Valide sultan

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Valide Sultan of
the Ottoman Empire
A bust of the first Valide Sultan, Hafsa Sultan in Manisa, Turkey
StyleValide Sultan
Formation30 September 1520
First holderHafsa Sultan
Final holderRahime Perestu Sultan
Abolished1 November 1922

Valide Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: والده سلطان, lit. "Sultana mother") was the title held by the mother of a ruling sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans first formally used the title in the 16th century as an epithet of Hafsa Sultan (died 1534), mother of Sultan Suleyman I (r. 1520–1566), superseding the previous epithets of Valide Hatun (lady mother), mehd-i ulya ("cradle of the great").[1] or "the nacre of the pearl of the sultanate".[2]

Normally, the living mother of a reigning sultan held this title. Those mothers who died before their sons' accession to the throne never received the title of valide sultan. In special cases sisters, grandmothers and stepmothers of a reigning sultan assumed the title and/or the functions valide sultan.



The word valide (والده) literally means 'mother' in Ottoman Turkish, from Arabic wālida. The Turkish pronunciation of the word valide is [vaː.liˈde].

Sultan (سلطان, sulṭān) is an Arabic word 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). Consequently, the title valide hatun (title for living mother of reigning Ottoman sultan before 16th century) also turned into valide sultan. 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 khan (for example, Sultan Suleiman Khan). 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. For example, Şehzade Sultan Mehmed and Mihrimah Sultan were the son and daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent. Like imperial princesses, the living mother and main consort of reigning sultans also carried the title after their given names, for example, 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 between the Sultanate of Women, as the position of main consort eroded over the course of 17th century, the main consort lost the title sultan, which replaced by kadïn, a title related to the earlier khatun. Henceforth, the mother of the reigning sultan was the only person of non-imperial blood to carry the title sultan.[3]

Role and position

An eighteenth-century painting of a valide sultan by Jean Baptiste Vanmour.

Valide sultan was, in most cases, the most important position in the Ottoman Empire after the sultan himself. As the mother to the sultan, by Islamic tradition ("A mother's right is God's right"),[4] the valide sultan would often have a significant influence on the affairs of the empire. She had great power in the court and her own rooms (always adjacent to her son's) and state staff.[1] The valide sultan had quarters within the New Palace, where the Sultan himself resided, beginning in the 16th century.

As the Valide sultan (Sultana mother), who had direct and intimate access to the Sultan's person, often influenced government decisions bypassing the Imperial Council and the Grand Vizier altogether or the grille-covered window from which the Sultan or Valide sultan could observe Council meetings. This left her at the heart of the political ongoings and machinations of the Ottoman Empire. valide sultan also traditionally had access to considerable economic resources and often funded major architectural projects, such as the Atik Valide Mosque Complex in Istanbul. Many valide sultans undertook massive philanthropic endeavors and buildings, as this was seen as one of the main ways to demonstrate influence and wealth. Valide sultans were also conveniently one of the few people within the empire with the station and means to embark on these expensive projects. Nurbanu Sultan's daily stipend as valide sultan to her son, Murad III, was 2000 aspers, an extraordinary sum for the time, which revealed the highly influential position she held at court.

The valide sultan also maintained special privileges that other harem members could not participate in. A valide sultan was not subject to sole seclusion within the confines of the palace. She had mobility outside of the harem, sometimes through ceremonial visibility to the public or veiled meetings with government officials and diplomats. Additionally, the valide sultan spearheaded one of the most crucial elements of diplomacy within the Ottoman Empire’s court: marriages of royal princesses. The most powerful and influential valide sultans had multiple daughters, with whom they forged crucial alliances through by marriage.[5] During the 17th century, in a period known as the Sultanate of Women, a series of incompetent or child sultans raised the role of the valide sultan to new heights. Two Valide sultans acted as regents for their sons, assuming the vast power and influence the position entailed.[2]

The most powerful and well-known of all valide sultans in the history of the Ottoman Empire were Nurbanu Sultan,[5] Safiye Sultan, Kösem Sultan, and Turhan Sultan.

Nurbanu Sultan became the first of the great valide sultans during the sixteenth century, as haseki as well as legal wife to Sultan Selim II. Nurbanu’s influential career as valide sultan established the precedent of valide sultan maintaining more power than her nearest harem rival, the haseki, or favorite concubine of the reigning sultan. The following influential valide sultans, Safiye Sultan, Kösem Sultan and Turhan Sultan, maintained this precedent and occupied positions of extreme power within the Ottoman imperial court. These positions helped them solidify their own power within the imperial court and ease diplomatic tensions on a broader, international scale.[5]

Most harem women who were slaves were never formally married to the sultans. Nevertheless, their children were considered fully legitimate under Islamic law if recognized by the father.[6]

List of Valide Sultans


The list does not include the complete list of mothers of the Ottoman sultans. Most who held the title of valide sultan were the biological mothers of the reigning sultans. The mothers who died before their sons' accession to throne, never assumed the title of valide sultan, like Hürrem Sultan, Muazzez Sultan, Mihrişah Kadın, Şermi Kadın, Tirimüjgan Kadın, Gülcemal Kadın and Gülistu Kadın. In special cases, there were grandmothers, stepmothers, adoptive mothers and sisters of the reigning sultans who assumed the role, and eventually the title, of valide sultan, like Mihrimah Sultan, Kösem Sultan and Rahime Perestu Sultan.

Appearance Name Maiden name Origin Became valide Ceased to be valide Death Sultan(s)
Hafsa Sultan
حفصه سلطان
unknown Christian slave of unknown origin, possibly Crimean 30 September 1520
son's ascension
19 March 1534 Suleiman the Magnificent (son)
Nurbanu Sultan
نور بانو سلطان
Cecilia Venier-Baffo[7] or
Rachel[8] or Kale Karatanou
Venetian or Jew or Greek 15 December 1574
son's ascension
7 December 1583 Murad III (son)
Safiye Sultan
صفیه سلطان
Sofia Albanian 15 January 1595
son's ascension
22 December 1603

son's death

after 1619 Mehmed III (son)
Handan Sultan
خندان سلطان
Helena[9] Bosnian[10] 22 December 1603
son's ascension
9 November 1605 Ahmed I (son)
Halime Sultan
حلیمه سلطان
unknown Abkhaz 22 November 1617
son's ascension
(first tenure)
26 February 1618
son's deposition
(first tenure)
After 1623 Mustafa I (son)
19 May 1622
son's reinstatement
(second tenure)
10 September 1623
son's deposition
(second tenure)
Kösem Sultan
ماه پیکر كوسم سلطان
Anastasia Greek. Born on Tinos, Republic of Venice 10 September 1623
son's ascension
8 August 1648
son's deposition
2 September 1651 Murad IV (son)
Ibrahim (son)
Turhan Sultan

ترخان خدیجه سلطان

Nadya Russia[11] 8 August 1648
son's ascension
4 August 1683 Mehmed IV (son)
Saliha Dilaşub Sultan

صالحه دل آشوب سلطان

Katarina[12] Serbian 8 November 1687
son's ascension
4 December 1689 Suleiman II (son)
Gülnuş Sultan

رابعه گلنوش سلطان

Evmania Voria Greek 6 February 1695
son's ascension
6 November 1715 Mustafa II (son)
Ahmed III (son)
Saliha Sultan

صالحه سلطان

Elizaveta[12] Serbian or Greek[13] 20 September 1730
son's ascension
21 September 1739 Mahmud I (son)
Şehsuvar Sultan

شهسوار سلطان

Maria[14] Russian[12] or Serbian[15] 13 December 1754
son's ascension
April 1756 Osman III (son)
Mihrişah Sultan

مهر شاه سلطان

Agnes[16] Daughter of Georgian Orthodox priest[17] 7 April 1789
son's ascension
16 October 1805 Selim III (son)
Sineperver Sultan

سینه پرور سلطان

Sonya Bulgarian[18] 29 May 1807
son's ascension
28 July 1808
son's deposition
11 December 1828 Mustafa IV (son)[19]
Nakşidil Sultan

نقش دل سلطان

unknown Georgian 28 July 1808
son's ascension
22 August 1817 Mahmud II (son)
Bezmiâlem Sultan

بزم عالم سلطان

unknown Georgian or Circassian[15] 2 July 1839
son's ascension
2 May 1853 Abdülmecid I (son)
Pertevniyal Sultan

پرتو نهال سلطان

Besime Kurd or Romanian or Circassian[13] 25 June 1861
son's ascension
30 May 1876
son's deposition
5 February 1883 Abdülaziz I (son)
Şevkefza Sultan
شوق افزا سلطان
Circassian[20] 30 May 1876
son's ascension
31 August 1876
son's deposition
17 September 1889 Murad V (son)
Perestu Sultan
رحيمه پرستو سلطان
Rahime Hanim Ubykh

adoptive daughter of Esma Sultan

31 August 1876
step-son's ascension
11 December 1904 Abdul Hamid II (adoptive son)[21][22]

Büyük valide sultans


The title of Büyük Valide Sultan (Senior Valide Sultan) or Büyükanne Sultan (Grandmother Sultana) was created by Kösem Sultan and officially used only by her during the reign of her grandson Mehmed IV, thus limiting the power of Turhan Sultan who was deemed too young to fulfill the title of Valide Sultan.

The official and unofficial Büyük Valide Sultans that lived in the reign of their grandsons are:

Appearance Name Maiden name Note Became Büyük valide Ceased to be Büyük valide Death Sultan(s)
Safiye Sultan
صفیه سلطان
Sofia She was never called Büyük Valide Sultan officially, but she lived during the reign of her two grandsons (Ahmed and Mustafa) and the reign of her great-grandson (Osman) (unofficial) 22 December 1603 – her death After 1619 Ahmed I (grandson)

Mustafa I (grandson) Osman II (great-grandson)

Kösem Sultan
ماه پیکر كوسم سلطان
Anastasia Following Mehmed IV's accession, she proclaimed herself as Büyük Valide Sultan 12 August 1648 – her death 2 September 1651 Mehmed IV (grandson)

See also



  1. ^ a b Davis, Fanny (1986). "The Valide". The Ottoman Lady: A Social History from 1718 to 1918. ISBN 0-313-24811-7.
  2. ^ a b Peirce, Leslie P., The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, Oxford University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-19-508677-5 (paperback)
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Muslims can celebrate Mothers Day because honoring your mother comes right after worshipping God". 17 February 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Peirce, Leslie P. (1993). The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195086775.
  6. ^ Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh, ed. (1980). "The Imperial Family of Turkey". Burke's Royal Families of the World. Vol. II: Africa & the Middle East. London: Burke's Peerage. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-85011-029-6.
  7. ^ Godfrey Goodwin, The Private World of Ottoman Women, Saqi Book, ISBN 0-86356-745-2, ISBN 3-631-36808-9, 2001. page 128
  8. ^ Valeria Heuberger, Geneviève Humbert, Geneviève Humbert-Knitel, Elisabeth Vyslonzil (ed.), Cultures in Colors, page 68. ISBN 3-631-36808-9, 2001
  9. ^ Sakaoğlu, Necdet (2008). Bu mülkün kadın sultanları : vâlide sultanlar, hâtunlar, hasekiler, kadınefendiler, sultanefendiler (1. baskı ed.). Beyoğlu, İstanbul: Oğlak Yayıncılık. ISBN 978-975-329-623-6. OCLC 316234394.
  10. ^ İnal, Günseli (2005). Semiramis : Sultan'ın gözünden şenlik = festival through a Sultan's eyes. Filiz Özdem, Mary Işın, Semiramis Arşivi. İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları. ISBN 975-08-0928-9. OCLC 60520625.
  11. ^ Sakaoğlu, Necdet (2007). Famous Ottoman women. Istanbul: Avea. ISBN 978-975-7104-77-3. OCLC 472256214.
  12. ^ a b c A. D. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty, Oxford: Clarendon, 1956, p.83
  13. ^ a b Akyıldız, Ali (1 April 2016). "Müsrif, Fakat Hayırsever: Pertevniyal Valide sultan". Osmanlı Araştırmaları. 47 (47): 307–352. doi:10.18589/oa.583206. ISSN 0255-0636.
  14. ^ Günseli., İnal (2005). Semiramis : Sultan'ın gözünden şenlik = festival through a Sultan's eyes. Yapı Kredi Yayınları. OCLC 654813573.
  15. ^ a b Kemal., Meram, Ali (1977). Padişah anaları : resimli, belgesel tarih romanı. Öz Yayınları. OCLC 23697956.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Osman., Horata (1998). Esrâr Dede : hayatı, şiir dünyası ve dı̂vânı. T.C. Kültür Bakanlığı. ISBN 975-17-1954-2. OCLC 42858154.
  17. ^ Y. İzzettin Barış (2002). Osmanlı padişahlarının yaşamlarından kesitler, hastalıkları ve ölüm sebepleri. Bilimsel Tıp Yayınevi. p. 184. ISBN 978-975-6986-17-2. Selim'in annesi olan Mihrişah, Gürcistan'dan kaçırılan bir papazın kızıydı
  18. ^ Sakaoğlu, Necdet (2015). Bu mülkün kadın sultanları : valide sultanlar, hatunlar, hasekiler, kadinefendiler, sultanefendiler. ISBN 978-605-171-079-2. OCLC 961810963.
  19. ^ Yavuz Bahadıroğlu, Resimli Osmanlı Tarihi, Nesil Yayınları (Ottoman History with Illustrations, Nesil Publications), 15th Ed., 2009, page 387 & 395, ISBN 978-975-269-299-2
  20. ^ Dolphin., Alderson, Anthony (1982). The structure of the Ottoman dynasty. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-22522-2. OCLC 643105131.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ Brookes, Douglass Scott, The Concubine, the Princess, and the Teacher, p.287. University of Texas Press, 2008. ISBN 0-292-71842-X
  22. ^ "Sultan II. Abdülhamid Han". Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2009.

Further reading