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English, Love Letters, Music

Suleiman the Magnificient and Roxelane (Hürrem)

Istanbul, Turkey, Süleymaniye Mosque, 1986 by James Stanfield

Istanbul, Turkey, Süleymaniye Mosque, 1986 by James Stanfield

Under his pen name, Muhibbi, Sultan Suleiman composed this poem for Hürrem Sultan:

“Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan, my one and only love.
The most beautiful among the beautiful…
My springtime, my merry faced love, my daytime, my sweetheart, laughing leaf…
My plants, my sweet, my rose, the one only who does not distress me in this world…
My Constantinople, my Caraman, the earth of my Anatolia
My Badakhshan, my Baghdad and Khorasan
My woman of the beautiful hair, my love of the slanted brow, my love of eyes full of mischief…
I’ll sing your praises always
I, lover of the tormented heart, Muhibbi of the eyes full of tears, I am happy.”

Discovery: Conquerors: Suleyman the Magnificent

Suleiman I known as “the Magnificent” in the West and “Kanuni” (the Lawgiver) in the East, (6 November 1494 – 7 September 1566) was the tenth and longest-reigning Emperor, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566.

Suleiman became a prominent monarch of 16th-century Europe, presiding over the apex of the Ottoman Empire’s military, political and economic power. Suleiman personally led Ottoman armies in conquering the Christian strongholds of Belgrade,Rhodes, as well as most of Hungary before his conquests were checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529. He annexed much of the Middle East in his conflict with the Safavidsand large areas of North Africa as far west as Algeria. Under his rule, the Ottoman fleetdominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and through the Persian Gulf.

At the helm of an expanding empire, Suleiman personally instituted major legislative changes relating to society, education, taxation, and criminal law. His canonical law (or the Kanuns) fixed the form of the empire for centuries after his death. Not only was Suleiman a distinguished poet and goldsmith; he also became a great patron of culture, overseeing the “Golden” age of the Ottoman Empire in its artistic, literary andarchitectural development. Suleiman was well educated and spoke five languages.

In a break with Ottoman tradition, Suleiman married Roxelana, a Christian girl from hisharem, who became subsequently known and influential as Hürrem Sultan. Their son,Selim II, succeeded Suleiman following his death in 1566 after 46 years of rule.

  • Fülane Hatun: Suleiman’s first wife, real name unknown. “Fulani” is possibly a description for three mistresses, as the name is used as a compliment for women. One of the three bore Şehzade Mahmud, born in 1512. One had a daughter named Fatima in 1514. And one of them was the mother of a son nicknamed “Haseki”, born in 1522.
  • Gülfem Hatun: According to Hürrem, Gülfem is the next “haseki” or concubine. Gülfem died in 1561 or 1562. She had a son who was born in 1521 and died October 12, 1521.
  • Mahidevran Sultan (some sources record the name as Gülbahar): Born circa 1500 and the mother of Mustafa, born in 1515, and Raziye, born in 1525. Mustafa died on October 6, 1553. She died on February 3, 1581 in Bursa.
  • Hürrem Sultan: Entered the harem soon after the accession to the throne in 1520. Hürrem was the mother of Mehmed, born in 1521, Mihrimah, born in 1522, Selim, born in 1524, Bayezid, born in 1525, and Cihangir, born in 1531. She died on April 15, 1558.


Relationship with Hürrem Sultan

Suleiman was infatuated with Hürrem Sultan, a harem girl from Ruthenia, then part of Poland. In the West foreign diplomats, taking notice of the palace gossip about her, called her “Russelazie” or “Roxelana”, referring to her Ruthenian (Ukrainian) origins. The daughter of an Orthodox priest, she was captured by Tatars from Crimea, sold as a slave in Constantinople, and eventually rose through the ranks of the Harem to become Suleiman’s favourite. Breaking with two centuries of Ottoman tradition,] a former concubine had thus become the legal wife of the Sultan, much to the astonishment of observers in the palace and the city. He also allowed Hürrem Sultan to remain with him at court for the rest of her life, breaking another tradition—that when imperial heirs came of age, they would be sent along with the imperial concubine who bore them to govern remote provinces of the Empire, never to return unless their progeny succeeded to the throne.

She was known mainly as Haseki Hürrem Sultan or Hürrem Haseki Sultan; in European languages as Roxolena, transliterated as “Roksolana” Roxolana, Roxelane, Rossa, Ruzica; in Turkish as Hürrem (from Persian: خرم‎ Khurram, “the cheerful one”); and inArabic as Karima (Arabic: كريمة‎), “the noble one”. “Roxelana” or “Roksolana” might be not a proper name but a nickname, referring to her Ukrainian heritage (cf. the common contemporary name “Ruslana”); “Roxolany” or “Roxelany” was one of the names ofUkrainians, East Slavs, inhabitants of the present Ukraine, up to the 15th century. Thus her name would literally mean “The Ruthenian One”.

Hürrem Haseki Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: خرم سلطان, c. 1500 – 15 April 1558) (née Alexandra Anastasia Lisowska,Ukrainian: Олександра Анастасія Лісовська), also known as Roxelana, was the wife and haseki sultan of Suleiman the Magnificent and mother of Şehzade Mehmed,Mihrimah Sultan, Sultan Selim II, Şehzade Bayezid and Şehzade Cihangir of theOttoman Empire. She was one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history and a prominent figure during the era known as the Sultanate of Women. She achieved power and influenced the politics of the Ottoman Empire through her husband and played an active role in state affairs of the Empire.

She quickly came to the attention of her master, and attracted the jealousy of her rivals. She soon proved to be Suleiman’s favorite consort or Haseki Sultan. Hürrem’s influence over the Sultan soon became legendary. She was to bear five of Suleiman’s fourteen children and in an astonishing break with tradition, she was eventually freed. Breaking with two centuries of Ottoman tradition, a former concubine had thus become the legal wife of the Sultan, much to the astonishment of observers in the palace and the city.It made Suleiman the first Ottoman emperor to have a wed wife since Orhan Gazi and strengthened Hürrem’s position in the palace and eventually led to one of her sons, Selim, inheriting the empire.

Hürrem Sultan 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. Her mausoleum is adjacent to Suleiman’s, a separate and more somber domed structure, at the Süleymaniye Mosque.

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 2007, Muslims in Mariupol, a port city in Ukraine, opened a mosque to honor Roxelana.

Joseph Haydn – Symphony No. 63 in C major ‘La Roxelane’



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