MURAD III (1546-1595), was the eldest son of Selim II., and succeeded his father in 1574. His accession marks the definite beginning of the decline of the Ottoman power, which had only been maintained under Selim II. by the genius of the all-powerful grand vizier Mahommed Sokolli. For, though Sokolli remained in office until his assassination in October 1578, his authority was undermined by the harem influences, which with Murad III. were supreme. Of these the most powerful was that of the sultan's chief wife, named Safie (the pure), a beautiful Venetian of the noble family of Baffo, whose father had been governor of Corfu, and who had been captured as a child by Turkish corsairs and sold into the harem. This lady, in spite of the sultan's sensuality and of the efforts, temporarily successful, to supplant her in his favour, retained her ascendancy over him to the last. Murad had none of the qualities of a ruler. He was good-natured, though cruel enough on occasion: his accession had been marked by the murder, according to the custom then established, of his five brothers. His will-power had early been undermined by the opium habit, and was further weakened by the sensual excesses that ultimately killed him. Nor had he any taste for rule; his days were spent in the society of musicians, buffoons and poets, and he himself dabbled in verse-making of a mystic tendency.
His one attempt at reform, the order forbidding the sale of intoxicants so as to stop the growing intemperance of the janissaries, broke down on the opposition of the soldiery. He was the first sultan to share personally in the proceeds of the corruption which was undermining the state, realizing especially large sums by the sale of offices. This corruption was fatally apparent in the army, the feudal basis of which was sapped by the confiscation of fiefs for the benefit of nominees of favourites of the harem, and by the intrusion, through the same influences of foreigners and rayahs into the corps of janissaries, of which the discipline became more and more relaxed and the temper increasingly turbulent. In view of this general demoralization not even the victorious outcome of the campaigns in Georgia, the Crimea, Daghestan, Yemen and Persia (1578-1590) could prevent the decay of the Ottoman power; indeed, by weakening the Mussulman states, they hastened the process, since they facilitated the advance of Russia to the Black Sea and the Caspian.
Murad, who had welcomed the Persian War as a good opportunity for ridding himself of the presence of the janissaries, whom he dreaded, had soon cause to fear their triumphant return. Incensed by the debasing of the coinage, which robbed them of part of their pay, they invaded the Divan clamouring for the heads of the sultan's favourite, the beylerbey of Rumelia, and of the defterdar (finance minister), which were thrown to them (April 3, 1589). This was the first time that the janissaries had invaded the palace: a precedent to be too often followed. The outbreak of another European war in 1592 gave the sultan an opportunity of ridding himself of their presence. Murad died in 1595, leaving to his successor a legacy of war and anarchy.
It was under Murad III. that England's relations with the Porte began. Negotiations were opened in 1579 with Queen Elizabeth through certain British merchants; in 1580 the first Capitulations with England were signed; in 1583 William Harebone, the first British ambassador to the Porte, arrived at Constantinople, and in 1593 commercial Capitulations were signed with England granting the same privileges as those enjoyed by the French. (See CAPITULATIONS.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)