Töregene Khatun: the Great Khatun of the Mongol Empire


Töregene Khatun (d. 1246) was the Great Khatun and regent of the Mongol Empire from her husband Gedei Khan's death in 1241 until the election of her eldest son Güyük Khan in 1246.


Töregene is a member of the Naiman tribe. Her first spouse came from the Merkit family. According to some sources, Qudu (d. 1217) was the son of Toqto'a Beki of the Merkits. Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, on the other hand, called her first spouse Dayir Usun of the Merkits. Töregene was given to gedei as his second bride when Genghis defeated the Merkits in 1204. Töregene gave birth to five boys, Güyük, Kötän, Köchü, Qarachar, and Qashi, while Ögedei first wife Boraqchin had none (father of Kaidu). She surpassed all of Ögedei wives in terms of power, and her influence among the court officials grew with time. Töregene, on the other hand, despised Ögedei officials and the policy of centralizing government and cutting taxes. In North China, Töregene funded the reprinting of the Taoist classics. In addition, töregene influenced gedei into appointing Abd-ur-Rahman as a tax farmer in China.

Great Khatun of the Mongol Empire

Soon after gedei died in 1241, authority was transferred to Möge Khatun, one of Ögedei widows and a former Genghis Khan's wife. Töregene seized full regency as Great Khatun in spring 1242, with the help of Chagatai and her sons. She replaced the authorities appointed by her late husband with her own. Another lady, Fatima, a Tajik or Persian prisoner from the Middle Eastern mission, was the most significant of them all. She was a Shiite Muslim who was exiled to Mongolia from the city of Meshed. She attempted to detain several of Ögedei top officials. Chinqai, her husband's top secretary, and Mahmud Yalavach, the administrator, escaped to her son Koden in North China, while Masud Begh, the Turkestani administrator, went to Batu Khan in Russia. In Iran, Töregene had Korguz detained and delivered to Chagatai's widow, whom he had disobeyed. He was executed by the Chagatayid Khan Qara Hülgü. In Persia, Töregene appointed Arghun Aqa of the Oirat as governor. Fatima grew even more influential at the Mongol court after placing Abd-ur-Rahman in general administration in North China. The Mongol aristocracy went into a frenzy of exorbitant income demands as a result of their acts.

Role in Mongol Conquests

Töregene maintained cordial ties with Ögedei Chinese commanders. The battles between the Mongols and Song forces took place in Chengdu's suburbs. Song imprisoned Töregene's envoys, who were sent to discuss peace. In 1242, the Mongols conquered Hangzhou and attacked Sichuan. Zhang Rou and Chagaan (Tsagaan) were dispatched to invade the Song Dynasty. When they pillaged Song land, the Song court dispatched a cease-fire delegation. After the Mongols accepted the arrangement, Chagaan and Zhang Rou returned north. The Seljuks of Rum offered Chormaqan friendship and a small tribute under the reign of Gedei. The Mongols began to pressure the Sultan to visit Mongolia in person, hand up hostages, and accept a Mongol darughachi under Kaykhusraw II. In 1240, Mongol attacks began. To confront them, Seljuk Sultan Kaykhusraw gathered a huge army. The Cilician Armenian monarch was expected to create 1400 lances, whereas the Greek Emperor of Nicaea was required to make 400 lances. In Kayseri, both rulers met with the Sultan to work out the specifics. The Grand Komnenos of Trebizond provided 200 horse riders, while the youthful Ayyubid ruler of Aleppo provided 1000. Kaykhusraw also led the Seljuq army and Turkmen irregular cavalry, both devastated by the Baba Ishak revolt. Baiju and his Georgian allies, on the other hand, destroyed them at the battle of Köse Da in 1243. Following the fight, the Sultanate of Rum, the Empire of Trebizond, and Lesser Armenia all proclaimed their allegiance to Töregene Khatun's Mongol Empire. In 1244–46, Mongol soldiers commanded by General Baiju investigated the forces of Abbasid Iraq and Ayubid-ruled Syria.

Güyük's Coronation

She was a display of authority in a culture where males had historically been the only ones in charge. Over a 5-year period in which she governed the kingdom and laid the ground for her son Güyük's accession as Great Khan, she managed to balance the many contending interests inside the empire, and even among the extended family of Genghis Khan's successors. From all across the empire, foreign dignitaries came to Töregene's palace at the Karakorum or her nomadic imperial camp throughout her reign. The Seljuk ruler, as well as delegates from the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad, came from Turkey. David Ulu, the late king's illegitimate son, and David Narin, the king's legitimate son, both made claims to the throne of Georgia. Alexander Nevsky's father, Grand Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich of Vladimir and Suzdal, was the highest-ranking European delegation, and he died mysteriously shortly after eating with Töregene Khatun. Polygamy was practised by the Mongols. Kochu, gedei Khan's favoured son via another woman, had been chosen to succeed when his father died suddenly in China in 1237, and gedei Khan had nominated Kochu's son Siremun to succeed him. However, some accounts claim that Khoch was Töregene's son and did not want Shiremun to succeed. Töregene objected to Güyük's selection, but she could not convince gedei to change his mind despite her tremendous power over him. She did, however, succeed in achieving her objectives through deception. After her husband's death, the minor khans named her regent, and she nominated her friends to important posts in the royal household, launching a successful plot to promote her son Güyük. When Genghis' younger brother, Temüge Otchigen, collected his soldiers and attempted unsuccessfully to usurp the throne, Güyük rushed to meet him. Töregene managed to prevent a Kurultai from being convened until the majority backed her son Güyük. In 1246, Töregene gave authority to her son Güyük. She left for Ögedei appanage on the Emil in the west. Despite her involvement in achieving Güyük's election as Khagan, Töregene and her son's relationship eventually fell apart. Güyük's brother Koden accused Fatima of employing witchcraft to harm his health. After Koden died a few months later, Güyük demanded that his mother deliver Fatima up to the authorities for death. Töregene warned Güyük, her son, that she would kill herself to spite him. Güyük's soldiers kidnapped Fatima and executed her by sewing up all of her orifices and drowning her; Töregene's followers in the imperial household were purged at the same time. Töregene died within 18 months of Fatima's death for reasons that are still unknown. In 1265-1266, Kublai called her Empress Zhaoci after her death.

In Popular Media

Cai Wenyan played her in Kublai Khan: The Legend of Kublai Khan (2013).

Last updated: 2021-October-12
Tags: Mongol Empire
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