Mandukhai Khatun was empress of the Northern Yuan Dynasty (also known as Post-Imperial Mongolia) during the late 15th century. Khatun is the female honorific equivalent to Khan, meaning ‘military ruler’.
Sole daughter of an aristocratic Ongud family, Mandukhai was married at the age of 18 to Manduul Khan, ruler of the Mongol Empire. She bore one daughter to Manduul, increasing her seniority over his other childless wife. However when Manduul was assassinated in 1479 the empire was left with no recognised heir. Mandukhai then adopted the 7-year-old orphan Batmunkh, the last living descendant of the legendary Genghis Khan. Mandukhai named Batmunkh as “Dayan Khan” and through him became effective ruler of the Mongolian empire.
Under Mandhukai’s leadership the empire went to war with the the Oirats in Western Mongolia and defeated them to great acclaim. In doing so she united the warring Mongolian tribes and instituted a number of codes to enforce the Oirat’s loyalty.
Mandukhai refused the marriage offer of one of her generals and instead married Dayan Khan when he reached the age of 19. Together the two led raids against Ming China in response to Chinese attempts to strangle the Mongols by closing trade. To contain her, the Chinese expanded the Great Wall and deployed gunpowder artillery, but this did not deter the raiding. The pair also had to contend with an Oirat rebellion, during which Mandukhai fought in the battles personally, even though she was pregnant with twins.
Mandukhai died in 1510 of natural causes according to most sources, although some legends claim she was murdered by Ming agents. In her life she bore seven sons and three daughters, and it was from her line that successive khans and nobles of Mongolia were descended.