Handan Sultan

Handan Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: خندان سلطان‎ meaning "smiling" in Persian; died 9 November 1605) was the consort of Sultan Mehmed III, and Valide Sultan to their son Sultan Ahmed I.

Handan Sultan
Valide Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Tenure22 December 1603 – 9 November 1605
BornSanjak of Bosnia, Ottoman Empire
Died(1605-11-09)9 November 1605
Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Mehmed III Mausoleum, Hagia Sophia Mosque, Istanbul
SpouseMehmed III
IssueAhmed I
Şehzade Selim
Şehzade Süleyman
Two daughters
ReligionSunni Islam

Early lifeEdit

Of Bosnian origin, Handan Sultan was a servant in the household of Cerrah Mehmed Pasha, the Beylerbey of the Rumelia Eyalet. He was the husband of Gevherhan Sultan, daughter of Sultan Selim II, sister of Sultan Murad III, and aunt of Sultan Mehmed III. Mehmed Pasha was a surgeon ("cerrah") and had circumcised Prince Mehmed in 1582.[1][2]

As imperial consortEdit

In 1583, when Mehmed was appointed the sancak-bey of Saruhan, Handan being beautiful was presented to him at his departure by Mehmed Pasha and Gevherhan Sultan.[1][2] When Mehmed ascended the throne after his father's death in 1595, Handan came to Istanbul with him.


Together with Mehmed, Handan had five children:[3][4]

  • Şehzade Selim (1585, Manisa Palace, Manisa – 20 April 1597, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul buried in Hagia Sophia Mosque);
  • Şehzade Süleyman (1586, Manisa Palace, Manisa, died young, buried in Hagia Sophia Mosque);
  • Sultan Ahmed I (9 May 1588/90,[5][6] Manisa Palace, Manisa – 22 November 1617, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, buried in Ahmed I Mausoleum, Sultan Ahmed Mosque);
  • Two daughters;

As Valide SultanEdit

Ahmed's accessionEdit

When Ahmed ascended the throne following Mehmed III's death on 22 December 1603, Handan became Valide Sultan. As the mother of the new Sultan, she received 1,000 aspers a day.[7] On Friday 9 January, the former Valide Sultan Safiye Sultan, along with Şehzade Mustafa (future Mustafa I), were sent to live in the Eski (old) Palace located at the Beyazıt Square.[8] Soon after his succession, Ahmed wanted to express his gratitude to Mehmed Pasha and Gevherhan Sultan for the role they had played in bringing his parents together. By then, however, Cerrah Mehmed Pasha was old and ailing, and died on 9 January 1604. Ahmed, therefore, honored the late pasha's wife. He also named one of his daughters after her.[9]

As regentEdit

As a co-regent, she immediately began building up her network of clients, and was actively involved in the running of dynastic and imperial affairs together with Ahmed's tutor Mustafa Efendi (died 1607 or 1608).[10][11] Ahmed several times announced his eagerness to go to war. It seems that Handan Sultan and Mustafa Efendi advised him to behave in this manner in order to give the public the impression that he was capable of ruling the state.[12] He also began to spend a great deal of time outside the palace, notably hunting or conducting incognito inspections, regardless of the weather. Handan Sultan quickly realized that her son could easily put himself in danger and thus needed to be closely watched.[13]

She favored her fellow Bosnians at her son's court.[10][14] She convinced Ahmed to appoint Yavuz Ali Pasha as grand vizier,[15] and maintained a close relationship with him, especially during the first critical months of Ahmed's reign.[16] In spring of 1604, she and Mustafa Efendi ordered Ali Pasha to take command in Hungary.[17] In August 1604, Ahmed ordered the execution of deputy grand vizier Kasim Pasha, and in January 1605 of his successor Sarıkçı Mustafa Pasha, and in both cases his decision was approved and encouraged by Handan Sultan and Mustafa Efendi, who were trying to rid the court of clients of Safiye Sultan.[18]

Because of Handan Sultan's influence on her son, Dervish Mehmed Agha replaced Bayran Agha as chief gardener in summer of 1604. Whenever Handan, Ahmed, and Derviş got altogether in the palace gardens, she made Ahmed promise that he will not do anything contrary to Derviş's words and thoughts.[19][20] Thanks to Handan's continuous support, he managed to become the first royal favorite of Ahmed.[11]

Handan Sultan also acted as an intermediary between her son and other government officials. Any vizier who wanted to communicate with Ahmed had to submit his petition first to her.[21] The contemporary historian Ibrahim Peçevi questioned her wisdom, but legitimized her authority over her son by an old and popular saying "a mother's right is God's right".[22]


Handan Sultan made an endowment for the maintenance of her husband Mehmed III's tomb and the salaries of its employees.[23] She also made endowments in Kütahya, Menemen and Kilizman.[24][25]


Sinanpaşaoğlu Mehmed Pasha who had been married to Piyale Pasha and Gevherhan Sultan's daughter in November 1598,[26] was sent to quell the Jelali rebellions in Anatolia. However, he proved to be ineffective, and conducted himself so inappropriately as to arouse suspicions that he had turned a rebel himself. With Handan's intervention, he was forgiven by the sultan. He returned to Istanbul, and took up his duties as vezir. However, he was executed on 20 August 1605.[27][28][29] Handan, who was already ill at that time, was so shocked by the turn of events that her condition reportedly worsened.[30]

Death and aftermathEdit

Handan Sultan died at the Topkapı Palace on Wednesday, 9 November 1605 after a long illness.[31][32] At her funeral, large amounts of food and alms were distributed for the sake of her soul.[33] She was buried next to her consort in his mausoleum in Hagia Sophia Mosque, Istanbul.[34][24] Ahmed despite appeals of the viziers for the customary mourning for seven days, didn't postpone his departure from Istanbul on campaign against the Jelali revolts.[27] After Handan's death, Haci Mustafa Agha, the chief eunuch of the imperial harem throughout Ahmed's reign, became the highest authority in the harem.[35][36]

In popular cultureEdit

In the 2015 TV series Muhteşem Yüzyıl: Kösem, Handan Sultan is portrayed by Turkish actress Tülin Özen.[37]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Börekçi 2010, p. 93.
  2. ^ a b Börekçi, p. 80.
  3. ^ Tezcan 2001, p. 329 n. 25.
  4. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 69 n. 107.
  5. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 85 n. 17.
  6. ^ Börekçi, p. 81 n. 75.
  7. ^ Peirce 1993, p. 127.
  8. ^ Shaw & Shaw 1976, p. 186.
  9. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 94.
  10. ^ a b Börekçi 2010, p. 130.
  11. ^ a b Ágoston & Masters 2010, p. 23.
  12. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 108.
  13. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 207.
  14. ^ Graf 2017, p. 153.
  15. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 131.
  16. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 136.
  17. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 216, n. 35.
  18. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 121, n. 104.
  19. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 205.
  20. ^ Peirce 1993, p. 237.
  21. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 137.
  22. ^ Peirce 1993, p. 237-8.
  23. ^ Peirce 1993, p. 210.
  24. ^ a b Uluçay 2011, p. 77.
  25. ^ Peirce 1993, p. 215.
  26. ^ Ipşırlı 1976, p. 211.
  27. ^ a b Peirce 1993, p. 243.
  28. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 120.
  29. ^ Haskan 2001, p. 337.
  30. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 120-1.
  31. ^ Tezcan 2008, p. 351.
  32. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 124.
  33. ^ Peirce 1993, p. 196.
  34. ^ Sakaoğlu 2008, p. 301.
  35. ^ Börekçi 2010, p. 21.
  36. ^ Ágoston & Masters 2010, p. 153.
  37. ^ Muhtesem Yüzyil: Kösem (TV Series 2015– ), retrieved 20 October 2017


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  • Börekçi, Günhan (2010). Factions And Favorites At The Courts Of Sultan Ahmed I (r. 1603-17) And His Immediate Predexessors.
  • Börekçi, Günhan. İnkırâzın Eşiğinde Bir Hanedan: III. Mehmed, I. Ahmed, I. Mustafa ve 17. Yüzyıl Osmanlı Siyasî Krizi - A Dynasty at the Threshold of Extinction: Mehmed III, Ahmed I, Mustafa I and the 17th-Century Ottoman Political Crisis.
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  • Uluçay, Mustafa Çağatay (2011). Padişahların kadınları ve kızları. Ankara, Ötüken.
Ottoman royalty
Preceded by
Safiye Sultan
Valide Sultan
22 December 1603 – 26 November 1605
Succeeded by
Halime Sultan