Died At Age: 46
Also Known As: Aigiarne, Aiyurug, Khotol Tsagaan
Famous as: Cousin of Kublai Khan
Died on: 1306
Khutulun was the daughter of Kaidu Khan, a royal descendent of Genghis Khan who is known in history as one of the most powerful military commanders and influential rulers. Khutulun was born as the cousin of Kublai Khan at the height of civil war in the vast Mongol empire. By the time she was born, the Mongols ruled the largest part of the world, a gift they got in inheritance from Genghis Khan, who was Khutulun’s great-great-grandfather. Khutulun was born in 1260 and by the time she was an adult, her father was ruling the entirety of Central Asia and large parts of India and Middle East as well. She grew up in the household with 14 brothers and hence, she received training in war-fares just like any other boy in the family. Her father was warring with her cousin Kublai Khan and the historical documents say that she was probably the fiercest warrior in her father’s army. Her father also trusted her counsel in the political matters as well. Although the identity of her husband has been a cause for debate among the historians, it is said that she wished to marry the man who could defeat her in wrestling and no man could ever beat her.
Khutulun was born at the very height of the Mongol Empire as the great-great-granddaughter of army general Genghis Khan. He was known for his military expertise and conquered several lands across Central Asia and Middle East. She was born in the year 1260 to father Kaidu Khan, who at the very prime of his life ruled central Asia, Mongolia, Siberia and a little part of India.
Mongols were warring people who lived like savages. Khutulun was the youngest of all her siblings, 14 brothers. As it was a norm in Mongol empire, patriarchy did not exist and the girls were as brave and open-minded as the males. Khutulun was no exception as she showed immense interest in learning the art of war. While those warriors were known to be riders and archers mainly, meaning they had to rely on their speed and accuracy to tackle their enemies, Khutulun made herself physically stronger.
As Marco Polo has written about her, she was able to beat down male wrestlers before she was even a teenager. Wrestling was also Mongol’s most popular pastime and sport and hence, her reputation travelled very fast. And her being the princess, when she came of age she became one of the most desirable women in the vast empire. She beat several powerful men in wrestling matches and there came a time, when she took on 2 men at the same time, emerging a winner.
She also learned horse riding and mastered the skills of sword-fighting and archery in less time. She accompanied her father Kaidu on small battles in her teen years and eventually, her presence became a sure shot sign of victory for her side. She grew up in the time of turmoil owing to the ongoing civil war perpetrated by a difference in intentions of her cousin Kublai Khan with Kaidu. Hence, her presence as a mythic and godly figure in the empire helped Kaidu earning support from many.
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By the time she turned 20, she turned into a beautiful young woman and a fierce warrior. Marco Polo described her in details. He wrote that she was a brave fighter who could snatch a captive from the battleground as fast as a hawk snatches its prey off the ground.
Her cousin Kublai Khan had established a very solid Yuan Dynasty in China by then and he was tired of the warmongering and savage ways of living the Mongols indulged in. He believed in society that was political in nature and decent, like the Roman Empire or the Indian empires. But Kaidu Khan was different when it came to that and he took it upon himself to safeguard the traditional Mongol way of life.
Kublai further started interfering in Kaidu’s matters and it was further rumoured that Kaidu had incestuous relationships with his daughter Khutulun. All this led to a brutal period where several battles took place. By then Khutulun was in her mid 20s and her bravery and warring skills led her father to victory in several battlegrounds.
As one of the most desirable princesses of the vast Mongol empire, Khutulun received quite a lot of marriage proposals but she refused to marry for a long time. Due to that, the rumours about her having sexual relations with her father were at an all time high. After her father’s insistence, she finally agreed to marry but she had few conditions, which presented another set of troubles for her father.
Marco Polo wrote that Khutulun wanted to marry a man who was more skilled and physically stronger than her. She rolled out the condition that she would marry the man who would beat her in wrestling. Over the next few years, several men tried their strength and luck with her, but nobody succeeded. The bet also said that the losers will pay her a fine of 100 horses. And in a couple of years, she was the owner of a horde of 10,000 horses!
She remained unmarried throughout her late 30s as no man was able to beat her in a wrestling match. This further worried her father who arranged a suitable match for her with a decent man. He was so confident about his wrestling skills that he put 1000 horses on line if she beat him. By the end of the wrestling match, Khutulun went home with 1000 more horses!
When it seemed almost impossible to find a perfect match for her, Khutulun decided to go soft on men. Although the accounts of her marriages are hazy, it is said that she married at-least twice. One of her grooms is said to be a war prisoner, whom she found ‘good-looking’ and other one was a soldier in her father’s army. Even at an age which was too late to get married, she chose the grooms as per her choice.
As the Successor
Due to obvious reasons, Khutulun was the favourite offspring of her father and he wanted to have her sitting on the throne after him. But naturally enough, she being a woman and the youngest of the siblings, it did not go down well with her brothers. Kaidu faced a strong resistance from all his sons. He died in 1301 and by that time, he had earned animosity from many of his own sons.
Temur Khan was finally the one to inherit the throne of the vast empire, which was about to crumble down. Khutulun guarded her father’s tomb for a few months after he passed away. Her brother Orus sided with her.
She did not want the throne for herself, but she did have some ideas about who must be the successor to her father. One of her relative Duwa also challenged to attain the throne along with her brother Chapar. Both of them faced solid resistance from Khutulun. Khutulun succeeded in keeping them away from the most powerful position in the entire kingdom. She passed away under unknown circumstances in 1306 at the age of 46.
It if was not for the historical accounts of Marco Polo, Khutulun would have been lost in the history. For a few centuries after her death, she remained mostly anonymous. But the 17th century writers, poets and folk singers kept her alive in the public consciousness.
She had a key appearance in Netflix’s series ‘Marco Polo’, where she is played by Claudia Kim.