My interest in this fascinating woman came about purely by chance. I came across a picture of her (the bottom image to be exact), I could not believe how beautiful she was. Looking more like a Hollywood star then a stuffy Queen. I had to find out who she was. What intrigued me the most was that I have not aware that Egypt had a royal family as recently as the 1950’s. I was aware of Iran’s Royal past, but Egypt was more of a surprise.
Born her Sultanic Highness Princess Fawzia Bint Fuad on 5th November 1921 in Alexandria, Egypt (the home of one of the most important libraries of the ancient world). As princess of both Egypt and Sudan (thanks to her father Sultan Fuad) Fawzia was educated Switzerland speaking Arabic, French and English. Aged 17, Fawzia was married to Iranian Crown Prince Mohammed Reza Pahlavi on 15th March 1939. Uniting a Suni princess and a Shia prince was an important religious gesture as well as a political manoeuvre. However since the current law forbid any non Iranian to become a queen, the law had to be swiftly amended. By October of the following year, a daughter Shanaz was born. International attention was focused on the queen who looked like she should be seducing the public on the silver screen. Once her father-in-law Reza Shah abdicated the throne, making Reza Pahlavi Shah and Fawzia Empress. One would imagine that the life a fabulously beautiful queen would be a picnic. However Fawzia was not destined to be cocooned in pampered luxury. For one she was more fluent in French then Persian (though she was supposed to have not tried to learn much), did not attend Royal or charitable function expected of her. Even falling out with her in-laws and refusing to share a room with her philandering husband. Her disdain for anything Iranian extended to her own child. Combine that with continual poor health (including Malaria), a happy marriage was never on the cards.
In 1948 Fawzia left Iran for her homeland of Egypt, officially to recuperate. However I am sure that she would have found any reason to get away from her Persian gilded cage. After many months back in familiar circumstances, it was publicly announced the Empress of Iran would not be returning to her marital country. Again her maladies were given as the reason why she could not return (I rather doubt that was true, but I am no Dr). Additionally Fawzia and the Shah announced the dissolution of their marriage.
After the divorce was finalised, Fawzia remarried to Col Ismail Shirin. An aristocrat with diplomatic and military ties to King Farouk. However King Farouk was toppled in 1952, then the Royal family was deposed during the revolution. Fawzia married twice after Shirin’s death in 1994. To Yusuf Shabaan and Mustafa Rashid. In case you were wondering, 1979 was the year that the Iranian monarchy fell during their revolution. So now both sets of imperial houses are extinct.
Fawzia Fuad died 2nd July 2013 aged 91. One must wonder about the radical changes she were witness to. To see two Royal families becoming defunct by the will of the people. Granted I am not a supporter of our own Royal family. Still it was the end of multiple eras, what must the world have appeared to her? Scary? threatening? However she did leave behind a legacy of stunning glamour. I hope she will be remembered for the staggering beauty that she was.