|Representation of Mustafa I, painted in 1815|
He was a great-great-grandson of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, born in 1591 to Alime Sultan (Ottoman royal women were designated in this way, rather than Sultana) at the palace in Manisa, western Turkey. For almost two centuries before Mustafa's birth, Manisa had been the place where future crown princes and Sultans of Turkey learned about administration and government, rather than in the capital of their fathers, Istanbul. Mustafa was the second son of Sultan Mehmed III, who upon ascension followed an Ottoman tradition established in the time of Mustafa's grandfather Murad III; the deaths by strangulation of all close male relatives. In this way, the Ottomans eliminated rival claimants to the throne.
|Another image of Mustafa I|
A crisis occurred when Ahmed died at the age of twenty-seven. As all of his sons were minors, Mustafa became Sultan. Despite the established tradition of murdering potential rivals, Ahmed's sons went to the kafes, like their uncle had done. Even before Mustafa's reign began, his courtiers and servants might have witnessed his strange behavior in the kafes. He had the habit of "scattering the gold and silver coins... to the birds and the fish in the sea...." If anyone acknowledged him as an imbecile openly, perhaps they also hoped that after his long confinement, the reintroduction to court and the world outside the kafes would improve Mustafa's mind.
It did not. As Mustafa I continued to knock the turbans off of his viziers' heads during meetings with his council, they must have realized their folly in having placed him on the throne. In February 1618, they locked Mustafa back up in the kafes and selected his fourteen-year-old nephew to reign as Osman II. The fickle nature of political life at the Imperial palace did not assure Osman's future; he made the mistake of tangling with the Janissaries, the elite infantry historically comprised of non-Muslim boys enslaved as household troops and bodyguards for the monarchs. Osman ordered severe punishments, including five hundred lashes for any Janissary found in a tavern. Four years after he came to power, they had him strangled and gave their oath of allegiance to Mustafa, who became little more than their puppet.
|The throne room at Topkapi palace|
Murad IV became Sultan at the age of eleven. He was the eldest son of Ahmed I and Kosem. He too spared Mustafa a quick death. The mad former ruler returned to the kafes, trapped as much behind its walls as surely as by the ravages of his mind. He died in 1639 at the age of 48. His body is entombed in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia courtyard.
Sources: Harem: The World Behind the Veil by Alev Lytle Croutier and The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: The Structure of Power by Colin Imber. Images are public domain, royalty-free from Wiki Commons.