influence as valide sultan, the title haseki sultan which was held by eight women simultaneously, and all şehzades lost their provincial post during Ibrahim's era and it made title haseki lose its special status. In this period the meaning of the title began to shift from a “chief consort” and “single favorite” to something more general like “imperial consort,” similar to the earlier hatun.[14]

The title haseki sultan was only used for around a century until the 17th century. After that, kadin became highest rank for the imperial consorts again, used with title efendi.

List of Hasekis

The title was first used in the 16th century for Hürrem Sultan, also known as Roxelana, when she was given favor by Suleiman the Magnificent. She was his chief consort and the mother of Selim II. Hürrem Sultan was married to Sultan Suleiman, becoming both his legal wife and one of the most powerful women in the Ottoman Empire. The title was next held by Nurbanu Sultan, favourite wife of Selim II, and the mother of the next Sultan Murad III. In 1575, just after Murad's accession, Safiye Sultan became the haseki and was given a higher rank than the sultan's own sisters, Ismihan Sultan, Gevherhan Sultan and Şah Sultan, and his aunt Mihrimah Sultan.

Leslie P. Peirce points out that during Mehmed III's reign, the title haseki did not came in use.[15] However, according to the contemporary historian Mustafa Selaniki, Mehmed had a haseki, who was mother of a son, and died of plague in July 1598, early in his reign.[16] Mehmed's son Ahmed I gave the title haseki to Kösem Sultan, his favourite wife and the mother of Sultans Murad IV and Ibrahim. Osman II has one haseki, Ayşe Sultan. Privy Purse registers record the presence of Ayşe as Murad IV's only haseki, until the very end of Murad's seventeen-year reign, when a second haseki appears. But still the hasekis continued to rank higher than princesses. Ibrahim had eight hasekis; Turhan Hatice, Saliha Dilaşub, Hatice Muazzez, Ayşe, Mahienver, Șivekar, Saçbağli and Hümaşah Sultan. Ibrahim's son and successor is known to have one haseki, Emetullah Rabia Gülnuş Sultan.[17]

Name Maiden Name Origin Ceased to be the Imperial Consort Death Spouse
Hürrem Sultan
خُرَّم سلطان
Aleksandra or
Anastazja Lisowska
Ruthenian. Daughter of an Orthodox priest 15 April 1558 Suleiman the Magnificent
Nurbanu Sultan
نور بانو سلطان
Cecilia Venier-Baffo or
Rachel or
Kalē Kartanou
Venetian of noble birth or Jew or Greek 15 December 1574
husband's death
7 December 1583 Selim II
Safiye Sultan
صفیه سلطان
Sofia Albanian 15 Januari 1595
husband's death
10 November 1618 Murad III
Mahpeyker Kösem Sultan
قسّم سلطان
Anastasia Greek. Daughter of a priest on the island of Tinos 22 November 1617
husband's death
3 September 1651 Ahmed I
Ayşe Sultan
عایشه سلطان
unknown[18] 10 May 1622
husband's deposition
after 1640 Osman II
Ayşe Sultan
عایشه سلطان
unknown 8 February 1640
husband's death
1680 Murad IV
unkwown unknown 8 February 1640
husband's death
Turhan Hatice Sultan unknown Russian 12 August 1648
spouse's death
5 July 1683 Ibrahim I
Hatice Muazzez Sultan unknown[19] 12 August 1648
spouse's death
Saliha Dilaşub Sultan unknown[19] 12 August 1648
spouse's death
4 December 1689
Hümaşah Sultan
ھما شاہ سلطان
Circassian 12 August 1648
husband's death
Ayşe Sultan Ayşe Crimean Tatar 12 August 1648
husband's death
Mahienver Sultan Circassian 12 August 1648
husband's death
Saçbağlı Sultan Leyla Circassian 12 August 1648
husband's death
Şivekar Sultan Meryem Armenian 12 August 1648
husband's death
Emetullah Rabia Gülnuş Sultan Evmania Voria Greek 8 November 1687
husband's deposition
6 November 1715 Mehmed IV
Rabia Sultan 6 February 1695
husband's deposition
14 January 1712 Ahmed II

See also


  1. According to Piterberg, Osman II did not have haseki and Ayşe just "a politically insignificant consort."[12]


  1. Peirce (1993) p.107
  2. Peirce (1993) p. 91
  3. Davis (1986)
  4. Peirce (1993) p.18
  5. 18, 2002/https://web.archive.org/web/20020418161219/http://www.4dw.net/royalark/Turkey/turkey.htm RoyalArk-Turkey at the Wayback Machine (archived April 18, 2002)
  6. Peirce (1993) p.104
  7. Peirce (1993) p.104
  8. Peirce (1993) p.105
  9. Peirce (1993) p.106
  10. Piterberg (2003) p.14
  11. Peirce (1993) p.104
  12. Piterberg (2003) p.18
  13. Peirce (1993) p.107
  14. Peirce (1993) p.107
  15. Peirce (1993) p.104
  16. Ipşırlı, Mehmet (June 1976). Mustafa Selaniki's history of the Ottomans. p. 172.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Peirce (1993) p.106–107
  18. Peirce (1993) p.106
  19. 19.0 19.1 A.D. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1955, p.83


  • Davis, Fanny (1986). The Ottoman Lady: A Social History from 1718 to 1918. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-24811-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Peirce, Leslie P. (1993). The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. ISBN 0-19-507673-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Piterberg, Gabriel (2003). An Ottoman Tragedy: History and Historiography at Play. California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23836-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>