Yesterday, I was watching a history show, which is one of my favorite shows. Historians gather and talk about the past. They show real documents and always have very interesting guests. It was interesting to see “Princess Hanzade Özbaş” on air. She is the great grand daughter of the latest heir to the Ottoman Empire. Her great grandfather Sultan Vahdettin had been pictured as a traitor in Turkish history books.
She explained how difficult history class had been for her as a child. Her teacher was making her, read out loudly the passage that explains what a traitor, a terrible person Sultan Vahdettin was. Of course being only a little girl, she ran out of class crying;
“My Grandfather is not a traitor!”
It is very well acknowledged by historians now that he was never a traitor, yet I am not sure if they changed the context of school books. Either way, it was ridiculous of her teacher, to torture a little girl like that, knowing who she is. Although she was living with her grandmother “Who in fact, is Ottoman History” little Princess Hanzade kept failing Ottoman History classes throughout high-school. She went to college abroad.
It had been a littler easier for her daughter Neslişah Evliyazade. She says, it feels interesting to realize that her grand parents lived at the Dolmabahçe palace which she only gets to visit like a regular tourist. Although, the family has no influence or title anymore, they represent Turkish royalty and set an example of the traditions of Turkish aristocracy.
Princess Neslişah explained in one interview that the importance of education preceded everything. Ladies of the royal family were very well educated; they spoke minimum three foreign languages. Sultan Vahdettin’s grand daughters supported themselves through working hard, as everything was taken away from them. Unfortunately the princes were unable to do so, as most had been educated by the military, to become great soldiers, which left them unqualified to find immediate jobs while in exile.
Princess Hanzade’s mother met her husband while she was an instructor at Princeton University in America during World War II. Her husband was teaching at Princeton just like her. He was Turkish as well, although not royal, he came from a very wealthy family.
Princess Hanzade was telling these little stories about Ottoman life that opened yet another window to the Emporium’s ways. She explained that, daughters of Sultan’s were getting married with the husbands they chose. The grooms had no choice of refusal. The marriages were taking place on paper, prior to meeting each other. Then the husband still had to go ask for the bride’s hand. At that point some brides were known to make the husband wait, for up to four hours, or rejecting him a few times, before they agreed. It is a little funny considering that they are the ones who chose the man, to make him suffer a little before taking his hand was possibly a form of flirting. The fact that the groom could not refuse seems harsh, still Ottomans were beauties, as I had explained in previous articles, the Sultans had procreated only with the most beautiful women for centuries, therefore that gene pool was filled with gorgeousness. The groom had not much to worry about her looks.
Once married to the daughter of a Sultan, he could not get a second wife, nor could he divorce her. However by law she could divorce him and marry someone else, should she chose to do so.
I find this interesting as the Ottoman Empire was Islamic. Yet, none of the rules of Islam were applied towards royal ladies.
Another interesting story was about one husband who was the son of a Sadrazam, which is a title similar to being a Prime Minister. During a heated argument, things got out of control and he slapped his wife, as soon as she opened the door, guards jumped on him, to beat the hell out of him, for he could not touch “The Lady” even if she was his wife. The fact that he was the son of the highest ranking officer, after the Sultan did not help him the least bit.
Ottoman tradition and upbringing is still present in the royal family, and stories of old customs shed more light on Ottoman culture. Princess Hanzade was explaining how important modesty was, and how any other way was unacceptable for a member of the imperial family. This explains the “scandal free” life they all have leaded. Even if they were not at all strong financially, they are who they are and that cannot be taken away from them.
Scandals of European Royalty have kept the tabloids busy over the years. Yet Ottomans always kept a dignified, quiet life style. Clearly it was part of the culture, to always remain noble, including during times of lacking financial means.
Rumor has it that Sultan Vahdettin had been offered palaces to stay and a steady income by King Emanuel in Italy. He refused the courteous offer and endured poverty for he was an Islamic Leader. Accepting, hand-outs from any Non Muslim was unacceptable, living in hardship was better. Pride precedes comfort according to the Turkish culture and these are some examples to that aspect.
*In 2001 The Habsburg family (Austrian Royalty) gathered with the Ottoman’s in a summer resort in Turkey. These families had been at war with each other for centuries, yet after they both lost their throne, the old enemy made a good friend.
I have been judged for calling members of the Ottoman family prince or princess, as they do not rule anymore. I see no harm in respecting those who are direct lineage of the majestic family. They represent glorious history.
During the History Show, Princess Hanzade demonstrated the latest “Imperial Signet” It belonged to her great grandfather Sultan Vahdettin and as he was the last Sultan, she has the last signet. It is pure gold. She also showed a royal necklace that weighed maybe a kilogram of gold. It was beautiful. The Sultan passed it on, and never considered selling these items despite, the financial hardship that he went through.
I find it hard to believe that he could be a traitor, when he valued all that he represented more than his comfort till the day he died. It is sad that books have portrayed him with no justice. Fortunately, his name has been cleared, and stories of his gracious life shall live on.
Follow me on twitter@Banugokyar