Philanthropist, daughter of Sultan Abdülmecid (B. 7 February, 1842, Istanbul – D. 4 January, 1880, Istanbul). Her mother was Gülcemal Hatun. She started taking Koran courses when she was five years old. Other than that, she also learned the Persian language and calligraphy. Sultan Abdülmecid placed emphasis on the music education of his children. Therefore, Refia Sultan took piano lessons from the Italian pianist, Thressa Romano. At her father’s request she got married with Ethem Pasha, the son of Chief Admiral Mehmet Ali Pasha, in 1857. After she got married she continued with her education and she took French lessons.
Refia Sultan, being prone to living in luxury, made a name for herself with the cars she ordered from Paris and with the clothing she bought from famous French stores of Beyoğlu. Other than that, Refia Sultan, who was also known as a philanthropist, was awarded with the “Şefkat Nişanı” (T.N. “Order of Charity”) by Abdühamid II because of her aid to wounded soldiers in 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War (93 War). In addition, she donated various gifts to mausoleums and tombs of prominent religious leaders in various parts of the country.
Refia Sultan had many surgical operations due to a disease she had contracted when she was young. She went to a lot of doctors both within the country and abroad. However, all these efforts failed to give good results and Refia Sultan passed away when she was only 37 years old. She was buried in the Yeni Camii Mausoleum.
“Refia Sultan was the opposite of the condition the Ottoman Empire was in. She was ill and a believer on one hand and a modern person on the other hand. She was ordering her clothing and car from Paris and was learning French. She was experiencing the glory and the bankruptcy at the same time. At that period, the state the Ottoman Empire was in coincided with the fate of Refia Sultan. The Empire was a sick man, who was predestined to die, from the viewpoint of Europe. Sultan also struggles with a relentless illness and passes away after a very risky surgical operation.” (Ayşe Kara)