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Börte (simply Borte, also Börte Üjin; Cyrillic: Бөртэ үжин; c. 1161–1230) was the first wife of Temüjin, who became Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire. Börte became the head of the first Court of Genghis Khan, and Grand Empress of his Empire. Little is known about the details of her early life, but she was betrothed to Genghis at a young age, married at 17, and then kidnapped by a rival tribe. The decision by her husband to rescue her may have been one of the key decisions that started him on his path to conquer the world. She gave birth to four sons and five daughters one who, along with their own descendants, were the key bloodline which further expanded the Mongol Empire.

Börte Khatun
Tumanba Khan, His Wife, and His Nine Sons.jpg
A Mughal miniature painting of Genghis Khan, his wife Börte, and their sons.
Great Khatun of the Mongol Empire and Khamag Mongol
Mongolianᠧᠠᠭᠸᠬᠬᠸᠬ ᠸᠥᠢᠸᠢᠸᠦᠸ ᠸᠬᠸᠸᠬᠬ ᠬᠸᠬᠬᠸ ᠬᠸᠬᠸ ᠬᠬᠸᠬᠸᠬᠸ ᠂ᠵᠸᠵᠸᠸᠵᠵᠵᠸ ᠂ᠢᠢᠸᠸᠢᠢᠸ ᠹᠶᠹᠭᠬᠭ
Khentii, Mongolia
Died1230 (aged 68–69)
Avarga, Mongolia
SpouseGenghis Khan
Khochen Bekhi
Alakhai Bekhi
FatherDei Seichen


Early lifeEdit

Few historical facts are known about her life, but Mongolians have many legends about her. What little is known is generally from The Secret History of the Mongols.

Börte was born around 1161 into the Olkhonud of Khongirad. This tribe was friendly to the Borjigin tribe, into which Temüjin was born. She was the daughter of Dei-Sechen and Chotan.[1] She was described as having a "fair complexion" with "light in her face and fire in her eyes," meaning that she was intelligent.[2]

The marriage was arranged by her father and Yesügei, Genghis' father, when she was 10 and he was 9 years old. Temüjin then stayed with her family until he was called back to help his mother and younger siblings, due to the poisoning of Yesügei by an enemy.[3] In 1178, Temüjin traveled to find Börte. With the permission of Dei-Sechen, he took Börte and her mother to live in his family's yurt, which was camped along the Senggür river.[4] Börte's dowry was a fine black sable jacket.[5]


Soon after she married Temüjin, the Three Merkits attacked the family camp at dawn. Temüjin and the men escaped on horses, but left the women behind because they did not have enough horses for all of the family members to get away. Börte was taken captive by the Merkits. The raid was in retaliation for the abduction of Hoelun, Temüjin's mother, by his father Yesügei many years earlier.[6] Several months later, Temüjin, with his allies Wang Khan and Jamukha, rescued her from her captors. Some scholars describe this event as one of the key crossroads in his life, which moved him along the path towards becoming a conqueror.

Börte had been held captive for eight months, and she gave birth to Jochi after she was rescued, leaving doubt as to who the father of the child was, because her captor took her as a "wife", and therefore could have possibly impregnated her. However, Genghis let Jochi remain with his family and claimed him as his own son. He was supposed to be Genghis' successor but because of his doubt of being Jochi's real father, his brothers would not accept him as ruler and Genghis had to choose another son realizing they would not accept Jochi. Jochi then became leader of the Golden Horde.

Grand EmpressEdit

Börte was the senior and first wife of Temüjin. She was revered by the Mongols after he became the Great Khan, and she was crowned the Grand Empress. As Genghis Khan continued to expand his influence and empire, Börte remained behind and assisted Genghis' brother Temüge in ruling the Mongol homeland. Other wives accompanied Genghis Khan on his campaigns, while she ruled her own territory and managed her own court.[7] Most of the Kherlen River was assigned to her, land that had before belonged to the Tatars.[8] Only her sons were considered to be candidates to succeed Temüjin as Khans.

Börte is often portrayed as "a beautiful woman dressed in a white silken gown, with gold coins in her hair, holding a white lamb, and riding a white steed".[citation needed].


Börte's sons:


  • Kua Ujin Bekhi, the eldest, was betrothed to Tusakha, son of Senggum, and grandson of Wang Khan, ruler of the Keraite tribe; she eventually married Botu, of the Ikires tribe, and widower of her paternal aunt Temulun.
  • Alakhai Bekhi, married first to Alaqush Digit Quri, chieftain of the Ongüt tribe; then to his nephew and heir Jingue; and finally to her stepson Boyaohe
  • Tümelün, married to Chigu, son of Anchen, son of Dei Seichen, Börte's father
  • Alaltun (Altalun, proper name), married Chaur Setsen, son of Taiju Kurgen of the Olkanut tribe.[9] She is often mistaken with Il-Alti, a daughter by a concubine, who was given to the Uyghur chieftain Idi Qut.[9]
  • Checheikhen, married to Törölchi, son of Quduka beki, of the Oirat tribe.

Although several of Genghis Khan's children by other wives or concubines received some form of recognition in the empire, including land or military commands, including troops, only Börte's children were recognized as potential Great Khans. She, together with his mother Hoelun, was counted as one of his most trusted advisors.[citation needed]

Modern referencesEdit

Given her significant role in Genghis Khan's life, Börte has appeared as a prominent character in the many films and television series based on her husband's life and conquests. The actresses who have portrayed her include Susan Hayward in The Conqueror, Françoise Dorléac in Genghis Khan (1965 film) and Chuluuny Khulan in the 2007 Oscar nominated Russian film Mongol.[10]


  1. ^ Onon, Urgunge (ed.). The secret history of the Mongols; The life and times of Chinggis Khan (Chapter 1) (PDF). section 65.
  2. ^ Onon, Urgunge (ed.). The secret history of the Mongols; The life and times of Chinggis Khan (Chapter 1) (PDF). section 65-66.
  3. ^ Onon, Urgunge (ed.). The secret history of the Mongols; The life and times of Chinggis Khan (Chapter 1) (PDF). section 61,66,68.
  4. ^ Onon, Urgunge (ed.). The secret history of the Mongols; The life and times of Chinggis Khan (Chapter 2) (PDF). section 94.
  5. ^ Onon, Urgunge (ed.). The secret history of the Mongols; The life and times of Chinggis Khan (Chapter 2) (PDF). section 96.
  6. ^ Onon, Urgunge (ed.). The secret history of the Mongols; The life and times of Chinggis Khan (Chapter 2) (PDF). section 98-102.
  7. ^ Ratchnevsky, Paul (1991). Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 164–5. ISBN 0-631-16785-4.
  8. ^ Weatherford. The Secret History of the Mongol Queens. p. 28.
  9. ^ a b Ad-din, Rashid. Jami Al Tawarikh (Compendium of Chronicles).
  10. ^


  • René Grousset. Conqueror of the World: The Life of Chingis-khan (New York: The Viking Press, 1944) ISBN 0-670-00343-3.
  • Ratchnevsky, Paul. Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy. (Blackwell Publishing 1991) ISBN 0-631-16785-4.
  • Man, John. Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection (London; New York : Bantam Press, 2004) ISBN 0-593-05044-4.
  • Onon, Urgunge, tr. and ed. and introduction. The Secret History of the Mongols: The Life and Times of Chinggis Khan. (Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005) ISBN 0-203-98876-0
  • Weatherford, Jack. (2010). The Secret History of the Mongol Queens. Broadway Paperbacks, New York. ISBN 978-0-307-40716-0