Map of the Mongol Empire during the time of Ibaqa. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Katia Wright

Ibaqa (or Ibaka) Beki (princess) of the Kereit (or Khereid) Tribe was a junior wife of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, married in 1204. Ibaqa was the daughter of Jaqa Gambu, the young uncle of Ong Qan leader of the Kereit tribe. When Ong Qan refused a double marriage between two of Chinggis Khan’s children, and two of his own, war broke out with Chinggis Khan appearing as victor. Jaqa Gambu, who had a friendship with Genghis Khan, stayed out of the fighting and offered his daughters as a way to complete the original marriage union. Ibaqa, the eldest of Jaqa Gambu’s daughters, married Genghis Khan, and two of her sisters, Begtütmish and Sorqoqtani married two of Chinggis Khan’s sons, Jochi and Tolui, respectively.

Ibaqa and her sisters formed a strong Kereit network at the highest political levels, thus maintaining a connection to their tribe that had been conquered, dismantled, and scattered, by Chinggis Khan. However, Ibaqa did not retain her position of power for long. In 1206 Chinggis Khan suddenly remarried Ibaqa to Jürchedei of the Uru’ut Tribe. The reason behind this remarriage is unclear with some claiming Ibaqa was a reward for Jürchedei’s successes in battle, and others arguing that Chinggis Khan wanted to politically separate himself from Jaqa Gambu who may have betrayed him.

Interestingly, despite the divorce, Chinggis Khan insisted that Ibaqa keep her status and position as khatun (queen) and asked for a token to remember her by. Ibaqa had no choice but to accept her new husband, with whom she had several children and moved to Northern China. Yet, despite these changes, Ibaqa continued to return to Mongolia every year to renew her important connections and maintain the Kereit network of women with her sisters.

Ibaqa is mentioned only once more in the sources: when she was accused in December 1241 of poisoning Ögedei Khan at an ordo (camp) where she and her unnamed son acted as cup bearers. She was saved by the defense of a loyal commander, Eljigidei, whose testimony resulted in her release. Little else is known of Ibaqa’s life, her marriage to Jürchedei, and even the date of her death.

Recommended Reading

Anne F. Broadbridge, Women and the Making of the Mongol Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Jack Weatherford, The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued his Empire (New York: Broadway Books, 2010).

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