Ottoman Sultan Mehmed III has his 19 brothers strangled

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.

A Venetian at the court of the Ottoman Caliph

Achmet I – Ottoman Caliph; 1590 – 1617.

20 January, 1604. Ottaviano Bon, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, reports to the Doge and Senate on the fall of Mustapha Pasha and the antics of Sultan Achmet.

Mustaphà Pasha, Lieutenant Grand Vizir, a man of the highest authority, who ruled the Empire as he pleased, a favourite of the Sultan, and constantly receiving presents, even down to the Sultan’s own robes, a man who everyone thought had a long lease of power before him, for he knew how to humour the Sultan and the Sultana, giving the one a thousand sequins a week to squander on his pleasures, and the other lovely dresses and adornments; — this Mustaphà, I say, on Monday last, the 10th of this month, was in Divan, in excellent humour, joking with everybody and especially with Borisi, when the Sultan sent to say he desired him to come to him alone. Mustaphà rose and declaring he would soon be back, passed into the inner apartments. As he entered he met a mute, who made a sign to call the chief executioner. “Mustaphà, in alarm, made signs to the mute, asking what this meant? The mute merely invited him to enter; the executioner followed immediately, and in the time it takes to say a Credo he came out again with a bloody scimitar, which he was wiping; then the body of the Pasha was dragged out; the head was half split; the executioner had stripped the body of all its clothes, more especially of a lovely purple velvet vest, reaching down to the feet, lined with fur. The body was dragged to the door of the serraglio, and there, near a fountain, it was thrown to the dogs, to the amazement of all who crowded the Divan. The body was buried late at night.

The reason for this unlooked-for event is the lack of money to pay the troops. The Sultan was heard to cry out when the Pasha came before him, “Where is the pay for the troops? Is this how you keep your promise to me? “This delay in the payment had caused many to sell their orders on the treasury at half their value. Then again some creditors presented a memorial to the Sultan, setting forth that, in spite of his commands that they should be paid, the Pasha had simply mocked at them. Further, the Sultan was rather annoyed with the Pasha for opposing the return of Mehmet, Grand Vizir, from Hungary. Finally the Sultan, the night before the execution, had slept with the Sultana, who had recently conceived a dislike for the Pasha because he had secured for his Majesty some handsome youths—the Pasha himself was of the profession and a good judge of the wares; and so the Sultana, when she found the Sultan angry, seized the opportunity to give the Pasha the last blow. Any way he died the death he inflicted a few months ago on Hassan Pasha, and has paid the penalty for his many sins. I, however, deeply lament his decease, for he was a good friend to me, and promised much in the service of your Serenity. But the world is like that here, and it is only too clear that those who govern at the Porte have brittle-heads (teste di vetro) and live with death an inch from their throats.

Instead of Mustaphà they have made Skoffi Sinan Lieutenant. He is an old man of seventy, placid, benign, blunt, not sharp; favourable to the Republic. The day after the execution his Majesty went to the Kiosk. He saw a galley coming in with a ship in tow. He called the Captain on shore and asked what the ship was; the Captain said it was a pirate captured by him. The Sultan made him land three of the principal pirates, and for his mere amusement he caused them to be dashed head foremost on the ground and then flung into the sea. Everyone is terror-stricken. On his way back the Sultan came to a little lake inside the Serraglio grounds; they say it is about a quarter of an acre in extent and has two feet of water in it. It was frozen over and covered with snow. As he approached, some, who were playing by the lake, fled. He called them back, and, throwing a handfull of sequins into the lake he made them plunge for them. Then finding he liked the sport he sent for a purse full of a thousand sultanini, and in two or three goes he threw them all into the lake.