Sunday, March 2, 2014



Hürrem Sultan ("the cheerful one"), from Ottoman Turkish, was known as Roxelana in European languages, as well as Roxolana, Roxolena, Roxelane, Rossa, and Ružica. Roxelana could be a nickname that plays on her Ukranian heritage, from the ancient Roxolani, meaning "bright alan," from the medieval kingdom Alania (by the way, Alania would make an excellent name option). In that case Roxelana would mean "the Ruthenian one," essentially "Ukranian." In Arabic she was known as Karima, "the noble one." It is possible her true name was either Aleksandra or Anastasia by way of Nastia. Roxelana has two known pronunciations: ROH-zell-ah-nah, and ROX-el-ah-nah, but I believe the first option is correct. 

In the 1520's Roxelana was captured by Crimean Tatars, and brought to the palace of Suleiman the Magnificent. It wasn't long before she was promoted from servant to consort of the Turkish Emperor. She was then freed from being a concubine, which broke from a 300 year tradition and probably shocked a few people, and became the Sultan's wife. Later her eldest living son become the next Sultan. We now regard her as one of the most powerful women in Ottoman Empire history. Another tradition was broken when her husband allowed her to sit in court with him, and she had a lot of say in politics. From a letter preserved by her husband it is evident he truly loved her, claiming she was his "most sincere friend, ...confidant, ...very existence, and only love."

So, although there isn't much to the name Roxelana itself, we do have a meaning for it and a legendary figure to give it historical substance. Many have chosen to paint her, write music in her name, write plays or operas about her, and some novels.

A look at White Pages tells us there could be about 7 people in the U.S. named Roxelana, making this a very rare name that can remind its bearer how powerful women are. As far as baby girl names go, Roxelana fits right in today, especially with the nickname Roxy.

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