A Tale in Red: Hürrem Sultana: The Captivating Tale of Love and Power in the Ottoman Empire

Hürrem Sultana, also known as Roxelana, was one of the most powerful and influential women of the Ottoman Empire. She rose from humble beginnings to become the beloved wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and her story is both captivating and romantic.

Born as an enslaved person in Ukraine, Hürrem was brought to Istanbul at a young age and was selected to enter the harem of the Ottoman Palace. The harem was a luxurious and secluded part of the palace where Sultan’s wives, concubines, and female servants lived. Despite the restrictions of the harem, Hürrem was able to receive an education and learn multiple languages, which would later prove crucial in her rise to power.

Hürrem’s beauty and intelligence quickly caught the eye of Sultan Suleiman, who fell in love with her and, breaking royal protocol, Suleiman made her his legal wife. It was customary for Ottoman sultans to abandon a concubine after she bore him a son to not distract her from raising a future sultan.

Her influence over Suleiman was so significant that he began to consult her on matters of state and even allowed her to build her charitable foundations and mosques.

However, Hürrem bore him six children: Sehzade Mehmed, Mihrimah Sultan, Sehzade Abdullah, Sultan Selim II, Sehzade Bayezid, and Sehzade Cihangir.

As Hürrem’s power grew, so did the jealousy and resentment of the other women in the harem. However, Hürrem remained steadfast in her love for Suleiman and devotion to the empire. She used her influence to advocate for women’s rights and protect the empire’s interests.

One of the most romantic aspects of Hürrem’s story was her love for Suleiman. The couple had a deep and passionate love, which was uncommon then. Hürrem’s love letters to Suleiman, which still exist today, are a testament to their enduring love and devotion to each other.

Example of a letter she wrote in 1526.

I am lost in this universe created by our Lord. I lived my best years under your protection, like a pearl in your jewel box.

“Please accept this rue from your helpless and miserable slave, suffering in your absence.

“I only find peace next to you. Words and inks would not be enough to tell my happiness and joy when I am next to you.

“Memories of the days we spent together, the moments we shared, fill your servant’s heart.

“I console myself with these memories in your absence. I am low when you are away; no one can ease my pain. 

“My life, My Lord, My dear Sultan, my only prayer to Allah is to see your beaming face again. No more separation from now on…

“I wish from my Lord that my Sultan, my beloved man, will always be happy in the world and the hereafter.

“You always gain victories against your enemies. I know my sultan fell for this enslaved person in a twist of fate.

“Wiped away her tears… Made her happy… I chose Islam because of him. That’s why I can only be happy around you. I am sending you one of my clothes soaked with my tears…Please wear it, for me….”

“I wish nothing but happiness for you in both worlds. Your poor and lowly slave, Hurrem.”

Hürrem Sultana’s story is a captivating and romantic tale of love and power. You can find pieces of Hürrem all over Istanbul, like the baths near Aya Sofia, and her mausoleum is part of the Sulemaniye mosque complex in Istanbul.  

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