Last Ottoman dies, aged 91

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sultan Vahideddin (Mehmed VI) departing from the backdoor of the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul in 1922.
Map of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 16th century.
Image: lynxxx.

Fatma Neslişah Osmanoğlu, who was the last Ottoman royal born during the Ottoman Empire, died at age 91, reportedly from a heart attack, Monday and was buried in Istanbul, Turkey.

Neslişah was both the granddaughter of Sultan Vahdettin, who was the last Ottoman Emperor, and Abdülmecid II, who was the last Ottoman Caliph. Neslişah was also the wife of Egyptian Prince Muhammad Abdel Moneim, who was the head of Egypt’s regency for a short while before the revolution in which Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser removed the monarchy from power. This was the second monarchy removed by revolution and sent into exile that Neslişah had personally experienced.

When Neslişah was born on February 4, 1921, cannons were fired to spread the news and she was registered in the family records, the last child of the Ottoman line to be registered. She was born just two years before Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded modern Turkey. The Turkish revolution brought the formal end of the Ottoman dynasty. The Ottomans had ruled for 600 years. At the peak of the Empire, the family's rule stretched across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as to Eastern Europe. As a young girl, Neslişah left Turkey for exile with her relatives after the royal family was banished.

In 1940, she married the Prince in Egypt. The Prince was head of the regency for under a year between 1952 and 1953. She was briefly under arrest with her husband, when he was accused of conspiring against Nasser, before they were sent into exile.

As an exile in France, she longed to be repatriated to her homeland and the city of Istanbul where she is now buried. She told a biographer, Murat Bardakçı, "My mother had friends who would go to Istanbul. I would ask them to bring me back a bit of soil from Istanbul, but none did." The Turkish government from 1952 allowed female royals to return and she returned there with her husband in 1957. In 2009, she became the senior member of Turkey’s former royal family after the death of a male relative.

Professor İlber Ortaylı, who manages the museum at the Topkapı Palace, said, "Many members of the Ottoman dynasty were [laid to their final resting places] with their memories; their lives went unrecorded. We can comprehend neither Ottoman history nor the Republic too well for this reason."

Neslişah was the last surviving member of her family to be born and registered during the Empire period. She is survived by her two children, one son and one daughter, and a grandson.