The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford Read Free Book Online

Book: The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jack Weatherford
new law and established a supreme judge to preside over its implementation. He rewarded his friends, allies, brothers, mother, and even strangers who had performed outstanding services for him.
    Oddly, one of the first pressing pieces of business was a divorce, and even stranger was the reluctance with which Genghis Khan felt compelled to make it. His former ally Jaka Gambu had perceived Genghis Khan as the means by which he, Jaka Gambu, would replace his brother Ong Khan as the supreme leader on the steppe. Although he had married his daughter Ibaka to Genghis Khan, Jaka Gambu had no intention of sharing power, and after the defeat of Ong Khan, the two allies quickly turned against each other. The marriage had been made for political reasons, and when Jaka Gambu betrayed the Mongols, Genghis Khan’s marriage with the rebel’s daughter needed to be broken for political reasons.
    In separating from her, Genghis Khan made one of the most emotional statements recorded in his life when he said, “You have entered into my heart and limbs.” He had to divorce her to show that even the Great Khan obeyed the laws and yielded his personal desires to theneeds of the state. “I did not say that you have a bad character,” he explained to her, nor that “in looks and appearance you are ugly.” He made the best possible marriage he could for her outside of his family by marrying her to one of his top generals and closest friends. “I present you to Jurchedei in deference to the great principle.” To show the sincerity of his words and his high regard for her, he allowed her to keep her rank as queen, and he ordered his family to always honor her fully as a queen, as though she were still married to him. He ordered that even after his death they should treat her as his queen so they would remember that they, as he, must obey the law. “In the future, when my descendants sit on our throne, mindful of the principle regarding services that have thus been rendered, they should not disobey my words.” As a further kindness toward Ibaka and her sister Sorkhokhtani, he allowed the latter to remain married to young Tolui, a decision that would later have dramatic consequences for the imperial dynasty.
    Having punished one rival, Genghis Khan set about rewarding those who had been most loyal to him. His most pressing task as the new ruler of all the tribes was to divide up all the conquered lands and assign rulers to them. He did not give these lands to his sons or his generals; he gave all of them to his wives.
    Each wife would rule her own territory and manage her own independent
ordo
, “court” (sometimes written as
ordu)
. Borte Khatun received most of the Kherlen River, much of which had once belonged to the Tatars, with her
ordo
at Khodoe Aral near the Avarga stream that had formerly been held by the Jurkin clan. Khulan Khatun received the Khentii Mountains around Mount Burkhan Khaldun, which was the Mongol homeland. Yesui Khatun received the Tuul River, including the summer
ordo
of the Kereyid ruler, Ong Khan. Her elder sister, Yesugen Khatun, received the Khangai Mountains, which had been the territory of the Naiman.
    Genghis Khan handed over the already conquered territories to his wives because now he was about to begin a new round of conquests, and for this he needed a new set of allies. A major part of the work that summer consisted in granting new marriages, ratifying marriages thathad already been agreed to, and formally sanctifying some that had already occurred. He had won the wars by fighting, but now Genghis Khan sought to ensure peace through a thick network of marriage alliances. Traditionally, steppe khans took a wife from each of their vassal clans, but Genghis Khan never had more than four wives at a time. Borte always remained the chief one, and her children assumed precedence over all others.
    Rather than taking a large number of wives, Genghis Khan sought to make marriage alliances for his children instead.

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