Nazikeda Kadın (Ottoman Turkish: نازك ادا قادين; 9 October 1866 – 4 April 1941), meaning 'One of delicate manners', was empress consort of the Ottoman Empire as the first wife and chief consort of the last Ottoman sultan Mehmed VI.
Nazikeda was born Emine in Tsebelda to a family of Abkhazian principality. She was the daughter of Prince Hasan Bey Marshan. She came to Istanbul in 1876, and married Prince Vahdeddin later known as Mehmed VI, in 1885. She was the mother of three daughters, Fenire Sultan, Ulviye Sultan, and Sabiha Sultan. After Mehmed's accession to the throne in 1918, she was given the title of 'Baş Kadın'. He was deposed in 1922, and was sent into exile in 1924. Nazikeda followed him, and remained with him until his death in 1926. She spent her last years with her two daughters, Ulviye and Sabiha, and died at Cairo in 1941.
Nazikeda Kadın was born on 9 October 1866 in Tsebelda, when Abkhazia came under Russian Empire. Born as Emine Marshan, she was a member of Abkhazian princely family Marshan. Her father was Prince Hassan Bey Marshan (1836 – 1877), the son of Prince Ismail Bey, the ruler of Tzebelda. Her mother was Princess Fatma Horecan Hanım Aredba, an Abkhazian. She had two elder brothers Prince Abdülkadir Bey (1862 – 1917) and Prince Mehmed Bey, and two younger sisters, Princess Naciye Hanım (1869 – 1930), and Princess Daryal Hanım (1870 – 1904).
In 1876, she had been brought to Istanbul as a young child, where her father entrusted her to the imperial harem together with her sisters Daryal and Naciye, cousins Amine (1872 - 1946), Rumeysa (1875 - 1927), Pakize (1876 - 1943), Fatima, and Kamile (1869 - 1909), and wetnurse Babuce Hanım. She was then sent to Cemile Sultan's palace in Kandilli, where her name according to the custom of the Ottoman court was changed to Nazikeda.
Cemile Sultan's youngest daughter Fatima Hanımsultan, had tuberculosis and Nazikeda became her closest companion. Cemile raised her as if she as her own daughter. Her nanny remained with her even as she grew up, although she had been told that she could return to Causasia if she wished.
Nazikeda had honey coloured eyes, long auburn hair, and slender waist. She was interested in playing piano and horse riding.
One day, when Mehmed was in his twenties, he visited his older sister Cemile Sultan at her palace at Kandilli. Here he saw Nazikeda, then seventeen years old, and fell in love with her. He asked his sister to give him Nazikeda in marriage, but Cemile flatly refused. She didn't wanted her sick daughter to be deprived of a companion, and at the same time that her brother would eventually take a second wife after Nazikeda, whom she considered as her own daughter.
However, one year after the prince's pleading Cemile acceded to her brother's demand, but on one condition that he would not take a second wife. He took the oath requested by his sister, and the marriage took place on 8 June 1885 in one of the palaces of Örtakoy. Mehmed was twenty four while Nazikeda was nineteen years old. After the marriage, the couple went to live in one of the palaces of Feriye, where they spent several years in a three-storey wooden mansion. This mansion was destroyed in a fire, and the couple later moved to the mansion in Çengelköy.
Her sister Daryal renamed Iryale was married to Şehzade Mehmed Selim, son of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Her cousin Amine renamed Nazikeda was married to Şehzade Yusuf Izzeddin, son of Sultan Abdülaziz. Her other cousin Kamile renamed Mezidimestan, was married to Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
The couple's first daughter Fenire Sultan was born in 1888, and lived only a few weeks. She was followed by Fatima Ulviye Sultan born on 11 September 1892, and two years later, on 19 March 1894, by Rukiye Sabiha Sultan. After this third birth, Nazikeda was told by the doctors that she would not be able to bear other children.
In the following years, Mehmed married other women, but all of his marriages were made by the consent by Nazikeda. Even though Mehmed's accession to the throne was unlikely, but Nazikeda knew well that as a prince he had to have a male heir and, therefore, each time accepted his wish to remarry. By doing so Mehmed broke the vow he had made to his sister Cemile. None the less, after his accession to the throne in 1918, he gave Nazikeda the title of 'Baş Kadın', and his respect towards her never failed.
By 1916 Mehmed and Nazikeda's daughters had grown and reached the age of marriage. The elder daughter, Ulviye, was first to marry. The groom was Ismail Hakki Bey, the son of last grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire, Ahmed Tevfik Pasha. The wedding took place in a waterfront palace at Kuruçeşme on 10 August 1916, when Mehmed was a Crown Prince. The couple had a daughter Hümeyra Hanımsultan born on 4 June 1917. Ulviye divorced Ismail, and married Ali Haydar Bey, a member of the Germiyanoğlu family.
Her younger daughter, Sabiha and Şehzade Ömer Faruk, the son of Abdulmejid II, the last Caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate, were in love with each other. When Abdulmejid asked Sabiha's hand in marriage for his son, Mehmed flatly refused as there was no such thing as a marriage between cousins. Şehsuvar Hanım, the prince's mother called on Nazikeda, and succeeded in convincing her. The marriage took place on 5 December 1919, and the wedding reception took place four months later on 29 April 1920 at the Yıldız Palace. The couple had three daughters, Neslişah Sultan, Hanzade Sultan, and Necla Sultan.
In 1922, Mehmed was deposed and exiled. She, together with other members of his family, was kept in house arrest at the Feriye Palace by order of the new parliament until 10 March 1924, when they were sent into exile. Nazikeda along with Mehmed, moved to Sanremo. During their stay, Mehmed's daily routine was to visit Nazikeda's room, which was on the same floor as his apartment, to drink his morning coffee with her.
Following Mehmed's death in 1926, she moved to Monte Carlo, with her elder daughter Fatima Ulviye Sultan, her husband Ali Haydar Bey, and her daughter Hümeyra Hanımsultan. She also used to come for a stay at Nice with her younger daughter Rukiye Sabiha Sultan and her husband Prince Ömer Faruk. A large room used to be assigned to her, which she shared with Prince Ertuğrul, her stepson, whenever he came back from Grasse.
Nazikeda later moved to Alexandria with Ulviye, and after her grave illness there, Sabiha joined them in 1938. In 1940, she attended the wedding of her granddaughter, Neslişah Sultan and Prince Mohamed Abdel Moneim, son of Egypt's last khedive Abbas Hilmi II.
Nazikeda died at Maadi, Cairo, on 4 April 1941 and was buried in the mausoleum of Abbas Hilmi Pasha in Abbasiye Cemetery.
In popular culture
Nazikeda is a character in T. Byram Karasu's historical novel Of God and Madness: A Historical Novel (2007).