The charitable wife of the Ottoman Sultan (B. 1550?, Venice – D. January 1619, Istanbul). She was the wife of Sultan Murat III and mother of Mehmed III. Her birth date was just based on predictions. There are speculations about her origin but it is stated in Venetian sources that she was of Albanian origin born in the village of Rezi, Dukagjin. Stephan Gerlach, who had been in Istanbul between 1573 and 1578, identified her as of a Bosnian origin and stated that she had been presented to Murat when he was still a prince, by Ferhad Pasha in Manisa.
After 1585, she became the most powerful one in harem. Moreover, she was not contented with harem, she began to intervene in state affairs. She strengthened her position in the court when she became the Valide Sultana (Sultan’s mother) upon the ascension of her son Mehmet III on the throne in 1595, after the death of Murat III. People and civil servants appealed to her when they needed some help, since they knew how influential she was on the Ottoman court, sometimes they would even throw themselves in front of her carriage for her helps. She was the most influential in terms of appointments and dismissals of everyone in the Empire, even the Grand Vizier and Shaykh al-Islam. When Mehmed III went on the campaign of Eğri in 1596, he left a treasure of one billion akçe (T.N. coin) to her service and she distributed alms to the poor, orphan and widows upon the fall of Eğri Castle.
Safiye Sultan did not only interfere in interior affairs but also in foreign affairs of the empire. It is known that she corresponded by letters with foreign kings-queens and established diplomatic relations with them. Just as her mother-in-law Nurbanu, she supported a pro-Venetian policy in foreign politics. Upon the death of Mehmed III in 1603, she was sent to Eski Saray and had lived there until her death in January 1619. She was laid to rest in the tomb of Murat III.
The foreign sources describe Safiye Sultan as a smart, intelligent, whip-smart, very high-flown, politic, argus-eyed and patient woman. Safiye Sultan started the construction of Yenicami in Eminönü with an inauguration on April 9th, 1598. However when she was sent to Eski Saray upon his son’s dead, the construction of külliye (T.N. Islamic-ottoman social complex) was left half finished. Along with that mosque completed in 1665 during the era of Turhan Sultan, Safiye Sultan had a mosque and a fountain built in the village of Karamanlı, Üsküdar. She established a foundation in order to read the Koran in the tomb of her husband. She had a mausoleum built for the tomb of a person descended from Gazzalî in Aşıkpaşa town of Fatih and had a summer palace built in Dâvud Paşa town. She resided in that palace with Mehmed III from time to time and gave feasts there. Besides, she had a madrasah named after her constructed in 1598 and ordered the construction of a mosque named Melike Safiye Mosque under the control of her servant Osman Aga in Cairo in 1610. She also donated money to the army of Ottoman Empire for the expenses during the wars. She discharged the debts of those who couldn’t pay it themselves and distributed alms to the poor during her journeys.
REFERENCE: Ord. Prof. İsmail Hakkı Uzunçarşılı / Osmanlı Tarihi (1972), M. Çağatay Uluçay / Padişahların Kadınlan ve Kızları (1980), L. P. Peirce / Harem-i Hümayun: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu'hda Hükümranlık ve Kadınlar (Çev: Ayşe Berktay, 1996), S. Gerlach / Türkiye Günlüğü (Ed. Kemal Beydilli - Çev: T. Noyan, 2007), Alî Akyıldız / “ Safiye Sultan” (Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi, c. 35, 2008), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Kadınlar (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 6, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013).