Known as Osman the Young, who ruled between 1618 and 1622, he was the 16th Ottoman sultan. He was born to Sultan Ahmed I and Mahfiruze Haseki. When his father died in 1617, not Şehzade (prince) Osman, but the deceased sultan’s brother Şehzade Mustafa, whom Sultan Ahmed spared by feeling pity for him, assumed the throne.
It was the first time that the Ottoman throne was occupied not by the son of a sultan, but by his brother instead. This was also due to Sultan Ahmed’s consort Mahpeyker Haseki, who wanted to spare the lives of her sons by becoming the stepmother of Şehzade Osman, in addition to the grand vizier and the Sheikh al-Islam of the time
Due to his illness, Sultan Mustafa occupied the throne for a brief period before getting dethroned by the same people in 1618. Then, 14-year-old Şehzade Osman assumed the throne as Sultan Osman II and went down in history as Osman the Young. However, he matured at an early age like his father.
It is understood from Sultan Osman’s own writing in a firman (imperial edict) to the army that the ascension of the son of the previous sultan was regarded as a constitutional tradition: “Although I was supposed to take over the sultanate after my father Sultan Ahmed’s death in accordance with the constitutional tradition, Sultan Mustafa assumed the throne instead for being a couple of years older than me.”
Osman was feeling bitter toward all elements of the state from viziers to ulama and soldiers as he turned this incident into a matter of honor and went on to exaggerate due to his young age. Instigation of this state of mind by his close entourage led to both his own and the country’s disaster.
Sultan Osman had received a very solid education and thorough training. Apart from Arabic and Persian, he learned Latin, Greek and Italian well enough to enable him to make translations. Osman was a master athlete, capable in equestrianism, archery and swimming practice. He used to swim in the Golden Horn and the Bosporus. He commissioned a memorial on top of the grave of his beloved horse “Süslü Kır.”
Osman had genius but he was young. Therefore, he could not properly use his education and genius. He was aware that the world changed and some things were not going well in the country, and he had plans to fix these.
Sultan Osman began from the attire. Instead of old heavy clothing and headwear, he started to wear an attire known as Abaza style, which made mounting on horses and overall movement easier. This caused a reaction in some religious circles.
Osman also departed from the tradition of marrying girls from the palace and preferred to marry free women. He consecutively married the daughters of Pertev Pasha and Sheikh al-Islam Esad Efendi, which would be the sultan's disadvantage in the later period according to the historian Naima.
The sultan aimed to conquer Poland, or the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, to reach the Baltic Sea, establish a navy there and sail to the Atlantic Ocean to encircle the Catholic world both with the Mediterranean and ocean navies. Just like his ancestor Sultan Mehmed II brought Orthodoxy under his protection, Osman aimed to divide Christendom by bringing Protestantism, which tended toward Ottomans against Austrians, under his protection.
It is said that Sultan Osman, who knew such tasks were difficult, even contemplated temporarily relocating the capital to Bursa. His teacher Ömer Efendi was the sultan’s most prominent adviser in this matter. However, it is understood that initial ideas came from the sultan himself. Even the Sheikh al-Islam had fallen out of favor against Ömer Efendi.
When Osman assumed the throne, a war with Iran was ongoing. When the war was concluded and the eastern border was secured, he marched on Poland in 1622. It was necessary to end Cossack raids on Black Sea coasts.
In the meantime, Grand Vizier Güzelce Ali Pasha, who supported the campaign, died. While departing for the campaign, a solar eclipse took place. Although some interpreted this as bad luck, the sultan didn’t mind. A Polish army of 100,000 people that included Cossacks, Austrians and Hungarians were defeated after a tough battle, and Khotyn fell. The 17-year-old sultan struck an agreement and returned to Istanbul.
In order to ensure the safety of the empire before departing for the campaign, he had his younger brother Şehzade Mehmed, who was one year younger than him, executed as prescribed by the fratricide rule of Mehmed II. Poor şehzade cursed the sultan as: “Osman, just like you deprived me of my life, I wish from Allah that your rule to be short.”
The same year, the Bosporus froze, leading to an increase in the cost of living and famine in Istanbul as ships could not sail. The sultan was also blamed for this.
The young sultan, who was convinced to make reforms in state institutions – and primarily in the army – for the sake of the state and the nation, embarked on an unbelievable plan. This attempt cost him both his throne and his life.
Osman the Young attributed the cause of not achieving total success in the Khotin Campaign to a lack of discipline in the army and conducted a roll call upon his return. He found that the number of the Guild of Janissaries was less than their salary records and had their funding cut. This also revealed the officers who received their salaries by showing the non-existent soldiers as if they existed.
In order to bring his army reform project to life, the sultan intended to perform hajj (pilgrimage). He was thinking of gathering soldiers of Turkish background from Syria, Egypt and Anatolia after returning from the hajj. Osman told this idea to his wife, who in turn told about it to his father Sheikh al-Islam Esad Efendi. Both the Sheikh al-Islam, and his Sheikh Aziz Mahmud Hüdai tried to dissuade the sultan by saying that the hajj duty is not obligatory for sultans, but to no avail.
Before departing for hajj, Sultan Osman had a dream. Since he told many people about it, the dream went down in history: While the sultan, wearing his armor sitting on the throne and reciting the Quran, Prophet Muhammad arrived. The prophet pulls out his armor from the sultan’s back and takes the Quran from his hand before slapping him. Although the sultan, who falls flat on the ground, seeks to throw himself to the prophet’s feet, Prophet Muhammad turns and walks away.
The sultan initially had his teacher interpret his dream, and the teacher said: “This is a warning for your hesitation in your aim to perform hajj. Although you could not throw yourself to his feet in your dream, God willing, you would be able to able touch his grave.”
The sultan, not assured in his heart, then sought for Aziz Mahmud Hüdai’s interpretation. He advised the sultan that his departure from Istanbul would lead to big and disastrous developments. Osman then paid visits to tombs of saints and sacrificed animals, begging for Allah’s mercy. However, he did not back down from going on hajj. His teacher Ömer Efendi encouraged him. News spread quickly and the day that the sultan’s tent was to be erected in Üsküdar, the janissaries revolted.
Although Osman understood the gravity of the situation by that evening and declared that he was not departing for hajj, the rebellion quickly spread since he refused to dismiss his teacher from duty. The next day, the rebels appeared before the sultan and demanded six people to be executed. The sultan had ulama representatives who brought this demand jailed.
After this development, rebels entered the palace by climbing over walls with ropes. They killed the grand vizier and chief eunuch. They had the sultan’s uncle former Sultan Mustafa assume the throne. Osman, who aimed to cross to Mudanya from Sarayburnu and continue resisting, saw all boats were seized by soldiers.
Sultan Osman, who was now by himself, sought refuge with the Guild of Janissaries by listening to the foolish advice of Ohrili Hüseyin Pasha. The sultan tried to admonish them, but no one listened. Even a janissary officer who was trying to mediate was murdered.
In fact, the rebels did not seek to harm the sultan. They aimed to dethrone him and confine him to the palace. However, a group who thought that Osman would punish them in the first instance and led by Grand Vizier Kara Davud Pasha, sealed the sultan’s fate. Davud Pasha bribed some janissary officers and had the sultan transferred to the Yedikule Fortress.
Subjected to ill-treatment and torture that no member of the dynasty ever witnessed, Sultan Osman initially fought back against his 10 executioners and smacked three down, but he later fell with a thrown lasso. One of the executioners martyred the sultan by squeezing his testicles. The young and ill-fated sultan, aged 18, was interred next to his father Sultan Ahmed I at the tomb in the namesake mosque.
This painful incident likened to the Battle of Karbala in some sources, caused deep sorrow not only in the Ottoman country but also in foreign lands. The nation cursed those who caused it. Sipahis (cavalrymen) rebelled by using the shedding of the sultan’s blood as a pretext, and revolts broke out in Anatolia. Poets wrote elegies for the martyred sultan. Folk tales sang of the treatment of the sultan.
This was the first time in Ottoman history that a sultan was dethroned through a coup and killed. Janissaries said that they had nothing to do with the sultan’s death and demanded perpetrators to be punished. As a result of growing incidents, the rebellion’s planner Kara Davud Pasha was executed.
Sultan Mustafa, who had his mental health deteriorate altogether and cried out in palace halls by saying “Osman, come, save me from this burden,” was dethroned.
Sultan Murad IV, who later ascended to the throne, ordered the removal of the janissary company that caused his brother’s death and the transfer of innocent janissaries to other companies. It became a tradition to yell out “let it be absent!” when the soldiers were receiving their pay every three months and roll call came for this infamous 65th company. Regular Kapıkulu soldiers avoided the public for a long time over their shame.
The new sultan followed his older brother’s footprint but did not make his mistakes. A sultan as reformist as Osman II did not ascend to the throne until the reign of Sultan Selim III for about 170 years, marking a grave loss for Turkish history.
Osman’s pride, his thrifty attitude to protect the treasury up to the point of stinginess, undue harshness for the sake of discipline were the reasons that the military and religious bureaucracy turned against him. Had he been more experienced and had more prudent counsels, he could have succeeded.
Sultan Osman II wrote poems using the pen name “Faris.” His diwan is currently presented in the National Library. He had elegant and lyrical poems that would not be expected from his age. His verses are as if he saw the calamity that was ahead of him:
“My intent is to serve my state and the monarchy.
Those with jealousy and ill intentions work for my calamity.”
Historian Naima recounts the sultan was good-looking, gallant and good at wielding weapons; while complaining that he did not have experienced, loyal and clever counsels. He was dragged to calamity by his foolish and sycophant entourage, the historian says.
English Ambassador Thomas Roe describes Sultan Osman as brave, proud and noble-hearted; says the sultan admired the victories of his ancestors and worked with great efforts to carry out big projects and reach their fame. At the same time, ideas and attempts attributed to the sultan such as relocating the capital and abolishing the Guild of Janissaries are a bit suspicious. He is a figure who has not been well understood from a historical point of view.