Abdulaziz: 32nd Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Abdulaziz: 32nd Sultan of the Ottoman Empire


Abdulaziz was the Ottoman Empire's 32nd Sultan, reigning from 25 June 1861 to 30 May 1876. In 1861, he succeeded his brother Abdulmejid I, the son of Sultan Mahmud II. Abdulaziz was born on 8 February 1830 at Eyüp Palace in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). He got an Ottoman education but was a staunch supporter of Western material advancement. He was the first Ottoman Sultan to go to Western Europe (in 1867), visiting several critical European towns, including Paris, London, and Vienna. The Sultan was interested in recording the Ottoman Empire, in addition to his enthusiasm for the Ottoman Navy, which possessed the world's third-biggest fleet in 1875 (behind the British and French Navy). He was also a skilled classical music composer and was interested in literature. The London Academy of Ottoman Court Music has gathered some of his works and those of other members of the Ottoman dynasty on the CD European Music at the Ottoman Court. On 30 May 1876, he was ousted for mismanaging the Ottoman economy, and six days later, he was discovered dead under strange and unexplained circumstances.

Early Life

Mahmud II and Pertevniyal Sultan (1812 to 1883), a Circassian initially called Besime, were his parents. Pertevniyal was a resident of Dolmabahçe Palace in 1868. Abdulaziz brought the visiting Empress of France, Eugénie de Montijo, to see his mother that year. The presence of a foreign lady in Pertevniyal's private rooms of the seraglio was an insult to her. She is said to have smacked Eugénie in the face, almost causing an international crisis. According to another story, Pertevniyal was enraged by Eugénie's boldness in grabbing one of her sons' arms while giving a tour of the royal garden. She slapped the Empress on the stomach as a maybe more discreetly meant reminder that they were not in France. His mother oversaw the construction of the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque. Building on the mosque began in November 1869 and was completed in the year 1871. Sultan Abdul Hamid I and Sultana Nakşidil Sultan were his paternal grandparents. Several sources link his paternal grandmother to Aimée du Buc de Rivéry, Empress Joséphine's cousin. Khushiyar Qadin, Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt's third wife, was Pertevniyal's sister. Isma'il Pasha was born to Khushiyar and Ibrahim.


Between 1861 and 1871, his senior ministers, Mehmed Fuad Pasha and Mehmed Emin Âli Pasha pursued the Tanzimat reforms that begun under the reign of his brother Abdulmejid I. In 1864, new administrative districts (vilayets) were formed, and in 1868, a Council of State was founded. In 1861, Istanbul University was reorganized as a modern institution based on the French model of public education. He also put a very crucial role in the creation of the first Ottoman civil code. Abdulaziz developed positive relationships with France and the United Kingdom. He was the first Ottoman sultan to visit Western Europe in 1867, visiting the Exposition Universelle (1867) in Paris and the United Kingdom. He was knighted by Queen Victoria and seen a Royal Navy Fleet Review alongside Ismail Pasha. He travelled by own train car, which may now be seen in Istanbul's Rahmi M. Koç Museum. 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 (who is a son of Queen Victoria), Franz Joseph I of Austria, and Alexander II of Russia were among his fellow Knights of the Garter created in 1867. In 1867, Abdulaziz became the first Ottoman Sultan to legally acknowledge the title of Khedive (Viceroy) for the Vali (Governor) of the Ottoman Eyalet of Egypt and Sudan (1517–1867), which subsequently became the Ottoman Khedivate of Egypt and Sudan (1867–1914). Since 1805, Muhammad Ali Pasha and his descendants had served as governors (Vali) of Ottoman Egypt and Sudan. Still, they were ready to use the higher title of Khedive, which the Ottoman government would not acknowledge until 1867. In exchange, the first Khedive, Ismail Pasha, promised a year earlier (1866) to raise the annual tax income sent to the Ottoman treasury by Egypt and Sudan. Between 1854 until 1894, the Ottoman government used earnings from Egypt and Sudan as a guarantee when borrowing money from British and French banks.

Following the Ottoman government's sovereign default on its foreign debt repayments on 30 October 1875, which triggered the Great Eastern Crisis in the empire's Balkan provinces, which resulted in the devastating Russo-Turkish War (1877–78) and the establishment of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration in 1881, the importance of sureties regarding Ottoman revenues from Egypt and Syria for Britain increased. When combined with the far more significant Suez Canal, which opened in 1869, these sureties influenced the British government's decision to occupy Egypt and Sudan in 1882 under the pretence of assisting the Ottoman-Egyptian government in putting down the Urabi uprising (1879–1882). Egypt and Sudan (together with Cyprus) were officially Ottoman possessions until the British Empire declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 5 November 1914. On their route to the inauguration of the Suez Canal in 1869, Abdulaziz received visits from Eugénie de Montijo, Empress consort of Napoleon III of France, and other foreign rulers. The future Edward VII, the Prince of Wales, visited Istanbul twice. Mehmed Fuad Pasha and Mehmed Emin Âli Pasha were both dead by 1871. The North German Confederation, led by the Kingdom of Prussia, had destroyed the Second French Empire, his Western European model, in the Franco-Prussian War. As instability in the Balkan regions continued, Abdulaziz turned to the Russian Empire for friendship. The Herzegovina uprising in 1875 marked the start of more instability in the Balkan regions. The April Uprising in 1876 saw the rise of insurgency among Bulgarians. Irritation has grown against Russia as a result of its support for the insurgents. While no one incident precipitated his deposition, the 1873 agricultural disaster, as well as his excessive spending on the Ottoman Navy and new palaces he had erected, along with rising public debt, conspired to create an environment favourable to his removal. On 30 May 1876, Abdulaziz was ousted by his ministers.


Abdulaziz committed suicide a few days later at the Çırağan Palace in Istanbul. Sultan Abdulaziz was escorted to a chamber in Topkapi Palace following his dethronement. Sultan Selim III was assassinated in this very chamber. He wanted to be relocated to Beylerbeyi Palace since the chamber made him fear for his life. His request was refused since the palace was deemed impractical for his circumstances, and he was instead transferred to Feriye Palace. Despite this, he had been more concerned about his safety and security. Abdulaziz requested scissors to cut his beard on the morning of 5 June. He was discovered dead in a pool of blood gushing from two wounds in his arms not long after. His body was permitted to be examined by many doctors.

Conspiracy Concepts

According to various reports, Abdulaziz's death was the result of an assassination attempt. According to Islamic nationalist author Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, the British carried out a covert operation. A similar allegation is based on the book Sultan Abdulhamid II's Memoirs. Abdulhamid II says in the book, which turned out to be a forgery, that Sultan Murad V began to display indications of insanity, lunacy, and constant fainting and vomiting until the day of his coronation, and that he even flung himself into a pool shouting at his guards to save his life. High-ranking officials feared that the populace would be offended and rebel to restore Abdulaziz to power. As a result, they planned Abdulaziz's killing by slashing his wrists and claiming that he "committed suicide." This memoir was generally referred to as a first-hand account of Abdulaziz's assassination. However, it was eventually shown that Abdulhamid II did not write or dictate such a paper.


  • Abdulaziz gave the Ottoman Navy considerable attention. The Ottoman Fleet had 21 battleships and 173 other types of vessels in 1875, making it the world's third-biggest Navy behind the British and French navies. The wall paintings and murals of the Beylerbeyi Palace on the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul, which was built during his reign, reflect his love of the Navy, ships, and the sea. The considerable expenditure for upgrading and expanding the Navy, on the other hand, contributed to the financial problems that led to the Porte declaring sovereign default with the "Ramazan Kanunnamesi" on 30 October 1875. The Great Eastern Crisis in the empire's Balkan provinces was caused by the later decision to increase agricultural taxes to pay the Ottoman public debt to foreign creditors (primarily British and French banks). During Sultan Abdülhamid II's reign, the crisis culminated in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), which destroyed the Ottoman economy and the formation of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration in the year 1881.
  • During Sultan Abdulmejid I's reign, the first Ottoman railroads connecting İzmir and Aydın and Alexandria and Cairo were established in 1856. In 1858, the Alsancak Terminus in Izmir became the first significant railway terminal in modern-day Turkey. These were, however, independent, disconnected railways that did not form part of a railway network. Sultan Abdulaziz constructed the earliest Ottoman railway networks. On 17 April 1869, Baron Maurice de Hirsch, a Bavarian-born Belgian financier, was given the concession for the Rumelia Railway, which connected Istanbul and Vienna. The plan was for a railway line to go from Istanbul to the Sava River's bank through Edirne, Plovdiv, and Sarajevo. The first Sirkeci Terminal in Istanbul opened in 1873. The temporary Sirkeci station was eventually replaced by the current one, which was constructed between 1888 and 1890 (during the reign of Abdülhamid II) and served as the Orient Express' ultimate destination terminus. Sultan Abdulaziz founded the Anatolia Railway in 1871. On the Asian side of Istanbul, from Haydarpaşa to Pendik, the 1,435 mm standard gauge construction began in 1871. On 22 September 1872, the line was inaugurated. On 1 January 1873, the railway was extended to Gebze, which opened. The railway arrived at Izmit in August 1873. In 1871, another railway extension was completed to service a populated region along the Bursa-Marmara coast. During Sultan Abdülhamid II's reign, the Anatolia Railway was extended to Ankara and subsequently to Mesopotamia, Syria, and Arabia, constructing the Baghdad Railway and the Hejaz Railway.
  • Turkey's first postage stamps were produced in 1863, and the Ottoman Empire became a founding member of the Universal Postal Union in 1875.
  • He was also the author of the Ottoman Empire's first civil code.
  • He authorized the creation of an Imperial Museum in Istanbul, the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, after visiting museums in Paris (30 June – 10 July 1867), London (12–23 July 1867), and Vienna (28–30 July 1867) during the summer of 1867.

Personal Life

Abdulaziz has a total of five wives. Dürrünev Kadn, Hayranidil Kadn, Edadil Kadn, Nesrin Kadn, and Gevheri Kadn were their names. He also desired to marry Princess Tawhida Hanim, the daughter of Egypt's Khedive, Isma'il Pasha. On the other hand, Grand vizier Mehmed Fuad Pasha was against the love union, claiming that Isma'il would have too much access to the Sultan through the backdoor. Fuad's complaint was scribbled on a bit of paper and given to the chief chamberlain, who passed it to Abdulaziz instead of reading it. As a result, the Sultan was humiliated, Fuad was sacked, and the wedding was postponed.


  • Grand Cross of the great Mexican Eagle with Collar in 1865, Mexican Empire
  • Stranger Knight of the Garter, 14 August 1867, United Kingdom
  • Grand Cross of the Tower and Sword of the Kingdom of Portugal
  • 24 June 1870, Spain: Knight of the Golden Fleece
  • 14 December 1874, Oldenburg: Grand Cross of the Order of Duke Peter Friedrich Ludwig with Golden Crown

Last updated: 2021-October-26
Tags: Ottoman Empire
Share this Article
Facebook Google+ Twitter