Swiftly following her arrival in Istanbul, Hürrem’s power and status within the harem rose with the arrival of her firstborn son, Mehmed, in 1521. Mehmed’s birth symbolised unprecedented change; despite Ottoman customs, Hürrem remained a sexual partner to the Sultan and now she had supplanted Mahidevran Hatun as the favourite concubine. Hürrem would only continue to defy Ottoman customs as by 1531, she had birthed the Sultan a total of five Şehzades and a daughter, Mihrimah Sultan—something no other Imperial concubine had been permitted to do.
Ottoman Imperial custom dictated a concubine would cease intimate relations with the Sultan once she birthed a son henceforth she would dedicate her life to preparing him for future rule. Once he came of age, both he and his mother would be removed from the harem. Although she had born five sons, one of which did not live past infancy, Hürrem remained in the capital and continued her intimate relationship with the Sultan. This infuriated many within the harem. This only deepened when, circa.1526-1533, Sultan Süleyman surprised everyone by legally marrying Hürrem Sultan, freeing her from slavery and creating the Haseki Sultan title, giving her supreme authority over the entire harem and his subjects. Although she would not live long enough to become Valide Sultan, her power was far superior to any Valide Sultan who followed in her footsteps.
Hürrem’s intelligence and acute awareness prompted her to implement drastic changes within the harem and the Imperial court; the harem resided at Eski Saray, preventing close access to the Sultan, prompting Hürrem to relocate the harem to the Topkapi Palace, the Sultan’s main residence. This strategic move permitted not only Hürrem but her successors an exorbitant amount of power and influence not only the harem but events within the Imperial Court.
Quite soon after her permanent relocation to the Topkapi Palace, Hürrem had secret rooms built, providing unfettered access to the Sultan. Hürrem seized every opportunity she could to demonstrate to the Empire that the Sultan had only eyes for her. Ambassador Navagero commented that there had ‘never been, in the history of the Ottoman house, a lady that held more authority.’ From throwing tantrums over new women in the harem and the Sultan publicly declaring he would remain loyal only to her, Hürrem’s defiance and determination caused scandal throughout the 16th century. Numerous criminal accusations and negative depictions were made to dehumanise and frame her as a power-hungry murderer who was responsible for the Ottoman Empire’s fall. However, the legacy she left behind demonstrated the rise of a teenage slave into the most powerful woman of the Ottoman Empire.