Queen Fawzia - From princess to empress to a royal forgotten amid Egypt’s transformations
In 1939, when Princess Fawzia of Egypt married the crown prince of Iran, Mohammed Reza, the teenagers united two great Muslim lands. Each side had political and
personal motives for welcoming the union: for the Egyptian King Farouk,
the princess’s brother, the marriage asserted a constitutional monarch’s
power in a region lorded over by the British. For the shah of Iran,
formerly an ordinary soldier, the century-old Egyptian royal family
conferred aristocratic legitimacy on his own. At the wedding in Cairo,
guests received bonbon boxes made of gold and precious stones;
flower-filled floats paraded down the wide avenues; fireworks were set
off over the Nile.
princess grew up in sophisticated, exclusive Cairo speaking French,
English and Arabic. She was a knockout: a more luscious version of Hedy
Lamarr, a softer Vivien Leigh. Cecil Beaton photographed her for the
cover of Life magazine. Her life was chronicled in newspapers worldwide,
which referred to her as “one of the world’s most beautiful women.”
When the crown prince
became shah, Fawzia became the empress of Iran; their daughter was
Princess Shahnaz. Yet rumors of Fawzia’s marital unhappiness reached
Cairo. A member of the Egyptian court was sent to Tehran, where he
discovered Fawzia to be neglected and gravely ill: Her shoulder blades,
he reported, “jutted out like the fins of some undernourished fish.”
King Farouk demanded that the two divorce. Princess Shahnaz stayed in
In time, Fawzia
married again, in 1949, to a royalist officer named Ismail Cherine, and
had two more children. The Egyptians, most of whom were poor and
disenfranchised, had by then turned against the royal family. King
Farouk was viewed as a corrupt and incompetent playboy, a monarch
beholden to an occupying foreign power. In 1952, a military coup led by
Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser was widely heralded among Egyptians (and much of
the world) as an act of emancipation. Farouk boarded the royal yacht
and sailed to Italy, never to return to the throne. Fawzia, unlike most
of her relatives, stayed in Egypt with her family. They settled in a
villa in Alexandria, where she lived a quiet, almost anonymous life in
reduced circumstances, melting into the background of a rapidly growing
city. (Read more)
“To me, the most beautiful royal women from the past are, 1. Grace, 2. Princess Fawzia, 3. Queen Paola, 4. Soraya, 5. Margaret, 6. Caroline, 7. Diana, 8. Queen Silvia, 9. Elizabeth II, and 10. Queen Noor.” - Submitted by Anonymous
Princess Fawzia of Egypt and Iran. She was the daughter of king Fuad I of Egypt, sister of deposed king Farouk I, and first wife of Shah Reza of Iran. Described as an “Asian Venus”, Fawzia was famous for her striking pale blue eyes. She divorced the Shah after a chaotic marriage, returning to more cosmopolitan Cairo (It used to be a very modern society). According to CIA reports, Fawzia ridiculed and humiliated the Shah due to his impotence. She died on July 2, 2013.
Wives of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran (an overview)
Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt
Her Sultanic Highness Princess Fawzia bint Fuad was born in Alexandria, Egypt on November 5, 1921. She was the eldest daughter of Sultan Fuad I of Egypt and Queen Nazli.
Princess Fawzia is of Albanian, Circassian, and French descent, as the Egyptian royal family is not ethnically Egyptian.
Princess Fawzia married Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Crown Prince of Iran, in Cairo on March 16, 1939. The marriage was arranged to strengthen the relationship between Iran and Egypt.
Together they had one daughter, Her Imperial Highness Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi (currently age 72).
Two years after their marriage, the Crown Prince succeeded his father as Shah of Iran and Princess Fawzia became Queen of Iran.
The marriage was unsuccessful, resulting in Queen Fawzia obtaining an Egyptian divorce in 1945, and moving to Cairo. The divorce was not recognized by Iran for several years until 1948. A major condition of the divorce was that Princess Shahnaz be left behind to be raised in Iran.
After the divorce, Queen Fawzia’s became Her Imperial and Royal Highness Princess Fawzia of Egypt and Iran.
In 1949, Princess Fawzia remarried the one-time Egyptian Minister of War and the Navy, Colonel Ismail Chirine. They went on to have a daughter and a son.
At present, Princess Fawzia is 91 years old and lives in Alexandria.
Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari was born in the English Missionary Hospital in Isfahan, Iran on June 22, 1932. She was the only daughter of Khalil Esfandiary and Eva Karl. Her father was a Bakhtiari nobleman and Iranian ambassador to West Germany.
Princess Soraya was of Persian and German descent.
Soraya was introduced via photograph to the recently divorced Shah in 1948 by a close relative.
Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari married the Shah on February 12, 1951 at Golestan Palace in Tehran. She was 18 and he was 31. Their original wedding date of December 27, 1950 had to be postponed due to the bride being ill.
The marriage became troubled due to Queen Soraya’s infertility and the necessity of a male heir to the throne . In early 1958, a council of advisors met with the Shah to discuss the lack of an heir. On March 21, an emotional Shah officially announced the divorce to the Iranian people and on April 6, 1958, the marriage was officially over.
Upon their divorce, Soraya lost the title of Queen but was granted the style and title of Her Imperial Highness Princess Soraya of Iran.
Soraya called the divorce “a sacrifice of my own happiness.”
After the divorce, Princess Soraya moved to France and began a short-lived film career. She wrote an autobiography, Princess Soraya: Autobiography of Her Imperial Highness, and later wrote another memoir called The Palace of Loneliness.
Princess Soraya died in Paris on October 26, 2001 at the age of 69.
Farah Diba was born to an upper-class family in Tehran on October 14, 1938. She was the only child of Captain Sohrab Diba and Farideh Ghotbi. Her father was an officer in the Imperial Iranian Armed Forces.
Empress Farah is of Azerbaijani and Iranian descent.
Farah met the Shah at the Iranian Embassy in 1959 when she was a student in Paris. They announced their engagement on November 23, 1959.
Farah Diba married the Shah on December 21, 1959. She was 21 and he was 40.
From 1960 to 1970, the Queen and the Shah had four children: HIH Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, HIH Princess Farahnaz Pahlavi, HIH Prince Ali Reza Pahlavi, and HIH Princess Leila Pahlavi.
Queen Farah became very popular and very involved in public and government affairs - she became a highly visible figure and the patron of 24 educational, health, and cultural organizations.
In the 1967 Coronation Ceremonies, she was crowned as the first Shahbanou, or Empress of Iran. The Shah confirmed her status when he named her the official Empress Regent in the event of his death or incapacitation before the Crown Prince’s 21st birthday. This was very unusual for a Middle Eastern monarchy.
The Shah and Empress Farah were forced to leave Iran in January 1979, when the country was on the verge of a revolution and numerous demonstrations and violent protests were taking place.
The Shah and Empress Farah lived in exile until the Shah’s death from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on July 27, 1980.
Empress Farah suffered immense personal tragedy upon the fatal overdose of her daughter Princess Leila in 2001 and again due to the apparent suicide of her son Prince Ali Reza in 2011.
At present, Empress Farah is 74 years old and currently divides her time between Washington, D.C. and Paris.
Not only did each look show the typical aesthetics during that decade, but also represents the political struggles at the time
1910s [Typical Urban Look]: Features the Abaya and a veil which allowed women enter society and the public’s eye while simultaneously keeping their conservatism
1920s [Huda Sharawi]: A pioneering Egyptian feminist leader and founder of the ‘Egyptian Feminist Union’. Took off the veil as a sign of resistance
1930s [Oum Kalthoum]: One of the greatest and most influential Arab singers of the 20th Century. Known as Kawkab al-Sharq كوكب الشرق (“Star of the East”) by many.
1940s [Princess Fawzia of Egypt]: Daughter of King Fouad I and descendant of Mohammed Ali, the founder of Modern Egypt. The next decade would see the end of her family’s rule during the 1952 Revolution.
1950s [Doria Shafik]: A philosopher, poet and one of the leaders of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Her efforts would grant Egyptian women the right to vote later on.
1960s [Factory Workers]: Former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser at the time started to focus on local manufacturing and economy. Labour Laws were changed to ensure women’s role in the workforce was legally protected. Also this decade saw the adoption of more western concepts after the liberation from the British.
1970s [Souad Hosni]: One of the major stars in the 70s known as the ‘Cinderella of Egyptian Cinema’.
1980s [Conservatism]: There was a social descent against Sadat’s open door policy and his acceptance of western norms to infiltrate Egyptian society. Many conservative people Egyptians migrated to the Gulf during this decade as the rise of the veil and, in contrast, western norms of fashion started to clash.
1990s [Sherihan]: An Egyptian singer who was influenced by the religious wave of the 90s. The 90s saw the return of the migrants from the Gulf during and after the Gulf War. They brought back many more conservative styles back to Egypt with them.
2000s [Hybrid Fashion]: This decade saw a reconciliation of people’s conservative aspects with the modernist aspects. Many veiled women started wearing sleeveless tops and clothes with cleavage but in a way that would be deemed acceptable by the conservative society [eg. wearing long sleeve tops under]
2010s [The Egyptian Revolution]: Represents the 2011 revolution and concepts that were adopted during that period. The Youth wanted their voice to be heard and to end the corruption in the government. Women role’s in the revolution was very significant.
Princess Fawzia of Iran.. She was the daughter of King Fuad and sister of King Farouk, and was married to the Shah of Iran. This matching suite of diamonds comprising tiara, earrings and necklace was made for her by Van Cleef and Arpels. Photo source: TRF