Abdülmecid I

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Abdülmecid I
Caliph of Islam
Amir al-Mu'minin
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Sultan Abdülmecid - Google Art Project.jpg
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Reign July 2, 1839 – June 2, 1861
Predecessor Mahmud II
Successor Abdülaziz
Consort Hüsnicenan Hanımefendi
Servetsezâ Kadınefendi
Hoşyar Kadınefendi
Şevkefza Sultan
Verdicenan Kadınefendi
Zerrin Melek Hanımefendi
Nükhetsezâ Hanımefendi
Tirimüjgan Kadınefendi
Nesrin Hanımefendi
Düzdidil Hanımefendi
Şayan Kadınefendi
Gülcemal Kadınefendi
Mehtab Kadınefendi
Ceylanyar Hanımefendi
Nergizu Hanımefendi
Navekivisal Hanımefendi
Bezmican Kadınefendi
Nalanıdil Hanımefendi
Şayeste Hanımefendi
Serfiraz Hanımefendi
Gülüstü Kadınefendi
Rahime Perestu Sultan
Nev'eser Hanımefendi
Yıldız Hanımefendi
Safderun Hanımefendi
Royal house House of Osman
Father Mahmud II
Mother Bezmiâlem Sultan
Born 25 April 1823[1][2]
Died 25 June 1861(1861-06-25) (aged 38)
Religion Sunni Islam

Abdülmecid I (Ottoman Turkish: عبد المجيد اول ‘Abdü’l-Mecīd-i evvel) (23/25 April 1823 – 25 June 1861) was the 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and succeeded his father Mahmud II on 2 July 1839.[3] His reign was notable for the rise of nationalist movements within the empire's territories. Abdülmecid wanted to encourage Ottomanism among the secessionist subject nations and stop the rise of nationalist movements within the empire, but failed to succeed despite trying to integrate non-Muslims and non-Turks more thoroughly into the Ottoman society with new laws and reforms. He tried to forge alliances with the major powers of Western Europe, namely the United Kingdom and France, who fought alongside the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War against Russia. In the following Congress of Paris on 30 March 1856, the Ottoman Empire was officially included among the European family of nations. Abdülmecid's biggest achievement was the announcement and application of the Tanzimat (Reorganization) reforms which were prepared by his father Mahmud II and effectively started the modernization of Ottoman Empire in 1839. For this achievement, one of the Imperial anthems of the Ottoman Empire, the March of Abdülmecid, was named after him.

Early life[edit]

Young Abdülmecid (painting by David Wilkie, 1840)

Abdülmecid was born at the Beşiktaş Sahil Palace or at the Topkapı Palace, both in Istanbul.[4][5] His mother was his father's first wife in 1839, Valide Sultan Bezmiâlem, originally named Suzi (1807–1852), either a Circassian[6] or Georgian slave[7][8][9]

Abdülmecid received a European education and was a fluent of French speaker, the first sultan to do so.[1] Like Abdülaziz who succeeded him, he was interested in literature and classical music. Like his father Mahmud II, he was an advocate of reforms and was lucky enough to have the support of progressive viziers such as Mustafa Reşit Pasha, Mehmet Emin Ali Paşa and Fuat Pasha. Throughout his reign he had to struggle against conservatives who opposed his reforms. Abdülmecid was also the first sultan to directly listen to the public's complaints on special reception days, which were usually held every Friday without any middlemen. Abdülmecid toured the empire's territories to see in person how the Tanzimat reforms were being applied. He travelled to İzmit, Mudanya, Bursa, Gallipoli, Çanakkale, Lemnos, Lesbos and Chios in 1844 and toured the Balkan provinces in 1846.


When Abdülmecid succeeded to the throne, the affairs of the Ottoman Empire were in a critical state. At the time his father died, the news reached Istanbul that the empire's army had been defeated at Nizip by the army of the rebel Egyptian viceroy, Muhammad Ali. At the same time, the empire's fleet was on its way to Alexandria, where it was handed over to Muhammad Ali by its commander Ahmed Fevzi Pasha, on the pretext that the young sultan's advisers had sided with Russia. However, through the intervention of the European powers, Muhammad Ali was obliged to come to terms, and the Ottoman Empire was saved from further attacks while its territories in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine were restored. The terms were finalised at the Convention of London (1840).[1]

Dolmabahçe Palace, the first European-style palace in Istanbul, was built by Abdülmecid between 1843 and 1856, at a cost of five million Ottoman gold pounds, the equivalent of 35 tons of gold. 14 tons of gold was used to adorn the interior ceiling of the palace. The world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier, a gift from Queen Victoria, is in the centre hall. The palace has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world, and even the staircases are made of Baccarat crystal.

In compliance with his father's express instructions, Abdülmecid immediately carried out the reforms to which Mahmud II had devoted himself. In November 1839 an edict known as the Hatt-ı Şerif of Gülhane, also known as Tanzimat Fermanı was proclaimed, consolidating and enforcing these reforms. The edict was supplemented at the close of the Crimean War by a similar statute issued in February 1856, named the Hatt-ı Hümayun. By these enactments it was provided that all classes of the sultan's subjects should have their lives and property protected; that taxes should be fairly imposed and justice impartially administered; and that all should have full religious liberty and equal civil rights. The scheme met with strong opposition from the Muslim governing classes and the ulema, or religious authorities, and was only partially implemented, especially in the remoter parts of the empire; and more than one conspiracy was formed against the sultan's life on account of it.

The most important reform measures promoted by Abdülmecid were:

  • Introduction of the first Ottoman paper banknotes (1840)
  • Reorganisation of the army, including the introduction of conscription (1842–1844)[1]
  • Adoption of an Ottoman national anthem and Ottoman national flag (1844)
  • Reorganisation of the finance system according to the French model
  • Reorganisation of the Civil and Criminal Code according to the French model[1]
  • Reorganisation of the court system, establishing a system of civil and criminal courts with both European and Ottoman judges.[1]
  • Establishment of the Meclis-i Maarif-i Umumiye (1845) which was the prototype of the First Ottoman Parliament (1876)
  • Institution of a council of public instruction (1846)
  • Creation of the Ministry of Education[1]
  • Plans to send humanitarian aid of £10,000[10] (£24.83 million in 2013[11]) to Ireland during its Great Famine, but later reduced to £1000[10] (£2.483 million in 2013[11]) at the insistence of British diplomats[10]
  • Plans to abolish slave markets (1847)[10]
  • Plans to build Protestant chapel (1847)[10]
  • Establishment of modern universities and academies (1848)
  • Establishment of an Ottoman school in Paris[1]
  • Abolition of an unfairly imposed capitation tax which imposed higher tariffs on non-Muslims (1856)
  • Non-Muslims were allowed to become soldiers in the Ottoman army (1856)
  • Various provisions for the better administration of the public service and for the advancement of commerce
  • New land laws confirming the right of ownership (1858)[1]
  • Decriminalisation of homosexuality (1858)[12][13]

Another notable reform was that the turban was officially outlawed for the first time during Abdülmecid's reign, in favour of the fez. European fashions were also adopted by the Court. (The fez itself was later banned with the "Hat Law" in 1925 by the Republican National Assembly which had already abolished the sultanate and proclaimed the Turkish Republic in 1923).

Sultan Abdulmecid; the Queen of United Kingdom, Victoria; and President of France, Napoleon III.

Samuel Morse received his first ever patent for the telegraph in 1847, at the old Beylerbeyi Palace (the present Beylerbeyi Palace was built in 1861–1865 on the same location) in Istanbul, which was issued by Sultan Abdülmecid who personally tested the new invention.[14]

When Kossuth and others sought refuge in Turkey after the failure of the Hungarian uprising in 1849, the sultan was called on by Austria and Russia to surrender them, but he refused.[1] He also would not allow the conspirators against his own life to be put to death. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica says of him, "Abdülmecid bore the character of being a kind and honourable man, if somewhat weak and easily led. Against this, however, must be set down his excessive extravagance, especially towards the end of his life."

In 1844 he created the Ottoman lira and in 1852 he instituted the Order of the Medjidie.

The Ottoman Empire received the first of its foreign loans on 25 August 1854 during the Crimean War. This major foreign loan was followed by those of 1855, 1858 and 1860, which culminated in default and led to the alienation of European sympathy from the Ottoman Empire and indirectly to the dethronement and death of Abdülâziz in the following years.

His success in foreign relations was not as notable as his domestic accomplishments. His reign started off with the defeat of his forces by the Viceroy of Egypt and the subsequent signing of the Convention of London (1840), which saved his empire from a greater embarrassment. They successfully participated in the Crimean War and were winning signatories at the Treaty of Paris (1856). His attempts at strengthening his base in the Balkans failed in Bosnia and Montenegro, and in 1861 he was forced to give up Lebanon by the Concert of Europe.[1]

He restored the Hagia Sophia between 1847 and 1849, and was responsible for the construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace. He also founded the first French Theatre in Istanbul.[1]

He was made the 717th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1856 and the 52nd Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword.

Abdülmecid died of tuberculosis (like his father) at the age of 39 in Istanbul on 25 June 1861, where he was buried, and was succeeded by his brother, Abdülâziz, the oldest survivor of the family of Osman.

Marriages and children[edit]

The Crimean War medal issued by Abdülmecid to British, French, and Sardinian allied personnel involved in the Crimean War (Sardinian issue)

Abdülmecid married twenty-five times and left several sons, of whom four eventually succeeded to the throne. His marriages were:

  • Bosnian HM Gülcemal Kadınefendi, (Caucasus, c. 1826 – Istanbul, Ortaköy, Ortaköy Palace, 16 November 1851), married in Istanbul, Topkapı Palace, in 1840 and had:
    • HIH Princess Fatma Sultan (1 November 1840 - 26 August 1884);
    • HIH Princess Hatice Sultan (Beşiktaş Palace, 7 February 1842 - c. 1842);
    • HIH Princess Refia Sultan (Beşiktaş Palace, 7 February 1842 - Findikli Palace, 4 January 1880);
    • HM Sultan Mehmed V Reshad, 35th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire;
    • HIH Princess Rukiye Sultan (born c. 1850 - ?).[15]
  • Georgian HH Nesrin Hanımefendi (née Adile Asemiani, c. 1826, Poti, Georgia - 2 May 1853, Istanbul), married in Istanbul, Topkapı Palace, in 1842, daughter of Manuçar Bey Asemiani by his wife Mahra Hanım, and had:
    • HIH Prince Şehzade Mehmed Ziyaeddin Efendi (10 December 1842 - 7 June 1845);
    • HIH Prince Şehzade Mehmed Bahaeddin (24 June 1850 - 9 November 1852);
    • HIH Prince Şehzade Mehmed Nizameddin (24 June 1850 - 9 November 1852);
    • HIH Princess Behiye Sultan (22 February 1841 - 3 June 1847).[15]
  • Ubykh HH Ceylanyar Hanımefendi (née Nafiye Berzeg, c. 1828, Sochi, Russia - 17 January 1855, Istanbul), married in Istanbul, Topkapı Palace, in 1847, daughter of Mustafa Bey Berzeg by his wife Princess Daruhan Hanım Dudaruk, and had:
    • HIH Prince Şehzade Mehmed Rüşdi Efendi (31 March 1852 - 5 August 1852).[15]
  • Natukhai HH Nergis Hanımefendi (c. 1830, Anapa, Russia - Istanbul, 26 October 1848), married in Istanbul, Topkapı Palace, in 1847, daughter of Albora Bey by his wife Dadüse Hanım, and had:
    • HIH Prince Şehzade Mehmed Fuad Efendi (7 July 1848 - 28 September 1848).[15]
  • Abkhazian HH Serfiraz Hanımefendi (née Ayșe Liah, c. 1837 Abkhazia – 9 June 1905, Constantinople, Ortaköy, Ortaköy Palace), married in Istanbul, Topkapı Palace, in 1852, daughter of Prince Osman Bey Liah by his wife Zeliha Hanım Tapsın, and had:
    • HIH Prince Şehzade Osman Safiyeddin Efendi (9 June 1852 - 2 July 1855);
    • HIH Prince Şehzade Suleiman Selim Efendi (Beşiktaş, 25 July 1860 - Bebek Palace, Bosphorus, 16 June 1909), married and had issue;
    • HIH Princess Bedia Sultan ( October 1857 - 12 July 1858).[15]
  • Other children were also born, whose mothers are no identified.
    • HIH Princess Samiye Sultan (23 February 1845 - 18 April 1845, buried in New Mosque, Istanbul);
    • HIH Princess Fatma Nazime Sultan (26 November 1847 - 1 December 1847, buried in New Mosque - Refia Sultan türbesi);
    • HIH Prince Şehzade Mehmed Vamik Efendi (19 April 1850 - 6 August 1850, buried in New Mosque - Refia Sultan türbesi);
    • HIH Princess Mükbile Sultan (22 February 1850 - 10 March 1850, buried in New Mosque - Refia Sultan türbesi).

In fiction[edit]

A fictionalized version of Abdülmecid I appears in the 2008 novel The Bellini Card, by Jason Goodwin.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abdulmecid I". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8. 
  2. ^ There are sources that state his birth date as the 23rd of April
  3. ^ Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-18022-2, page 3
  4. ^ The Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol.7, Edited by Hugh Chisholm, (1911), 3; Constantinople, the capital of the Turkish Empire...
  5. ^ Britannica, Istanbul:When the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, the capital was moved to Ankara, and Constantinople was officially renamed Istanbul in 1930.
  6. ^ Slavery in the Ottoman Empire, Putnam's Monthly, vol. V, June 1855, No. 30, p. 615
  7. ^ Bezmi Alem Valide Sultan, Gürcistan Dostluk Derneği
  8. ^ Bezmiâlem Valide Sultan, Bezmiâlem Vakıf Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi Hastanesi
  9. ^ The Private World of Ottoman Women by Godfrey Goodwin, 2007, p.157
  10. ^ a b c d e Christine Kinealy (2013), Charity and the Great Hunger in Ireland: The Kindness of Strangers, p. 115
  11. ^ a b http://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/relativevalue.php?amount=10000&year_source=1847&year_result=2013
  12. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/oct/07/ottoman-empire-secular-history-sharia
  13. ^ http://faith-matters.org/images/stories/fm-publications/the-tanzimat-final-web.pdf
  14. ^ Istanbul City Guide: Beylerbeyi Palace
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Harun Açba (2007). Kadın efendiler: 1839-1924. Profil. ISBN 978-9-759-96109-1. 
  16. ^ Goodwin, Jason (2008). The Bellini Card. London: Faber and Faber. pp. 10–14. ISBN 978-0-571-23992-4. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abd-ul-Mejid". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Abdül Mecid I at Wikimedia Commons

Wikisource logo Works written by or about Abd-ul-Mejid I at Wikisource

Abdülmecid I
Born: 23 April 1823 Died: 25 June 1861
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mahmud II
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
2 July 1839 – 25 June 1861
Succeeded by
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Mahmud II
Caliph of Islam
2 July 1839 – 25 June 1861
Succeeded by