Line of succession to the former Ottoman throne

The Ottoman Dynasty had unusual succession practices compared to other monarchies.[1] Those succession practices changed over time, and ultimately the sultanate was abolished in 1922.

Succession practices

In the early period (from the 14th through the late 16th centuries), the Ottomans practiced open succession, or what historian Donald Quataert has described as "survival of the fittest, not eldest, son." During their father's lifetime, all of the adult sons of the reigning sultan obtained provincial governorships. Accompanied and mentored by their mothers, they would gather supporters while ostensibly following a Ghazi ethos. Upon the death of their father, the sons would fight among themselves until one emerged triumphant. How remote a province the son governed was of great significance. The closer the region that a particular son was in charge of the better the chances were of that son's succeeding, simply because he would be told of the news of his father's death and be able to get to Constantinople first and declare himself Sultan. Thus a father could hint at whom he preferred by giving his favourite son a closer governorship. Bayezid II, for instance had to fight his brother Cem Sultan in the 1480s for the right to rule. Occasionally, the half-brothers would even begin the struggle before the death of their father. During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–1566), strife among his sons Selim and Mustafa caused enough internal turmoil that Suleiman ordered the death of Mustafa and Bayezid, leaving Selim II the sole heir.

With Suleiman and Selim, the chief consort (haseki) of the Sultan achieved new prominence. Gaining power within the harem, the favourite was able to manoeuvre to ensure the succession for one of her sons. This led to a short period of effective primogeniture. However, unlike the earlier period, when the sultan had already defeated his brothers (and potential rivals for the throne) in battle, these sultans had the problem of many half-brothers who could act as the focus for factions that could threaten the sultan. Thus, to prevent attempts upon his throne, the sultan practiced fratricide upon ascending the throne. The practice of fratricide, first employed by Murat I in 1362, soon became widespread.[2] Both Murad III and his son Mehmed III had their half-brothers murdered. The killing of all the new sultan's brothers and half-brothers (which were usually quite numerous) was traditionally done by manual strangling with a silk cord. As the centuries passed, the ritual killing was gradually replaced by lifetime solitary confinement in the kafes ("Golden Cage"), a room in the Imperial Harem from where the sultan's brothers could never escape, unless perchance they became next in line to the throne. Some had already become mentally unstable by the time they were asked to reign.

Mehmed III, however, was the last sultan to have previously held a provincial governorship. Sons now remained within the imperial harem until the death of their father. This not only denied them the ability to form powerful factions capable of usurping their father, but also denied them the opportunity to have children while their father remained alive. Thus when Mehmet's son came to the throne as Ahmed I, he had no children of his own. Moreover, as a minor, there was no evidence he could have children. This had the potential to create a crisis of succession and led to a gradual end to fratricide. Ahmed had some of his brothers killed, but not Mustafa (later Mustafa I). Similarly, Osman II allowed his half-brothers Murad and Ibrahim to live. This led to a shift in the 17th century from a system of primogeniture to one based on agnatic seniority, in which the eldest male within the dynasty succeeded, also to guarantee adult sultans and prevent both fratricides as well as the sultanate of women. Thus, Mustafa succeeded his brother Ahmed; Suleiman II and Ahmed II succeeded their brother Mehmed IV before being succeeded in turn by Mehmed's son Mustafa II. Agnatic seniority explains why from the 17th century onwards a deceased sultan was rarely succeeded by his own son, but usually by an uncle or brother. It also meant that potential rulers had to wait a long time in the kafes before ascending the throne, hence the old age of certain sultans upon their enthronement.[3] Although attempts were made in the 19th century to replace agnatic seniority with primogeniture, they were unsuccessful, and seniority was retained until the abolition of the sultanate in 1922.[4]

List of heirs since 1922

The Ottoman dynasty was expelled from Turkey in 1924 and most members took on the surname Osmanoğlu, meaning "son of Osman."[5] The female members of the dynasty were allowed to return after 1951,[5] and the male members after 1973.[6] Below is a list of people who would have been heirs to the Ottoman throne following the abolition of the sultanate on 1 November 1922.[6] These people have not necessarily made any claim to the throne; for example, Ertuğrul Osman said "Democracy works well in Turkey."[7]

Current line of succession

According to genealogies of the House of Osman, there would hypothetically be 25 princes now in the line of succession after Bayezid Osman, if the sultanate had not been abolished.[10][11][12] They are listed as follows; the succession law used is agnatic seniority, with the succession passing to eldest male dynast.[13]

[16] [19]

Excluded from the Imperial House

'NOTE:' Eligibility: A male person born to parents who are not married to each other at the time of birth is not included in the line of succession and passes no rights to their descendants. The subsequent marriage of the parents does not alter this. At the time of accession, the male heir to the throne must be a Muslim. Any Ottoman Prince who has converted from Islam is excluded from the line of succession.

See also


  1. Quataert 2005, p. 90
  2. Quataert 2005, p. 91
  3. Quataert, p. 92
  4. Karateke 2005, p. 37–54
  5. 1 2 Brookes, Douglas (2008). The concubine, the princess, and the teacher: voices from the Ottoman harem. University of Texas Press. pp. 278, 285. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Opfell, Olga (2001). Royalty who wait: the 21 heads of formerly regnant houses of Europe. McFarland. pp. 146, 151. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
  7. 1 2 3 Bernstein, Fred. “Ertugrul Osman, Link to Ottoman Dynasty, Dies at 97”, The New York Times (2009-09-24).
  8. 1 2 Pope, Hugh. "Oldest Ottoman to come home at last", The Independent (1992-07-22).
  9. 1 2 "'Osmanoğulları'na insanlık şehadet edecek'", Zaman (newspaper) (2009-09-27).
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 "Hayatta Olan Şehzadeler". Foundation of the Ottoman Dynasty. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 "Osmanlı Hanedanı vakıf çatısı altında toplanıyor". Sabah. 13 September 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 İbrahim Pazan (15 September 2009). "Osmanoğullarının yeni reisi Osman Bayezid Efendi Hazretleri". Netgazete. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Almanach de Gotha (184th ed.). Almanach de Gotha. 2000. pp. 365, 912–915.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Burke's Royal Families of the World (2 ed.). Burke's Peerage. 1980. p. 247.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 "Current Living Şehzades". Official Ottoman Family Website. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 "Hanedan-bu-günkü-Osmanoglu-ailesii". External link in |publisher= (help)
  17. "Descendent of Ottoman Dynasty Cengiz Nazım Efendi dies at 76". Daily Sabah. 20 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  19. Buyers, Christopher. "The Imperial House of Osman: Genealogy". The Royal Ark. Archived from the original on 15 June 2006.
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