January 1595. Marco Venier, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, reports to the Doge and Senate on the accession of Mehmed III. One of the Sultan’s first executive orders was to have his nineteen brothers strangled – fratricide was not uncommon in the Ottoman royal line and was seen as an excellent way of removing sibling opposition and rivalry.
The new Sultan seems to be a resolute man, and terrible. The moment he arrived at the Serraglio he went to look on his father’s corpse; then his nineteen brothers were brought before him, one by one. They say that the eldest, a most beautiful lad and of excellent parts, beloved by all, when he kissed the Sultan’s hand exclaimed, “My lord and brother, now to me as my father, let not my days be ended thus in this my tender age”; the Sultan tore his beard with every sign of grief, but answered never a word. They were all strangled, all the nineteen; and that same day late in the evening the dead Sultan was carried to the tomb with less pomp than usually accompanies persons of even low degree. The new Sultan, dressed in purple cloth, followed the corpse to the first door of the Serraglio; Ferrad and the other Pashas, dressed in black, attended it further. On the bier, which in this country is borne head first, was placed a small turban with aigrettes. The bier was covered with cloth of gold with a jewelled belt of gold across it. It was placed on a piece of ground near St. Sophia under a great magnificent military tent; and round it will soon arise the mortuary chapel, where the coffin will repose on a lofty platform in the middle, and all round lower down will lie the nineteen sons, who were not carried in procession that day owing to the late hour, but were taken out the day following. At present they are all in plain wooden coffins, but later these will be covered and adorned.
The day of his brothers, funeral the Sultan placed in Divan his tutor, Mehemet of Mecca; a man held in high esteem, wise, and not avaricious. Ferrad is in great favour with the Sultan for the way in which he kept the city quiet during so many days of interregnum. The Sultan has given his seal to no one yet. Sinan will soon be here, in spite of a false rumour of his death. His Majesty has made great changes in the Serraglio; he has expelled all the buffoons, the dwarfs, the eunuchs, and the women; they were all sent to the old Serraglio; the amount of goods they carried out with them was incredible, the carriages, chests, and baskets of the whole city hardly sufficed.
They say that the secretary to the late Sultan will retain his post The present to the Janizaries is one hundred and twenty purses of ten thousand sequins per purse.
The Sultan is about medium height, strong and well made, and wears a black beard and two huge moustaches.