Khourrem was born to a father who was a Ruthenian Orthodox priest, in what was then Poland (now Ukraine), possibly in Rohatyn. She was captured and taken to Istanbul in the 1520s as a slave, but was selected for Süleyman's Harem.
In the Harem, she gradually worked her way up to become Süleyman's favourite concubine. In 1534 she used her influence to have Süleyman's firstborn son, together with his mother, sent away to be a provincial governor, before apparently persuading Süleyman to have him strangled - see Süleyman the Magnificent for details.
Khourrem was to bear Süleyman five children and, in an astonishing break with tradition, eventually became his wife, leading to one of her sons inheriting the empire. Khourrem also acted as Süleyman's advisor on matters of state, and she was also active in foreign affairs and international politics.
Khourrem died on April 18 1558. She is buried in a mausoleum with her husband at the Süleymaniye Mosque.