Her portraits suggest a mosaic refinement, with
classical features and blazing red hair. There is depth and inte1ligence
in her eyes. An extraordinary strategist and a true political artist,
Roxalena planned her moves as if she were playing chess.
At the beginning, Süleyman was attracted to her silent charm, and
she became his favorite. Soon she bore him a son, which elevated
her to third kadin the third most powerful woman in the hierarchy
of the harem. Roxalena was aware that, according to the Code of
Laws established by Mehmed the Conqueror, the throne passed to the
oldest male, obliging him to get rid of a1l his brothers in order
to secure it for his own offspring. As such, from the beginning,
Prince Mustafa, the heir apparent, was the death warrant of her
own male children.
Roxalena was so full of light that Süleyman seemed blind to her
dark side. He named her Hürrem, ''the laughing one,'' because ofher
crystalline laughter and freedom from inhibition.
Yet Hürrem was secretly tormented. In 154l,
when the Old Palace, which housed the sultan's harem, partially
burned down, Roxalena, with her entourage of odalisques and eunuchs,
moved to the Grand Seraglio, where she could be closer to Süleyman
and the seat of power, a move that marked the beginnİng ofthe Grand
Harem and ''The Reign ofWomen.''
With Mustafa and Gülbahar tucked far away , Roxalena had still another
antagonist to deal with, the man who had originally owned her, the
inseparable friend and companion of Süleyman, Ibrahim, who shared
Süleyman's tent and his dreams, who had been promoted from the status
of royal falconer to Lord of Rumelia and, later , grand vizier .Ibrahim
had been chosen to marry the sultan's own sister, Hatice Sultana,
and had been the object of endless wealth and honor. He may have
presented Roxalena to Süleyman as a move to consolidate his power;
if so, the scheme backfıred.