The Mongol Empress Who Held Genghis Khan's Empire Together
March 15, 2018|Ariel Rodriguez
She took on the role of empress while her husband set out to conquer the world.
Genghis Khan is known around the world as one of the most powerful emperors that ever lived, but his first wife, Borte Ujin, was an amazing leader in her own right, and the story of her life is one of the best things you'll read today. Born in 1161 AD, and married to Khan at the age of 17, she was a skilled archer, mother of nine, her husband's most trusted adviser, and loved by her people. While Khan was out there conquering the world and creating one of the largest empires in history, she stayed in Mongolia, ruling with the wisdom of a true empress.
However, like many women before (and after) her, Borte didn’t choose to become an empress. Her fate was decided, first, by her father and brothers, and later by her husband. When she was only 10 years old, her father, the leader of the Konyrat tribe engaged her to the son of the Kiyat-Bordzhigin family, Temujin, who would later come to be known as Genghis Khan. They waited until they turned 17 (the minimum age to consummate their marriage) to get married, and then Khan took Borte to live with him. According to historical records, this was the start of a stable, lifelong relationship that survived Khan marrying other women and having secret affairs. As his first wife, she advised him on many issues and conflicts, and he would rely on her wisdom to make tough decisions.
Mongolian women, in general, raised cattle, rode horses, and shot arrows alongside men. As a matter of fact, Borte was known for her archery skills, and it is also said that Borte was the one who advised her husband to separate from Jamukha when Mongolian tribes sought to unify. From then on, her opinion mattered more than anyone else’s.
As her husband's most trusted adviser, she is a key figure in history, even if her name hasn't made it to many history books, and she certainly contributed a lot to her husband's legacy. He united the tribes and created the Mongol empire, one of the largest in history, which lasted from the 13th to the 14th century and stretched all the way from Siberia to the Levant. The skilled warrior and strategist, earned his name Genghis, which means “universe leader,” thanks to his unprecedented achievements, but his greatness was due in part to Borte.
Borte’s children and grandchildren continued ruling after she and Khan passed away. For instance, her grandson, Kublai Khan, became the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty in China. This shows how Borte, despite being born at a time when she didn't have the same rights as a man, was still able to overcome many challenges and have her name written down in history. Unfortunately, more details about her personality and character are nearly impossible to find, but the few records we have of her tell us that she was a respected leader loved by everyone in her land.
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