This is the third in our three-part series on the most powerful women in the Middle Ages. To wrap things up we will explore the lives of two female rulers — one very famous, the other almost unknown. They are Elizabeth I of Tudor and Ottoman Queen Mother Kösem Sultan.
Elizabeth I(1533-1603) is, with little debate, the greatest monarch in England’s history. She is a key figure in the island’s transition from the medieval to the early modern era. In her 45-year reign Good Queen Bess transformed her nation from a mid-level European power into the dominant commercial, naval, and cultural force of the Western world. She was a patron of exploration and supported Sir Francis Drake’s expedition to circumnavigate the globe. Elizabeth also funded Sir Walter Raleigh’s exploration of the New World. She forged a powerful English national identity by securing peace and stability, allowing the arts to flourish and famous figures such as Edmund Spencer, Francis Bacon, and William Shakespeare to produce their most renowned works.
Ottoman Valide Kösem Sultan (1590-1651) was a harem slave who ruled through three sultans. She was born a Greek Christian, sold into slavery to the imperial Ottoman harem when she was fifteen, and showed up in Istanbul without knowing Turkish. In in the years to come she managed to attract the attention of the Sultan, bear him a son, and become a Queen mother – a matriarch of the Sultan. She also manipulated two weak sons and a weak grandson to name her the official regent of the empire. The former slave girl was now in command of a transcontinental superpower.