Ertuğrul Osman, Head of the Imperial House of Osman, dies at 97

  September 24, 2009 at 6:32 pm by

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Ertuğrul Osman Osmanoğlu, the oldest member of the Ottoman dynasty, died in Istanbul at the age of 97. Osmanoğlu had been hospitalized with renal and respiratory failure and died of kidney failure on Wednesday evening. The Prince’s wife, Her Imperial Highness Zeynep Tarzi Hanım Efendi, said: “He died at around 8:30 PM. His family was by his bedside all the time.” Although no decision has yet been made concerning the funeral, it is expected to be held on Saturday in Istanbul.

Ertuğrul Osman, who is often called “the last Ottoman” in Turkey, was the Head of the Imperial House of Osman, which ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1281 to 1922, and would have eventually become Sultan had the Ottoman Empire not been replaced by the modern Turkish Republic.

He was born as His Imperial Highness Prince Şehzade Ertuğrul Osman Efendi in 1912 at Yildiz Palace, Istanbul. He was the youngest son of HIH Prince Şehzade Mehmed Burhaneddin Efendi and his first wife, Aliye Melek Nazlıyar Hanım Efendi, and the grandson of Sultan Abdul Hamid II by his fourth wife. At the age of 10, Osmanoğlu went to Vienna for education: it was there the 12-year-old boy learnt of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and establishment of the Turkish Republic.

A decade later, Osmanoğlu moved to New York, where he lived in a two-bedroom flat above a restaurant for more than 60 years. He was married twice; his first wife was HIH Gulda Twerskoy Hanım Efendi. After her death, he married HIH Zeynep Tarzi Hanım Efendi in 1991. Princess Zeynep Tarzi is the daughter of Prince Abdulfettah Tarzi and niece of former King of Afghanistan, Amanullah Khan.

Osmanoğlu wasn’t able to visit Turkey for almost 80 years. Although his family was granted an amnesty in 1974, Osmanoğlu refused it, saying: “A Turkish ambassador told me of the news. He told me to apply for citizenship if I wanted one or, if I only wanted to visit Turkey, to apply for Visa. I thanked him for the offer but refused. We didn’t need amnesty as we hadn’t done anything wrong.”

The Prince always insisted he had no political ambitions and returned to Turkey only in 1992, at the invitation by the country’s government. One of the first places he visited was Domabahce – the palace where he had spent his childhood years. Keen to avoid any “red-carpet treatment”, he joined a tour group to explore the palace.

Osmanoğlu was finally granted his Turkish citizenship in 2004. When a journalist asked him how it felt to finally be a Turkish citizen, he said, “I am grateful to be finally accepted as a Turkish citizen, it makes a difference. But in fact, it doesn’t matter if I have the Turkish passport or not, I have always been a Turkish citizen: it just became official”.

Even though he had lived most of his life abroad, Osmanoğlu was a true patriot and knew Turkish History, traditions and language very well (the latter, as he recalled, was possible because he used to talk in Turkish with his father and brother until their deaths). In addition to Turkish, he was also fluent in English, German and French and could speak some Italian and Spanish.

Having lived to an advanced age, Osmanoğlu wanted to make sure his last days are spent in the country of his birth. In a 2007 interview, he said: “I don’t have much time left, so I want to be in Istanbul all the time”.

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