Women whose sons ascended the throne as a monarch acquired the title of “Queen Mother /Sultana” (Valide Sultan) and moved from the Old Palace in Bayezit to the Topkapı Palace by means of a grand ceremony called the Queen Mother Procession (Valide Alayı). The powers of the Queen Mothers, considered the highest authority in charge of the Harem, rose significantly, in particular during the 17th century where many of the Sultans ascended the throne at very young age; thus leading to the occurrence of a period in the history of the dynasty referred to as the “Women’s Sultanate/Reign” (Kadınlar Saltanatı). However, the queen mothers whose ruling son died or was dethroned had to return to the Old Palace together with all their entourage, thus putting an end to their reign.
The Queen Mother’s Apartments initially commissioned by Sultan Murat III (1574-95) for his mother, Sultan Nurbanu, constitute the centre of the Harem. The unit was built by Court Architects Mimar Sinan and Davut Agha in the 1580’s but had to be renovated following the 1665 Harem fire. It received its present appearance following a series of repairs and additions made at different periods. The space where queen mothers spent their daily life consists of a hall entered through a small door on the left hand side, featuring a symbolic throne section called Shirvan (Şirvan) and a room for prayer which is adjacent to that hall. The walls of the hall, which is a domed space endowed with iwans is covered with 17th century Ottoman tiles. The upper parts of the walls were decorated in the 19th century with paintwork depicting panoramic views.
The outlook of the unit has changed when the apartments of Queen Mother Sultan Mihrişah, - the mother of Sultan Selim III - including a main hall, a prayer room and a balcony were built in the rococo style in 1789 on top of the existing structure. The original hall featuring the above-mentioned throne section with the Shirvan was then utilized also as a sleeping room. The walls of Sultan Mihrişah unit’s main hall are covered with the last high-quality examples of 17th century Iznik tile making. This room is lit through a rococo patterned vault with a round glass window. The access from this hall into the prayer room is effectuated through a passageway with a marble door jamb and an iron latticework. One of the walls is covered with a tiled panel featuring a depiction of the Holy Ka’bah (Turkish: Kâbe).