Abdulmejid I: 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Abdulmejid I: 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire


Abdulmejid I was the Ottoman Empire's 31st Sultan, succeeding Mahmud II on 2 July 1839. The development of nationalist groups within the empire's borders was significant during his rule. Abdulmejid intended to promote Ottomanism among separatist subject countries and quell increasing nationalism movements within the kingdom. Still, his attempts failed despite new laws and reforms to better integrate non-Muslims and non-Turks into Ottoman culture. He attempted to form alliances with Western European great countries like the United Kingdom and France, who fought with the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War against Russia. The Ottoman Empire was officially admitted to the European family of states at the Congress of Paris on 30 30 March 1856. Abdulmejid's most tremendous success was the declaration and implementation of his father's Tanzimat reforms, which essentially began the Ottoman Empire's modernisation in 1839. The March of Abdulmejid, one of the Ottoman Empire's Imperial anthems, was named after him to recognise his achievements.

Abdulmejid I

31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire


2 July 1839 – 25 June 1861


Mahmud II



Grand Viziers

  • Husrev Pasha
  • Sadık Rıfat Pasha
  • Mehmed Emin Rauf Pasha
  • Ibrahim Sarim Pasha
  • Topal Izzet Mehmed Pasha
  • Mustafa Reşid Pasha
  • Mehmed Emin Âli Pasha
  • Damat Mehmed Ali Pasha
  • Mustafa Naili Pasha
  • Kıbrıslı Mehmed Emin Pasha
  • Mehmed Rushdi Pasha


25 April 1823


25 June 1861 (aged 38)


Yavuz Selim Mosque, Fatih, Istanbul


  • Servetseza Kadın
  • Tirimüjgan Kadın
  • Düzdidil Kadın
  • Şevkefza Sultan
  • Zeynifelek Hanım
  • Gülcemal Kadın
  • Verdicenan Kadın
  • Perestu Sultan
  • Nükhetsezâ Hanım
  • Mahitab Kadın
  • Nesrin Hanım
  • Nergizev Hanım
  • Bezmiara Kadın
  • Nalandil Hanım
  • Ceylanyar Hanım
  • Serfiraz Hanım
  • Şayeste Hanım
  • Navekmisal Hanım
  • Gülüstü Hanım




Mahmud II


Bezmiâlem Sultan


Sunni Islam

Early Life

Abdulmejid was born in Istanbul on 25 25 April 1823, in either the Beşiktaş Sahil Palace or the Topkapı  Palace. Valide Sultan Bezmiâlem, originally called Suzi (1807 to 1853), his father's first wife in 1839, was possibly a Circassian or Georgian slave. Abdulmejid was the first Sultan to obtain a European education and speak fluent French. He, like his successor Abdülaziz, was a fan of literature and classical music. Like his father, Mahmud II, he was a reformer and benefited from the backing of progressive viziers such as Mustafa Reşit Pasha, Mehmet Emin Ali Paşa, and Fuad Pasha. Abdulmejid was also the first Sultan to listen to the public's concerns without any middlemen on special reception days, which were generally held every Friday. In addition, Abdulmejid took a tour of the empire's regions to examine how the Tanzimat reforms were being implemented firsthand. In 1844, he visited İzmit, Mudanya, Bursa, Gallipoli, Çanakkale, Lemnos, Lesbos, and Chios, and in 1846, he visited the Balkan regions.


The Ottoman Empire's affairs were in a precarious situation when Abdulmejid ascended to the throne on 2 2 July 1839, at the age of sixteen, when he was young and inexperienced. The word reached Istanbul that the empire's army had just been beaten at Nizip by the army of the rebel Egyptian viceroy, Muhammad Ali after his father died at the commencement of the Egyptian–Ottoman War. At the same time, the empire's navy was on its route to Alexandria, where its commander, Ahmed Fevzi Pasha, turned it over to Muhammad Ali under the guise that the young Sultan's counsellors had sided with Russia. Muhammad Ali was forced to come to terms with the Ottoman Empire after European countries intervened during the Oriental Crisis of 1840. The Ottoman Empire was rescued from future invasions while its lands in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine were recovered. At the London Convention, the terms were finalised (1840). The Sultan and vükela lavished lavish hospitality to Egyptian governor Mehmed Ali Pasha, who arrived in Istanbul on the monarch's official invitation on 19 19 July 1846. So much so that in 1845, the previous vizier constructed the Galata bridge to allow him to drive between Beşiktaş Palace and Babıali. Abdulmejid promptly carried out the changes to which Mahmud II had dedicated himself, as per his father's specific orders. The Hatt-ı Șerif of Gülhane, also known as Tanzimat Fermanı, was declared in November 1839, consolidating and implementing these changes. The decree was reinforced by similar legislation known as the Hatt-ı Hümayun, published in February 1856 at the end of the Crimean War. These enactments guaranteed that all classes of the Sultan's subjects' lives and property would be safeguarded, that taxes would be imposed equitably, and justice would be administered impartially, and that everyone would enjoy complete religious liberty and equal civil rights. The program was greeted with fierce hostility from the Muslim ruling classes and the ulema, or religious authorities, and was only partially implemented, particularly in the empire's outlying regions. As a result, more than one plot against the Sultan's life was devised. Abdulmejid advocated for the following policies:

  • The first Ottoman paper banknotes are issued (1840)
  • The army was reorganised, and conscription was introduced (1842–1844).
  • Adoption of a national anthem and flag for the Ottoman Empire (1844)
  • Restructuring of the financial system based on the French model
  • The Civil and Criminal Codes are being reorganised following the French paradigm.
  • The judicial system was reorganised, and a method of civil and criminal courts was established, with European and Ottoman justices.
  • The Meclis-i Maarif-i Umumiye, the precursor of the First Ottoman Parliament, was established in 1845. (1876)
  • Establishment of a public instruction council (1846)
  • The Ministry of Education was established.
  • Plans to eliminate slave markets  (1847)
  • The construction of a Protestant chapel (1847)
  • Modern universities and academies are being established (1848)
  • In Paris, an Ottoman school is established.
  • Abolition of the capitation tax, which charged non-Muslims greater charges (1856)
  • Non-Muslims were permitted to serve in the Ottoman army (1856)
  • Various provisions for improved public service management and the growth of trade
  • The freedom to own land has been confirmed by new land laws (1858)

Another significant development was the outlawing of the turban in favour of the fez for the first time during Abdulmejid's rule. The Court embraced European trends as well. (The same Republican National Assembly overthrew the sultanate and declared the Turkish Republic in 1923 also banned the fez in 1925.) According to Cyrus Hamlin's memoirs, Sultan Abdulmejid awarded Samuel Morse an Order of Glory for his contributions to the telegraph, which he got after personally testing Morse's new invention. After the failed Hungarian insurrection in 1849, Kossuth and others took sanctuary in Turkey, where Austria and Russia pressured the Sultan to hand them up, but he resisted. He would also not let the assassins who plotted against his life to be executed. According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, "He had the appearance of a kind and honourable man, although one who was weak and easily led. However, his excessive spending, especially at the end of his life, must be weighed against this." He established the Ottoman lira in 1844 and the Order of the Medjidie in 1851. During the Crimean War, the Ottoman Empire received the first of its foreign loans on 25 25 August, 1854. Those following this significant foreign loan in 1855, 1858, and 1860, all of which ended in default, alienating European sympathies from the Ottoman Empire and partly leading to Abdulmejid's brother Abdülaziz's dethronement and death.

On the one hand, financial difficulties, and on the other, resentment generated by the extensive privileges granted to non-Muslim citizens, threw the kingdom into disarray once more. In 1857, there were incidents in Jeddah, and in 1858, there were incidents in Montenegro. The central European countries have taken advantage of the situation to act in their interests. Amid this crisis, the Ottoman leaders panicked and adopted a strategy that granted them every demand. The fact that Abdulmejid was powerless to avert this circumstance further added to the Tanzimat Edict's unpopularity. To prevent the European powers from acting as a guardian, the opponents planned to depose Abdulmejid and install Abdulaziz on the throne. This attempted uprising, known in history as the Kuleli Foundation, was put down before it began on 14 14 September 1859, thanks to a notification. Meanwhile, the treasury's financial situation deteriorated, and foreign debts, which had been obtained under duress to fund war expenditures, became a burden. All of the obligations owed to Beyoğlu customers totalled more than eighty million gold liras. Foreign merchants and bankers took some of the debt securities and hostages. His achievements in foreign affairs were not as remarkable as his home achievements. His reign began with his armies being defeated by the Viceroy of Egypt and the subsequent signing of the London Convention (1840), which spared his empire from further disgrace. The Ottomans were victorious in the Crimean War and gained signatories to the Treaty of Paris (1856). In 1861, the Concert of Europe obliged him to give up Lebanon after building his foundation in the Balkans failed in Bosnia and Montenegro. At the rituals outside, he stressed his adherence to the ceremonial traditions set by his predecessors, yet he made significant changes in the palace's life. For example, he entirely abandoned the Topkapı Palace, a centre of worship for the Ottoman family for four centuries. Even middle-class families were influenced by the traditions of the British, French, and Italian troops, commanders, and diplomats that arrived in Istanbul during the Crimean War (1853-1856). He oversaw the renovations to the Hagia Sophia mosque and the construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace between 1847 and 1849. In Istanbul, he also established the first French Theatre. During Abdulmecid's rule, many reconstruction projects were undertaken. Some of the borrowed funds were used to construct palaces and mansions. The notable architectural works of the era are Dolmabahçe Palace (1853), Beykoz Pavilion (1855), Küçüksu Pavilion (1857), Küçük Mecidiye Mosque (1849), and Teșvikiye Mosque (1854). The new Galata Bridge was placed into operation on the same date as Bezmiâlem Sultan's Gureba Hospital (1845-1846) during this period. A large number of fountains, mosques, lodges and other social facilities were either renovated or reconstructed.


Abdulmejid died of TB (like his father) on 25 25 June 1861, in Istanbul, at 38 and was buried at Yavuz Selim Mosque. His younger half-brother Sultan Abdülaziz, son of Pertevniyal Sultan, succeeded him. Abdulmejid had several concubines and just one legitimate wife, Perestu Kadın when he died.


  • Founder of the Order of the Medjidie in 1851. (Ottoman Empire)
  • 1856: The Tower and Sword Grand Cross (Kingdom of Portugal)
  • Stranger Knight of the Garter, 5 5 November 1856 (United Kingdom)
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold (military) is established on 20 20 March 1860. (Belgium)
  • The Grand Cross Honour is the highest honour bestowed by the Legion of Honour (French Empire)

In Fiction

In Jason Goodwin's 2008 novel The Bellini Card, a fictitious version of Abdulmejid I appears.

Last updated: 2021-October-26
Tags: Ottoman Empire
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