Abdulaziz was the 32nd Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and reigned between 25 June 1861 and 30 May 1876. He was the son of Sultan Mahmud II and succeeded his brother Abdulmejid I in 1861.
Born at Eyüp Palace, Constantinople, on 8 February 1830, Abdülaziz received an Ottoman education but was nevertheless an ardent admirer of the material progress that was made in the West. He was the first Ottoman Sultan who travelled to Western Europe, visiting a number of important European capitals including Paris, London and Vienna in the summer of 1867.
Apart from his passion for the Ottoman Navy, which had the world's third largest fleet in 1875, the Sultan took an interest in documenting the Ottoman Empire. He was also interested in literature and was a talented classical music composer. Some of his compositions, together with those of the other members of the Ottoman dynasty, have been collected in the album European Music at the Ottoman Court by the London Academy of Ottoman Court Music. He was deposed on grounds of mismanaging the Ottoman economy on 30 May 1876, and was found dead six days later under unnatural and mysterious circumstances.
Early lifeHis parents were Mahmud II and Pertevniyal Sultan, originally named Besime, a Circassian. In 1868 Pertevniyal was residing at Dolmabahçe Palace. That year Abdülaziz took the visiting Eugénie de Montijo, Empress of France, to see his mother. Pertevniyal considered the presence of a foreign woman within her private quarters of the seraglio to be an insult. She reportedly slapped Eugénie across the face, which almost caused an international incident. According to another account, Pertevniyal was outraged by the forwardness of Eugénie in taking the arm of one of her sons while he gave a tour of the palace garden, and she gave the Empress a slap on the stomach as a possibly more subtly intended reminder that they were not in France.
The Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque was built under the patronage of his mother. The construction work began in November 1869 and the mosque was finished in 1871.
His paternal grandparents were Sultan Abdul Hamid I and Sultana Nakşidil Sultan. Several accounts identify his paternal grandmother with Aimée du Buc de Rivéry, a cousin of Empress Joséphine. Pertevniyal was a sister of Khushiyar Qadin, third wife of Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt. Khushiyar and Ibrahim were the parents of Isma'il Pasha.
ReignBetween 1861 and 1871, the Tanzimat reforms which began during the reign of his brother Abdulmejid I were continued under the leadership of his chief ministers, Mehmed Fuad Pasha and Mehmed Emin Âli Pasha. New administrative districts were set up in 1864 and a Council of State was established in 1868. Public education was organized on the French model and Istanbul University was reorganised as a modern institution in 1861. He was also integral in establishing the first Ottoman civil code.
with the arms of Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, Siege of Rhodes. Caliber: 140mm, length: 339cm, weight: 2533kg, ammunition: 10kg iron ball. Remitted by Abdülaziz to Napoleon III in 1862.
Abdülaziz cultivated good relations with the Second French Empire and the British Empire. In 1867 he was the first Ottoman sultan to visit Western Europe; his trip included a visit to the Exposition Universelle in Paris and a trip to the United Kingdom, where he was made a Knight of the Garter by Queen Victoria and shown a Royal Navy Fleet Review with Ismail Pasha. He travelled by a private rail car, which today can be found in the Rahmi M. Koç Museum in Istanbul. His fellow Knights of the Garter created in 1867 were Charles Gordon-Lennox, 6th Duke of Richmond, Charles Manners, 6th Duke of Rutland, Henry Somerset, 8th Duke of Beaufort, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Franz Joseph I of Austria and Alexander II of Russia.
Also in 1867, Abdülaziz became the first Ottoman Sultan to formally recognize the title of Khedive to be used by the Vali of the Ottoman Eyalet of Egypt and Sudan, which thus became the autonomous Ottoman Khedivate of Egypt and Sudan. Muhammad Ali Pasha and his descendants had been the governors of Ottoman Egypt and Sudan since 1805, but were willing to use the higher title of Khedive, which was unrecognized by the Ottoman government until 1867. In return, the first Khedive, Ismail Pasha, had agreed a year earlier to increase the annual tax revenues which Egypt and Sudan would provide for the Ottoman treasury. Between 1854 and 1894, the revenues from Egypt and Sudan were often declared as a surety by the Ottoman government for borrowing loans from British and French banks. After the Ottoman government declared a sovereign default on its foreign debt repayments on 30 October 1875, which triggered the Great Eastern Crisis in the empire's Balkan provinces that led to the devastating Russo-Turkish War and the establishment of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration in 1881, the importance for Britain of the sureties regarding the Ottoman revenues from Egypt and Sudan increased. Combined with the much more important Suez Canal which was opened in 1869, these sureties were influential in the British government's decision to occupy Egypt and Sudan in 1882, with the pretext of helping the Ottoman-Egyptian government to put down the ʻUrabi Revolt. Egypt and Sudan nominally remained Ottoman territories until 5 November 1914, when the British Empire declared war against the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
In 1869, Abdülaziz received visits from Eugénie de Montijo, Empress consort of Napoleon III of France and other foreign monarchs on their way to the opening of the Suez Canal. The Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, twice visited Istanbul.
By 1871 both Mehmed Fuad Pasha and Mehmed Emin Âli Pasha were dead. The Second French Empire, his Western European model, had been defeated in the Franco-Prussian War by the North German Confederation under the leadership of the Kingdom of Prussia. Abdülaziz turned to the Russian Empire for friendship, as unrest in the Balkan provinces continued. In 1875, the Herzegovinian rebellion was the beginning of further unrest in the Balkan provinces. In 1876, the April Uprising saw insurrection spreading among the Bulgarians. Ill feeling mounted against Russia for its encouragement of the rebellions.
While no one event led to his being deposed, the crop failure of 1873 and his lavish expenditures on the Ottoman Navy and on new palaces which he had built, along with mounting public debt, helped to create an atmosphere conducive to his being overthrown. Abdülaziz was deposed by his ministers on 30 May 1876.
DeathAbdülaziz's death at Çırağan Palace in Istanbul a few days later was documented as a suicide.
Following Sultan Abdülaziz's dethronement, he was taken into a room at Topkapi Palace. This room happened to be the same room that Sultan Selim III was murdered in. The room caused him to be concerned for his life and he subsequently requested to be moved to Beylerbeyi Palace. His request was denied for the palace was considered inconvenient for his situation and he was moved to Feriye Palace instead. He nevertheless had grown increasingly nervous and paranoid about his security. In the morning of June 5, Abdülaziz asked for a pair of scissors to trim his beard. Shortly after this he was found dead in a pool of blood flowing from two wounds in his arms.
Several physicians were allowed to examine his body. Among which "Dr. Marco, Nouri, A. Sotto, Physician attached to the Imperial and Royal Embassy of Austria‐Hungary; Dr. Spagnolo, Marc Markel, Jatropoulo, Abdinour, Servet, J. de Castro, A. Marroin, Julius Millingen, C. Caratheodori; E. D. Dickson, Physician of the British Embassy; Dr. O. Vitalis, Physician of the Sanitary Board; Dr. E. Spadare, J. Nouridjian, Miltiadi Bey, Mustafa, Mehmed" certified that the death had been “caused by the loss of blood produced by the wounds of the blood‐vessels at the joints of the arms” and that “the direction and nature of the wounds, together with the instrument which is said to have produced them, lead us to conclude that suicide had been committed.” One of those physicians also stated that “His skin was very pale, and entirely free from bruises, marks or spots of any kind whatever. There was no lividity of the lips indicating suffocation nor any sign of pressure having been applied to the throat.”
Assasination ClaimsThere are several sources claiming the death of Abdulaziz was due to an assasination.
Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, an Islamist ideologue, well-known for with his rather extreme antisemitist ideas, was the first author significantly referring to the death of Abdulaziz as an assasination. He claimed that it was a clandestine operation carried out by the Great Britain and its proxies with an anti-Islamic motivation, stating “the English being the greatest enemy of Islam” as a reason.
Another similar claim is based on the book of "memoirs by Sultan Abdulhamid II." In the book, Abdulhamid claims that Sultan Murad V had begun to show signs of paranoia, madness, and continuous fainting and vomiting until the day of his coronation, and he even threw himself into a pool yelling at his guards to protect his life. High ranked politicians of the time were afraid the public would become outraged and revolt to bring back Abdulaziz to the power. Thus, they arranged the assasination of Abdulaziz by cutting his wrists and announced that he committed suicide.”
This book of memoir is commonly referred to as a first hand testimony of the assasination of Abdulaziz. Yet it's proven, later on, that Abdulhamid II never wrote nor dictated such a document. The book turned out to be merely a fraud, possibly produced by political-islamist motivations in the secularist republic era.
A photograph published in the book “Hatıra-i Uhuvvet: Portre Fotoğraflarının Cazibesi 1846-1950” by Bahattin Öztuncay has also had a considerable attention of the conspiracy theorists. In the photograph, Abdulaziz, presumably after being overthrown, is seen sitting in front of the camera. On his both sides, two men are standing and one of which is seen with an alleged Masonic hidden hand gesture. Even though there’s nothing asserts any violence in the photograph, it’s presented as the proof of the assasination, possibly because leaning on former sultan’s chair is considered disrespectful and popular islamist belief that the Freemasonry is based on Judaism seems to serve as the confirmation bias in the matter.
A possible yet unlikely murder or assasination of Abdulaziz seems not proven. And as characteristic examples of conservative and populist political approach to the history, these claims have gained a certain rising popularity in Turkey for decades, mainly as arguments of political propaganda, rather than academic works aiming to reveal historical facts.
- Abdülaziz gave special emphasis on modernizing the Ottoman Navy. In 1875, the Ottoman Navy had 21 battleships and 173 warships of other types, ranking as the third largest navy in the world after the British and French navies. His passion for the Navy, ships and sea can be observed in the wall paintings and pictures of the Beylerbeyi Palace on the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul, which was constructed during his reign. However, the large budget for modernizing and expanding the Navy contributed to the financial difficulties which caused the Porte to declare a sovereign default with the "Ramazan Kanunnamesi" on 30 October 1875. The subsequent decision to increase agricultural taxes for paying the Ottoman public debt to foreign creditors triggered the Great Eastern Crisis in the empire's Balkan provinces, which culminated in the Russo-Turkish War that devastated the already struggling Ottoman economy, and the establishment of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration in 1881, during the early years of Sultan Abdülhamid II's reign.
- The first Ottoman railroads were opened between İzmir–Aydın and Alexandria–Cairo in 1856, during the reign of Sultan Abdulmejid I. The first large railway terminal within present-day Turkey, the Alsancak Terminal in Izmir, was opened in 1858. However, these were individual, unconnected railroads, without a railway network. Sultan Abdülaziz established the first Ottoman railway networks. On 17 April 1869, the concession for the Rumelia Railway which connected Istanbul to Vienna was awarded to Baron Maurice de Hirsch, a Bavaria-born banker from Belgium. The project foresaw a railway route from Istanbul via Edirne, Plovdiv and Sarajevo to the shore of the Sava River. In 1873, the first Sirkeci Terminal in Istanbul was opened. The temporary Sirkeci terminal building was later replaced with the current one which was built between 1888 and 1890 and became the final destination terminus of the Orient Express. In 1871, Sultan Abdülaziz established the Anatolia Railway. Construction works of the on the Asian side of Istanbul, from Haydarpaşa to Pendik, began in 1871. The line was opened on 22 September 1872. The railway was extended to Gebze, which opened on 1 January 1873. In August 1873 the railway reached Izmit. Another railway extension was built in 1871 to serve a populated area along Bursa and the Sea of Marmara. The Anatolia Railway was then extended to Ankara and eventually to Mesopotamia, Syria and Arabia during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II, with the completion of the Baghdad Railway and Hejaz Railway.
- Under his reign, Turkey's first postage stamps were issued in 1863, and the Ottoman Empire joined the Universal Postal Union in 1875 as a founding member.
- He also was responsible for the first civil code for the Ottoman Empire.
- He was the first Ottoman sultan who travelled to Western Europe. His voyage in visiting order : Istanbul – Messina – Naples – Toulon – Marseille – Paris – Boulogne – Dover – London – Dover – Calais – Brussels – Koblenz – Vienna – Budapest – Orșova – Vidin – Ruse – Varna – Istanbul.
- Impressed by the museums in Paris, London and Vienna which he visited in the summer of 1867, he ordered the establishment of an Imperial Museum in Istanbul: the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.
- He was made the 756th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1867 and the 127th Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword.
- Dürrünev Kadın, married at Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace in 1856, and had issue:
- *Şehzade Yusuf Izzeddin ;
- **Şehzade Mehmed Bahaeddin ;
- **Hatice Şükriye Sultan ;
- **Şehzade Mehmed Nizameddin ;
- **Mihriban Mihrişah Sultan ;
- *Fatma Saliha Sultan ;
- Hayranidil Kadın, married at Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace in 1861, and had issue:
- *Caliph Abdulmejid II ;
- **Şehzade Ömer Faruk ;
- **Ayşe Hatice Hayriye Dürrüşehvar Sultan ;
- *Nazime Sultan ;
- Edadil Kadın, married at Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace in 1861, and had issue:
- *Şehzade Mahmud Celaleddin ;
- *Şehzade Mehmed Selim ;
- *Emine Sultan ;
- Nesrin Kadın, married at Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace in 1868, and had issue:
- *Şehzade Mehmed Şevket ;
- **Şehzade Mehmed Cemaleddin ;
- *Emine Sultan ;
- Gevheri Kadın, married at Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace in 1872, and had issue:
- *Şehzade Mehmed Seyfeddin ;
- **Şehzade Mehmed Abdülaziz ;
- **Şehzade Mahmud Şevket ;
- **Şehzade Ahmed Tevhid ;
- **Fatma Gevheri Sultan ;
- *Esma Sultan ;