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Home Articles Articles The Mevlevi Grand-Vizier

The Mevlevi Grand-Vizier

A Mevlevi Dervish, Kiamil Pasha was appointed grand-vizier of the Ottoman Empire four times by the Caliph of the time. Below is a touching account from British contemporaries who knew and loved him, which reflects the mood of the time

Mehmet Kiamil Pasha

. The remarkable life and career of this unpretentious Cypriot sufi, spanned some of the most turbulant periods in world history.

“Between the Konak or Ataturk Square in Nicosia and the Paphos Gate lies, or lay, one of the capital’s oldest quarters, now rapidly disappearing before the housebreaker’s ruthless onslaughts. But when I first lived in Nicosia - a bare two hundred yards away - this venerable enclave concealed behind high but tottering walls of mud brick some dilapidated mansions of considerable age and a certain bygone dignity.

Graceful arcades that might collapse at any moment surrounded the inner courts of what once were mansions; inside them, ceilings and galleries gaily carved and painted were crumbling slowly into ruin. Narrow, tortuous lanes twisted in and out of the quarter; here and there from its sadly neglected gardens would rise secular cypress, noble and upright, its bronze green tones suggesting, when seen against the turquoise sky, the col- ours on an old Persian tile. Here was the family residence of Mehmed Kiamil Pasha, greatest Cypriot and most distinguished Ottoman statesman of modern times.

Kiamil Pasha's career was typical of the Empire he served so long and faithfully. His first post was in the household of the Pasha of Egypt (the Albanian ruler Muhammed Ali). In the course of his appointment he visited London for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in charge of one of the Pasha’s sons and there began that daily reading of “The Times” which he told me in 1913, he had never interrupt ed since then for a single issue. Kiamil’s sojourn in England confirmed his ripen-ing admiration for this country and for its genius. Thenceforth, having full command of English, he followed British affairs assiduously to the end of his life; thenceforth to the close of his career he sought zealously the friendship of England for his country. He cherished a deep affection for the British Royal Family, especially for King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, to whom he was warmly attached.

“It was during this visit that King George V and Queen Mary passed through the Suez Canal on their way to the Delhi Durbar. Kiamil Pasha was invited on board the Medina, and a photographic group was taken in which the Khedive, his brother Prince Muhammad Ali, Lord Kitchener and the Sirdar stood in the back row. With them stood King George immediately behind the venerable Grand Vizier, to whom he had insisted upon giving up his chair be- side the Queen. Age is still respected in the East, and this kingly gesture evoked an almost tearful admiration throughout Egypt and the Sudan.” - Sir Ronald Storrs - Orientations -October 1937

King George V and Queen MaryGeorge V & Queen Mary receive the homage of Prince Muhammed Ali of Egypt, and the former Grand-Vizier Kiamil Pasha pays his respects (right - kissing the hand of the Queen). At over 90 years of age, the gallant old gentleman had himself rowed aboard the H.M.S. Medina upon hearing that the new King and Emperor of Britain was passing through the Suez Canal on his way to India. This fine old Ottoman gentleman was still holding himself in readi- ness to be appointed grand-vizier for a fifth time to serve his Sultan and Caliph, and the Ottoman state he held so dear.

Queen Mary and Kiamil PashaBack row left to right: Sir Reginald Wingat e, Sirdar or Governor-in-Chief  of the Egyptian Army and Governor Genreal of the Sudan Prince Muhammed Ali - younger brother of the Khedive Duke of Teck - brother of Queen Mary Diaeddin Effendi - oldest son of the Sultan & Caliph Mehmed V The Khedive King George V Lord Kitc hener

Sitting: Queen Mary and Kiamil Pasha




In Egypt, young Kiamil remained for ten years. Then, in 1860, he exchanged the service of Abbas I for that of the Ottoman Government and for the ensuing nineteen years - that is to say until he first entered the Turkish Cabinet and filled an astonishing number of administrative appointments in every part of the empire. He governed, or helped to govern many provinces, such as Eastern Rumelia, Hercegovina, Kosovo, and his native Cyprus whose administration he lived to see removed from Turkish hands. He was not personally ambitious although he rose rapidly; he was above all things a patriot and a scrupulously honest man, the most ready of his countrymen to accept responsibility and undertake thankless tasks.

Four times between 1885 and 1913 he filled, and conferred rectitude and distinction upon, the office of Grand Vizier, for the first time for centuries almost making a reality of that sonorous phrase “Fuldiga Porta Ottomana” which Neapolitan Foreign Ministers used to apply in their dispatches to the seat of the Turkish Government. Then, in May 1913, the veteran octogenarian statesman unexpectedly appears in his native island, which he had not seen since he had ceased to govern it as far back as 1864. The reason for the travels of the Grand Old Man of Turkey in the evening of his days was no happy one. On the 23rd of the previous January, Enver Bey, as he was then, one of the most forceful of the Young Turk leaders, burst with some of his associates into the Sublime Porte while the Cabinet was actually in session, shot dead the Minister of War, the genial and popular Nazim Pasha, at the Council table and overturned literally by force Kiamil’s fourth and last [Prime] Ministry. Unable to remain in Turkey after this bloody coup, the ex-Grand Vizier was invited by his friend Lord Kitchener to stay with him in Cairo, and after three months in Egypt decided to wait a favourable turn of fortune’s wheels, such as patience had brought him on previous occasions during the many vicissitudes of his long and chequered career, in Cyprus. Suddenly conceived, then, as was his journey and unforeseen his arrival in the island, the provision of suitable accommodation for someone of His Highness’s status presented a problem. As I was about to go to Troodos for the summer, I offered him the loan of my house during my absence, a suggestion the old gentleman was glad to accept. Kiamil had landed in Cyprus with only two attendants, a valet and a black eunuch, but five weeks later came the assassination of his Young Turk successor in the Grand Vizierate, Mahmud Shevket Pasha, possibly to avenge the murder of Nazim; and the prominent Old Turks were either expelled or fled the country. Those included Kiamil Pasha’s family, who had hitherto been unmolested and now joined the old man in Nicosia. On my return from Troodos, Kiamil took the house next to mine, which was roomier and could accommodate his greatly enlarged household. It was now a sight of considerable piquancy to watch from my window his eldest son, Said Pasha, a decrepit roue and invalid of sixty or thereabouts, being wheeled up and down the ramparts for his morning airing in a bathchair side by side with the push-cart containing His Highness’s youngest son, aged five or six. An unusual pair of brothers.” - extract from Sir Harry Luke’s account of his acquaintance with Kiamil Pasha.

“WHEN THE AGED CYPRIOT, KIAMIL PASHA, four times Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, tried and convinced defender of the traditional friendship between Turkey and Great Britain, arrived in Egypt after his virtual deportation from Constantinople by the young Turks, he received no recognition from the Egyptian Government, but was immediately visited by Lord Kitchener at the Semiramis Hotel. Kiamil Pasha reminded him in perfect English that they had met before when Kitchener was British Consul in Anatolia and Kiamil Vali of the Province. “Yes,” replied the Field-Marshal and ex-Commander- in-Chief of India, “ but Your Highness achieved higher and swifter promotion. I was a Consul then, and it has taken me thirty years to become a Consul General.” Kiamil Pasha was nearly ninety years old and had frequently conversed with Muhammad Ali, founder of the Egyptian Royal Dynasty, who was born in the same year as Napoleon*. It was good to see the faces and to hear the talk of these two illustrious K.’s, both by temperament and by association life members of that great club, the friendly and unmandated Near East-that intimate atmosphere of manner, of feeling and of policy which can only be comprehended by those who have been steeped in it by many years of work, travel and affection.”

“On the 14th November following his arrival in the island, while full of plans for revisiting England in 1914, Kiamil Pasha died suddenly of syncope while engaged in his morning correspondence, and was buried that afternoon by his and my friend and landlord, Taib Efendi, in the court of Arab Ahmed Mosque of which Taib Efendi was the Imam. Truly Turkish in its contrasts and ups and downs had been his life; truly Turkish was his burial. After a service in St. Sophia [Selimiye], the great Mosque, the coffin was borne through the narrow streets of the walled town and beneath overhanging lattices to its last resting-place, follo wed by the highest and lowest in the island. Crowding upon the High Commissioner, the principal British officials and the Moslem dignitaries, the rabble of the town struggled and pushed, instigated partly by curiosity, partly by the hope of being able for a moment or two to take a part in the bearing of the coffin. As the procession approached the Arab Ahmed Mosque with its swaying burden a flower-seller, dressed in the baggy white breeches of the Turkish peasant of Cyprus and with bare legs and slippers, joined the throng, laid aside the tray of violets he had brought into the bazaar for sale and put his shoulder under the coffin. It was the Grand Vizier’s nephew, his sister’s son, who grew flowers and vegetables in the neighbouring village of Devtera and had come into the town that afternoon to ply his trade. He encountered the procession accidentally, unaware of his uncle’s death; but when he learned who was being carried to burial, he took his place as a matter of course and no one thought his participation strange. For if the Ottoman Empire was an autocracy, it was in some respects the most striking of democracies. It could give rank, honour, and position to a man but not to his descendants; a poor Turk or one of humble birth became Vizier or Mushir as easily as a Stambuli Efendi. The Turk needed not to be a lesser gentleman because he wore peasants clothes nor a parvenu because he had reached eminence by a long ladder. With his sense of fitness of things Sir Ronald Storrs, Governor of Cyprus from 1926 to 1932, caused a decent memorial to be raised over Kiamil Pasha’s grave. He also composed the English inscription, carved on the headstone below a Turkish one in old lettering (the Ottoman Turkish script banned by Attaturk!). It runs as follows:






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