beloved adopted daughter of Khedive Ismail
laid to rest on the banks of the Bosphorous
researched by Samir W Raafat
THE HISTORIC AŞIYAN CEMETERY - BEBEK, ISTANBUL
inscription: the Khedive of Egypt Ismail Pasha [died 1895] and his wife Djananyar Hanum [died 1912] mourn the passing away of Kopses Hanum who died on day 2 of (illegible month) 1306 H. [1888 AD]
"Ali" the caretaker of Asiyan cemetery
having survived for more than a century the twin tombstones were summarily removed in April 2014 so as not to upset the recently laidout pathway...
...and stacked with a collection of other neglected tombstones and plaques
Asiyan in 1906 then commonly referred to as Rumeli Hisar Cemetery
The story of Kopses Hanum could easily be the script for a romantic Turkish TV series. But in order to learn about her one needs to read Recollections of an Egyptian Princess authored by Miss Ellen Chennells, the English governess of Princess Zeyneb Ismail of Egypt. For almost five years, between 1871-6, Chennels was in daily contact with her royal ward and the latter's surrogate sister, the Circassian child-slave Kopses.
Chennells uses the following words when describing Kopses:
"She was small in stature, but slim and agile as a young fawn. She excelled in everything that she attempted, and learned all that she was taught with ease and exactness; but it would have been a false kindness to cultivate her powers according to their capapbilty, at the risk of exciting ill-feeling on the part of Princess (Zeynep), on whom she was wholly dependent. She was very lively, but wonderfully reticent in all concerning the inner life of the harem. She had the greatest influence over her little mistress, but it was always excercised for good."
"Kopses had great vivacity, and wonderful tact for so young a person : she never obtruded her opinions, but when required she expressed them with a free and independent bearing, which to our preconceived ideas was totally inconsistent with slavery. Her manner to us was quite different from her behaviour in the harem. With us she was the free outspoken member of a free community -- outspoken, that is to say, in what concerned exclusively European manners and ideas; in the harem, as I afterwards had full occasion to observe, she was the quiet dignified Oriental, receiving notice from her superiors with profound respect, but without a tinge of servility."
"The valuable services which Kopses could render, made her much in request. There was a constant arrival of boxes from Paris, containing dresses, and an influx of French modistes, to take orders from, or to throw temptation in the way of, the Princesses and chief ladies. Kopses understood four languages, Turkish, Arabic, French, and English. Most persons who settle in Egypt acquire a little Arabic, but it is a foreign language to the Princesses, and they much prefer the translations into Turkish, of the various bills of the modistes. So Kopses was constantly called away to serve as interpreter, and the Princess being left alone with me, would seek 'rather to engage me in conversation than in study."
Kopses observance of Ramadan 1874 as told by Ellen Chennells
Miss Ellen Chennells' tenure with the khedivial family ended shortly after the sudden death of Princess Zeyneb aged 16. The following year Chennells returned to England to live with her ailing sister Anne in the town of Cheltenham. Fifteen years later, in 1893, she published her "Egyptian" memoirs where she vividly describes her service days at the khedivial palaces of Cairo, Alexandria and Istanbul.
Where she could Chennell rationalizes her narrative bringing it up to date; several of the central characters met with drastic changes in their lives since 1877 beginning with her employer Khedive Ismail who after bankrupting Egypt was exiled. His eldest son Tewfik replaced him on the throne for 10 years before dying suddenly in Helwan in 1892. In the meantime Egypt was occupied by British troops following Orabi's failed 1882 revolt.
It is clear from her memoirs that Chennels did not know what happened to Kopses Hanum whom she had tutored from 1871-5. She is uncertain as to whether or not Kopses remained in the service of Ismail's second wife the Princess Djananyar.
As was the norm at the Imperial Turkish and Royal Egyptian harems, childhood companions of princes and princesses, such as Kopses, were married off to senior courtiers or generals. Like in the case of Kopses, the young bride would normally receive expensive parting gifts from her benefactress who in this case was Princess Zeyneb's mother Djananyar. Comparable gifts in the form of jewelry or cash would be offered by the khedive as well as senior members of the harem.
An alternate option to marriage was to remain in the service of the harem attaching one's self to a princely household.
Kopses was married off to Ali Zaki Bey, a nephew of a cabinet minister and himself a member of the khedivial administration well known to the young princes of the court with whom he had been educated in Europe. But hers was not to be happy marriage. Soon after giving birth to two sons (Mohammed-Ali and Hussein) and a daughter (Zinaat), Kopses separated from Zaki Bey leaving her infant children in the care of her formidable mother in law Gulsun Hanem. Kopses then traveled to Emirgan, Istanbul preferring to re-enter the service of her former patrons Khedive Ismail and his second wife Djananyar, who in a sense were the only parents she ever had.
By the time Kopses Hanum arrived in Istanbul, Ismail Pasha was leading an uneventful exile on his vast property by the Bosphorous attended to by his wives and a few courtiers. It was during the latter part of Ismail's exile at Emirgan that Kopses Hanum died under the age of 30. She could not have known therefore that her ex-brother in law, Mustafa Fahmy Pasha, would become Prime Minister of Egypt serving two khedives and that a childless niece by marriage would be titled "Mother of the Egyptians" as wife of Prime Minister Saad Zaghloul Pasha. The tight link with the palace would therefore continue for another 60 years.
Since Kopses died before her royal patrons she received a funeral worthy of her rank and service which perhaps explains why she was buried in a choice area of Ashiyan Cemetery. The telling inscription on her beautiful marble tombstone is itself a clear recognition by both Ismail Pasha and his wife Princess Djananyar of her devoted service and companionship to Egypt's reigning family. It is also from the said inscription that her living descendants in 2009 learned for the first time that the full name of their romanticized ancestor was Fatma-Kopses and not simply "Kopses," the meaning of which remains vague to this day.
Named after her paternal grandmother whom she never met, Kopses Mohammed-Ali Zaki (widow of General Abdel Moneim Khalifa) bears an uncanny resemblance to the original Kopses. She has not yet visited her grandmother's final resting place in Turkey. She presently lives in Maadi, Egypt surrounded by four children and six grandchildren.
descendants of Kopses Hanum at Sisli, Istanbul, November 2009
L-R: Enayat, Hussein and Hassan A. Khalifa
below: great-granddaughter Nimetullah A. Khalifa
Nimetullah with sister Hebatullah A. Khalifa
Nimetullah and daughters
Gulsun Hanem is the mother-in-law of Kopses Hanum. She is also the sister of Minister of Finance Mohammed Zaki Pasha and mother of future Prime Minister Mustafa Fahmy Pasha and grandmother of Safeya Zaghloul Hanem a.k.a. "Um al-Masreyeen" or Mother of the Egyptians.
extended family tree evidencing three Egyptian prime ministers: Mustafa Fahmy Pasha, Saad Zaghloul Pasha and Mahmoud Fahmy Nokrashy Pasha
Kopses Hanum's brother in law Mustafa Fahmy Pasha (seated) with Prince Hassan, third son of Khedive Ismail
THE ORIGINAL KOPSES - 1870s
THE OTHER KOPSES
great-great-granddaughter Kopses Laforet - France 2010
FOLLOWING PHOTOS COURTESY OF MOHAB RIFAAT FROM HIS FAMILY ALBUM
Seated in center Prime Minister Mustafa Fahmy Pasha with son in law and future prime minister Saad Zaghloul Pasha to his left; daughter Safiya Fahmy (Mrs Saad Zaghloul) Hanum standing between them
to the left is Assa'es Hanum (Mrs. Mustafa Fahmy Pasha) and a young Doreya Sidky (daughter of Zinaat Zaki and granddaughter of Kopses Hanum)
to the right of photo a cousin
For more on Ashiyan Cemetery and WHY a First Lady of Egypt is buried there click on Neslishah Sultan
If you have additional information regarding Kopses Hanum email egy.com