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Chelengk of the Ottoman Empire
Diamond chelengk of Ottoman Empire.jpg
Replica of Nelson's diamond chelengk
Awarded by
Ottoman Sultan
CountryOttoman Empire
EligibilityCivilians and military
Awarded forOutstanding services to the state
StatusNo longer awarded
Next (higher)Order of Osmanieh
Next (lower)Gallipoli Star

A chelengk (Ottoman Turkish: چـلنك‎)[1] (Turkish: Çelenk) was a military decoration of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish military award[edit]

Originally a çelenk was "a bird's feather which one attaches to the turban as a sign of bravery"[2] but by the end of the 18th century, the çelenk had become institutionalized in Ottoman military practice and continued to be awarded for military merit up to the 1820s.[3] It was a jewelled aigrette consisting of a central flower with leaves and buds, and upward-facing rays.

In modern Turkish, a çelenk is a wreath or garland, a circular decoration made from flowers and leaves, usually arranged as an ornament.

Gifts to non Turkish naval heroes[edit]

Nelson, by Lemuel Francis Abbott, with a chelengk in his hat. Abbott seems to have painted this portrait without seeing Nelson's chelengk.

A specially-made chelengk was awarded to Horatio Nelson by Sultan Selim III in honour of the Battle of the Nile in 1798. This was the first time that a chelengk was conferred on a non-Ottoman.[3] The usual seven rays were augmented to thirteen, as described in a contemporary letter:

The Aigrette is a kind of feather; it represents a hand with thirteen fingers, which are of diamonds, and allusive to the thirteen ships taken and destroyed at Alexandria, the size that of a child's hand about six years old when opened; the center diamond and the four round it may be worth about £1000 each, and there are about 300 others well set.[4]

Nelson's chelengk was bought by the Society for Nautical Research in 1929 following a national appeal[5] and placed in the National Maritime Museum from where it was stolen in 1951 and never recovered.[6]

Selim III also gave a chelengk to Russian Admiral Fyodor Ushakov after the capture of Corfu from the French in 1799.

In literature[edit]

In Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey–Maturin series of novels, Captain Jack Aubrey is awarded a chelengk by the Sultan after capturing two rebel ships in The Ionian Mission. His chelengk was worn, like Nelson's, on his dress uniform hat and contained hidden clockwork, so that the diamond strands shimmered in the sun.[7]

See also[edit]


  • Roy & Lesley Adkins (2007). The War for All Oceans: From Nelson at the Nile to Napoleon at Waterloo. Abacus. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-349-11916-8.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  • "Replica of Nelson's chelengk". National Maritime Museum.
  1. ^ "Osmanlica Lûgât" [Ottoman Glossary] (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 2014-09-05. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  2. ^ Abel Pavet de Courteille, Mahdī Khān Astarābādī and Muḥammed Khuweyyi (1870). Dictionnaire Turk-Oriental. Paris: Imprimerie impériale. Plume d'oiseau qu'on attache sur le bonnet en signe de vaillanceCS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b "Ottoman Orders and Decorations as Forms of Honor". Ottoman Bank Archives and Research Centre. Archived from the original on 2012-05-01.
  4. ^ James Stanier Clarke, Stephen Jones, John Jones, eds. (1799). The Naval chronicle, Volume 1. J. Gold. p. 340.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  5. ^ "The Chelengk of Nelson – Proposed Purchase for the Nation". The Times. London. 8 November 1929. p. 10 (with photograph).
  6. ^ "The Chelengk". The Art Fund. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  7. ^ Patrick O'Brian (2003). Treason's Harbour. HarperCollins. p. 7. ISBN 0-00-649923-6.