Queen Mandukhai Khatun, also known as Mandukhai Sechen Khatun, was a Mongolian Empress. The word ‘Khatun’ is the female form of the word ‘Khan’, as in Genghis Kahn, which she earned by reuniting the warring Mongol tribes.
The future queen was born in 1449, the only daughter of Chorosbai, grand counsellor of the Ongud Mongols in eastern Mongolia.
At the age of eighteen, she married Manduul Khan, who ruled the Mongol Empire from 1473 to 1479. She was his third wife and bore him two daughters which gave her precedence over his childless first wife.
Manduul Khan died after three years of marriage, poisoned by his advisor Esmel who was a spy for the Ming dynasty, and as he had no clear heir, this prompted a power struggle among the Mongolian princes at to who should replace him as Khan.
The last remaining descendant of Genghis Khan was a seven-year-old orphan who Queen Mandukhai brought from hiding to be proclaimed Dayan Khan, and when the boy turned nineteen, she married him making herself Khatun or empress.
But the disparate Mongol tribes lived in an almost constant state of civil war and it was Queen Mandukhai who brought this to an end. Older and wiser than the young Khan, she wielded great influence both in court and in military matters and together they led their army in the field against the rebelling Oirats in western Mongolia.
Queen Mandukhai was also at the head of the army when they fought the Mings, even while she was pregnant with her twin sons, and from 1480 the pressure she put on the Ming dynasty directly led to a rapid expansion of the Great Wall of China.
Queen Mandukhai died in 1510. Legend has it that she was murdered, either by a Ming agent or one of her husband’s concubines, but it is more likely that she died of natural causes. What is for certain, she left seven sons and three daughters and all the later khans and nobles of Mongolia are her descendants.