The Day the Sultan Died

The Day the Sultan Died

On 6 September 1566, the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman, known as “The Magnificent” died. The next day the final battle of the Siege of Szigetvar began, Suleyman’s death being kept secret, and the Ottomans stormed the fortress.  The defending Croatian nobleman, Nikola Šubić Zrinsky, was killed as well, never knowing that he had survived longer than the legendary Sultan besieging his doorstep.

The Croatian warrior Ban Nikola Subic Zrinski, whose portrait looks straight out of a Bram Stoker illustration and who inspired a Croatian opera.

Suleyman’s Grand Vizier,  Mehmed Sokollu Pasha, forged the Sultan’s name to the victory notice and announced the 72-year-old monarch was unexpectedly ill and unable to continue the campaign.  He executed everyone around him who knew of Suleyman’s death and marched toward home, along the way sending word to Suleyman’s son Selim to ready his army in Belgrade.

The rotund Selim, son of Suleyman the Magnificent.

Finally, forty-eight days after the death of Suleyman the Magnificent, Mehmed Sokollu Pasha made his announcement.  The time had been well-spent in consolidating power, and Selim was able to ascend to the throne with minimal upheaval.

The legendary Grand Vizier Mehmed Sokollu Pasha, who outlived two Sultans and inspired the most famous Yugoslav novel ever written.

But who was this Grand Vizier who held the Ottoman Empire in his hands for over six weeks?  Born in Bosnia, near what is now Višegrad, the young Christian boy was seized in the periodic Ottoman  collections called the Devshirme.  Converted to Islam and trained as a Janissary, he rose to the heights of power in the Empire – the Balkan slave who ruled the Ottomans.

For more about Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, read our article The Balkan Ruler of the Ottomans.

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