Born at Eyüp Palace, Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), on 8 February 1830, Abdulaziz received an Ottoman education but was nevertheless an ardent admirer of the material progress that was being achieved 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 (after the British and French navies), the Sultan took an interest in documenting the Ottoman Empire. He was also interested in literature and was a 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 the grounds of having mismanaged the Ottoman economy on 30 May 1876, and was found dead six days later in mysterious circumstances.
His parents were Mahmud II and Pertevniyal Sultan, originally named Besime, a Circassian. In 1868 Pertevniyal was residing at Dolmabahçe Palace. That year Abdulaziz 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.
Also in 1867, Abdulaziz became the first Ottoman Sultan to formally recognize the title of Khedive (Viceroy) to be used by the Vali (Governor) of the Ottoman Eyalet of Egypt and Sudan (1517–1867), which thus became the autonomous Ottoman Khedivate of Egypt and Sudan (1867–1914). Muhammad Ali Pasha and his descendants had been the governors (Vali) 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 (in 1866) 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 (1877–78) 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 (1879–1882). Egypt and Sudan (together with Cyprus) nominally remained Ottoman territories until 5 November 1914, when the British Empire declared war against the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
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. Abdulaziz was deposed by his ministers on 30 May 1876.
Abdulaziz's death at Çırağan Palace in Istanbul a few days later was documented as a suicide.
Following Sultan Abdulaziz'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 5 June, Abdulaziz 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".
There are several sources claiming the death of Abdulaziz was due to an assassination. Islamic nationalist author Necip Fazıl Kısakürek claimed that it was a clandestine operation carried out by the British.
Another similar claim is based on the book The Memoirs of Sultan Abdulhamid II. In the book, which turned out to be a fraud, Abdulhamid II 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-ranking politicians of the time were afraid the public would become outraged and revolt to bring Abdulaziz back to power. Thus, they arranged the assassination of Abdulaziz by cutting his wrists and announced that "he committed suicide". This book of memoir was commonly referred to as a first-hand testimony of the assassination of Abdulaziz. Yet it was proven, later on, that Abdulhamid II never wrote nor dictated such a document.
Abdulaziz 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 Bosphorusstrait in Istanbul, which was constructed during his reign. However, the large budget for modernizing and expanding the Navy (combined with a severe drought in 1873 and incidents of flooding in 1874 which damaged Ottoman agriculture and reduced the government's tax revenues) 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 (mainly British and French banks) triggered the Great Eastern Crisis in the empire's Balkan provinces. The crisis culminated in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78) 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.
Dürrinev Kadın (15 March 1835 - 4 December 1895). BaşKadin. Called also Dürrunev Kadın. Georgian, born Princess Melek Dziapş-lpa, before becoming a consort she was a lady-in-waiting to Servetseza Kadin, consort of Abdülmecid I. She had two sons and a daughter.
Edadil Kadın (1845 - 12 December 1875). Second Kadın. She was Abkhazian, born Princess Aredba. She became Abdülaziz's consort at the time of his accession to the throne. She had a son and a daughter.
Hayranidil Kadın (2 Novembre 1846 - 26 November 1895). Second Kadın after Edadil's death. She perhaps was of slave origin. She had a son and a daughter.
Neşerek Kadın (1848 - 11 June 1876). Third Kadin. Called also Nesrin Kadın or Nesteren Kadin. Circassian, born in Sochi as Princess Zevş-Barakay. She had a son and a daughter.
Gevheri Kadın (8 July 1856 - 6 September 1884). Fourth Kadın. She was Abkhazian and her real name was Emine Hanim. She had a son and a daughter.
In addition to these, Abdülaziz planned to marry the Egyptian princess Tawhida Hanim, daughter of the Egyptian chedive Isma'il Pasha. His Grand Vizier, Mehmed Füad Paşah, was opposed to marriage and wrote a note for the sultan explaining that marriage would be politically counterproductive and would give Egypt an undue advantage. However, the Grand Chamberlain, instead of handing the note to the sultan, read it to him in public, humiliating him. Although the marriage project was abandoned, Füad was fired for the accident.
Şehzade Yusuf Izzeddin (11 October 1857 - 1 February 1916) - with Dürrinev Kadın. Favorite son of his father, he was born when Abdülaziz was still a prince and therefore was kept hidden until his accession to the throne. During his reign, Abdülaziz unsuccessfully attempted to change the law of succession to allow him to inherit the throne. He had six consorts, two sons and two daughters.
Şehzade Mahmud Celaleddin (14 November 1862 - 1 September 1888) - with Edadil Kadin. He was vice admiral, pianist and flutist. He was the favorite nephew of Adile Sultan, who dedicated several poetic components to him. He had a consort but no child.
Abdülmecid II (29 May 1868 - 23 August 1944) - with Hayranidil Kadin. He never became sultan due to the abolition of the Sultanate in 1922, and was the last caliph of the Ottoman Empire.
Şehzade Mehmed Şevket (5 June 1872 - 22 October 1899) - with Neşerek Kadın. He was exactly four years old when both his parents died in the space of one week in June 1876. He was welcomed into Yıldız Palace by Abdülhamid II, who raised him with his own children. He had a consort and a son.
Şehzade Mehmed Seyfeddin (22 September 1874 - 19 October 1927) - with Gevheri Kadin. Fatherless at the Age of two, he was welcomed by Şehzade Yusuf Izzeddin. Vice admiral and musician. He had four consorts, three sons and a daughter.
Fatma Saliha Sultan (10 August 1862 - 1941) - with Dürrinev Kadın. She married once and had a daughter.
Nazime Sultan (February 25, 1866 - 9 November 1947) - with Hayranidil Kadin. She married once but had no children.
Emine Sultan (30 November 1866 - 23 January 1867) - with Edadil Kadin. Born and died in Dolmabahçe Palace. Buried in the Mahmud II mausoleum.
Esma Sultan (21 March 1873 - 7 May 1899) - with Gevheri Kadin. Fatherless at the age of three, she was welcomed with her mother by her half-brother Şehzade Yusuf Izzedin. She married once and had four sons and a daughter. She died in childbirth.
Fatma Sultan (1874 - 1875) - with Yıldız Hanim. She was born and died in Dolmabahçe Palace, buried in Mahmud II mausoleum.
Emine Sultan (24 August 1874 - 29 January 1920) - with Neşerek Kadın. Parentsless at the age of two, she was welcomed with her mother by her half-brother Şehzade Yusuf Izzedin. She married once and had a daughter.
Münire Sultan (1876/1877 - 1877) - with Yıldız Hanim. She born posthumously and died as a newborn.
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Media related to Abdül Aziz I at Wikimedia Commons