Selim II Biography

(Sultan of the Ottoman Empire)

Birthday: May 28, 1524 (Gemini)

Born In: Topkapi Palace Museum, İstanbul, Turkey

Selim II was the 11th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Unlike his predecessors, he was not keen to hold the title. He was neither authoritarian nor ambitious. He was more inclined toward worldly pleasures and spent most his time in his harem drinking wine. Due to this, he was given the title ‘Sarhoş Selim’ or ‘the Sod,’ meaning ‘Selim the Drunk.’ It was the tradition for a Sultan to raise his son to follow in his footsteps, but Selim II received no such training from his father because he was never seen as a future Sultan. He never received any mentoring in the military or government affairs and always remained disinterested in the Sultanate. Selim II’s reign is seen as a stark contrast as compared to his father, Suleiman the magnificent, whose rule was considered ideal. The Empire saw a slow decline as Selim was not able to neither honour the existing treaties nor make new ones. He relegated most of his responsibilities to his Grand Vizier (Chief Minister) because he had no interest in governance or stately affairs. He started the trend of Sultans not going to campaigns. Though his rule was short, it is remembered as unfortunate and incompetent.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Selim bin Suleiman, Sarı Selim or Sarhoş Selim

Died At Age: 50


Spouse/Ex-: Nurbanu Sultan (m. 1545)

father: Suleiman I

mother: Hurrem Sultan

siblings: Mihrimah Sultan, Raziye Sultan, Şehzade Abdullah, Şehzade Ahmed, Şehzade Bayezid, Şehzade Cihangir, Şehzade Mahmud, Şehzade Mehmed, Şehzade Murad, Şehzade Mustafa

children: Fatma Sultan, Gevherhan Sultan, Ismihan Sultan, Murad III, Şah Sultan, Şehzade Abdullah, Şehzade Cihangir, Şehzade Mehmed, Şehzade Mustafa, Şehzade Osman, Şehzade Süleyman

Born Country: Turkey

Emperors & Kings Turkish Men

Died on: December 15, 1574

Childhood & Early Life
Selim II was born to Suleiman the Magnificent and Hurrem Sultan on May 28, 1524 at Constantinople, modern day Istanbul.
Selim II’s mother, Hurrem Sultan, was a concubine. She later became Suleiman the Magnificent’s legal wife, as she was favoured by him.
He had four biological brothers- Şehzade Mehmed, Şehzade Abdullah, Şehzade Bayezid, and Şehzade Cihangir; and one sister, Mihrimah Sultan. He also had a half-brother, Şehzade Mustafa, who was considered heir apparent and future Sultan.
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Rise & Rule
Selim II became the Sultan on September 7, 1566, at the age of 42, after the death of his father, Suleiman the Magnificent, on the Hungarian front. His reign lasted for 8 years.
His accession was a result of Suleiman’s decision to get Şehzade Mustafa strangled and Şehzade Bayezid killed on account of betrayal and rebellion respectively. His elder brother, Mehmed, died of smallpox, while his youngest brother, Cihangir, died of grief from Mustafa’s assassination.
His son-in-law, Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, was his Grand Vizier (Chief Minister) and who controlled most of the affairs of the state, leaving him free to indulge in his harem at the great Topkapi Palace.
On February 17, 1568, two years after he became Sultan, he was able to reach an honourable treaty with Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II at Constantinople, thanks to his Grand Vizier. According to this treaty, the Emperor was to present 30, 000 ducats in gift to the Ottomans and give them authority over Moldavia and Walachia. This was a big development for the empire.
In 1569, Selim II’s naval fleet and Janissaries (infantry of the Ottomans) were sent to Astrakhan to siege it in order to construct a canal, connecting Volga and Don. Another Ottoman fleet was sent to siege Azov. This was for safeguarding the northern frontiers of the Ottoman Empire. However, the Astrakhan siege was unsuccessful. The workers were dispersed by a Russian relief army of 15000 and the Ottoman fleet was destroyed by a storm.
In 1570, a treaty was concluded at Istanbul by the ambassadors of Ivan IV of Russia, which restored friendly relations between the Tsar and the Sultan.
Selim II never went on any campaigns but under his rule, expeditions in the Hejaz and Yemen were successful.
The Ottomans faced a naval defeat against Spain and Italian states when they fought the ‘Battle of Lepanto’ in 1571 for the control of Cyprus. This shattered their naval fleets completely. The naval fleet was restored in a short period of six months so that the Ottomans could maintain their supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean region.
Under his rule, the Ottomans regained their control over Tunis, snatching it from Spain in August 1574.
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On the personal front, Selim II was instrumental in restoring the status and wealth of his step-mother, Mahidevran Sultan. His love for his half-brother Şehzade Mustafa is evident from his gesture of building a tomb in his memory, after he was executed in 1553.
Selim II died on December 15, 1574, because of head injuries sustained due to a fall. He was buried in a tomb at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. He was the first of the few Sultans who died in Istanbul.
Family & Personal Life
Selim II married Nurbanu Sultan in 1545 at Konya. Her origin is not clear but it is speculated that she was a Venetian.
He favoured Nurbanu Sultan and bestowed a dowry of 110, 000 ducats on her, which was even higher than what his father had bestowed on his mother, Hurrem Sultan.
He had a son,Murad III, and three daughters - Ismihan Sultan, Gevherhan Sultan, and Şah Sultan with Nurbanu Sultan. Ismihan Sultan was married to Sokollu Mehmed Pasha who was Selim II’s Grand Vizier.
Based on a citation by historian Leslie Pierce, Selim II had children from four other women. They bore him a son each and two more daughters - Fatma Sultan and Ayşe Sultan.
Murad III was his heir and succeeded him to the throne. Apart from him, Selim II had six sons - Şehzade Mehmed, Şehzade Abdullah, Şehzade Cihangir, Şehzade Mustafa, Şehzade Osman, and Şehzade Suleiman.
In Augusta Hamilton’s records, it has been mentioned that Selim II had two thousand concubines in his harem. He was infamous for debauchery and spent a lot of time at the harem in the Topkapi Palace.
Selim II was blonde so he is often called ‘Yellow Selim’ (Sarı Selim).
He was a well-educated royal and governed various provinces in Anatolia, before his father’s demise.
His status as Sultan remained till his death.
16th century famous poet Hubbi Hatun was lady-in-waiting to him.
In 1574, a large part of the kitchens of Topkapi Palace caught fire and was destroyed. He undertook the restoration of those parts under Chief Architect and Civil Engineer of the Ottoman Empire- Mimar Sinan.

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