Khatun (Grand Empress) of the Mongol Empire
Born c. 1161 – Died 1230
Claim to fame: despite being abducted and held captive, Börte went on to become a powerful woman, the head of the first Court of Genghis Khan and Khatun, or Grand Empress of his Empire.
Börte married Temüjin (later known as Genghis Khan) at age seventeen but was kidnapped soon after by a rival tribe, the Mergids. She remained captive for eight months before she was rescued by Temüjin. Some scholars consider her rescue, which saw the utter defeat of the Mergids, as one of the key crossroads in Temüjin’s life which led to his future as a conqueror. Shortly after her rescue, Börte gave birth to a son, Jochi, but the paternity of the child was uncertain given that her captor had forced himself on her. Fortunately, Temüjin claimed Jochi as his son.
When Temüjin became the Great Khan, Börte became the Khatun and helped rule the Mongol homeland during the Khan’s long absences. She was among the Khan’s most trusted advisors, the head of his first court and ruler of her own territory along the Kherlen River. She was considered to be intelligent and diplomatic, traits which garnered her great esteem from the Mongol people.
Börte’s four sons, five daughters and their descendants were the key bloodline of the Mongol Empire.
She is rumoured to have said of her husband: “He’s afraid of me – and of dogs, too.”
NB: As I could find no reliable image of Börte, I have included these images of other Khatuns who were her near contemporaries and can be seen wearing distinctive gugu headdresses.
Sources: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.