Princess Fawzia Fuad: Daughter of King Fuad who married the Shah of Iran


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The Independent Online

King Fuad of Egypt (1917-1936) had four daughters, whose names all began with F to commemorate his beloved mother, Feryal. They were brought up by an English nanny, Mrs Naylor, and often spoke English among themselves and with their brother Farouk. Fawzia was the most beautiful and in 1939, as part of King Farouk's plans to strengthen his influence in the Middle East, she was married to the heir to the throne of Iran, Mohamed Reza Pahlavi.

Marriages between reigning dynasties in the Middle East were a novelty. After the sophistication of Cairo, Iran was a shock; supplies of electricity and water on the train taking the new Crown Princess to Tehran broke down. There is a look of fury on her face in the photographs taken of her first days in Tehran, which was still backward and primitive. There were few people she could talk to, even after her husband ascended the throne in 1941.

Her marriage for a time went well and she bore a daughter, Shahnaz. However her husband needed a male heir and she did not provide one. In 1946 she returned to Egypt to convalesce after a long illness and, perhaps through the influence of Farouk, she did not return; they divorced in 1948.

Thereafter she was the senior lady in Egypt; Farouk was divorced and their adventurous mother, Queen Nazli, had quarrelled with him and gone to live in America. It was Fawzia who presided over the elaborate court receptions for ladies in Cairo and Alexandria. Although unimaginative, she enjoyed and shone in the role.

She did not suffer much from the coup of 1952 which deposed her brother and made Egypt a republic. She lived with her second husband, a voluble army officer called Ismail Shirin, in Cairo and Alexandria, and when possible visited Paris and Geneva. Her dark hair, pale skin and magnificent eyes had made her one of the most beautiful women in Cairo when it was one of the pleasure capitals of the world. She was kind and polite as well, and many Iranians remembered her as the best of the Shah's three wives.

Princess Fawzia Fuad: born Alexandria 5 November 1921; married 1939 Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (divorced 1948; one daughter), 1949 Ismail Shirin (died 1994); died Alexandria 2 July 2013.