Obscure Historical Figure of the Day #5: Töregene Khatun

Continuing our regular series, today I’d like to introduce you to Töregene Khatun, the wife and widow of the Great Khan of the Mongols, Ogotai.

Ogotai was one of the sons of Genghis Khan, who –as I hope you know– created the largest and fiercest military empire in all of human history.  Upon the death of Genghis in 1227, Ogotai ascended to the horde’s leadership and pushed the empire into Europe and the Middle East.

But Ogotai died prematurely in 1241 at the age of 55, probably due to his extreme alcoholism.  And upon his death, the various sons and grandsons of Genghis argued over who should succeed him (probably saving Europe in the process).

Until the ascendancy of the next Great Khan, Guyuk, in 1246,  it fell to Ogotai’s widow  Töregene Khatun to administer the empire.

Let’s think about this for a second.  The Mongol empire of the 13th century was the greatest military prize in all of human history.  Seen relative to the capabilities of competitors of the day, there has never been a more lopsidedly powerful political force in all of civilization’s millennia.

And, for five years, a woman held this greatest of all prizes.  Yet how many of us have actually heard of her name?

So today we remember Töregene Khatun, perhaps the most powerful woman who ever lived.

Traditional Mongolian royalty. Apparently this inspired the Naboo costumes in the Star Wars prequels.
Traditional Mongolian royalty. Apparently this inspired the Naboo costumes in the Star Wars prequels.