IN THE 1940s and 1950s Princess Faiza was what what every lover of Hollywood movies dreamt that an Egyptian princess should be. Beautiful, rich, sophisticated, exotic. She had the sultry looks of a Hollywood screen-goddess, and she even appeared to have the life to go with it.
But her personal life was filled with tragedy. . She and her family paid heavily for the life they were born into. Her sister Princess Fawzia, the first wife of the Shah of Iran, suffered a nervous breakdown and become anorexic at the appalling treatment she received in Tehran. Her brother King Farouk, who as Faiza would say was 'not mad, just bad', became so jealous and suspicious of her and her husband that he placed them both under house arrest; she remained convinced that having left Egypt her brother was murdered, and did not die innocently as is claimed. In later years her sister Princess Fathia was murdered in Los Angeles by her own husband.
The five Fs, the children of King Fuad and Queen Nazli - Princesses Fathia, Fawzia, Faika, Faiza and the king-to-be Farouk - were all named for the good luck that proved so elusive for them. It is telling that Princess Faiza's death was not announced in any Western paper for over a month after her death. She had, it seems, simply been forgotten.
Faiza believed that their problems as a family began in the isolated world they grew up in at court. For, although the Egyptian court was to the outsider an extraordinary fairy-tale world, Faiza knew it to be a gilded cage. But she succeeded in learning what her brother never understood, namely how the real world operated. She was determined not to lead a life of court restrictions. Refusing to marry some Middle Eastern potentate, instead she chose to marry her cousin Mehmet Ali Rauf, a Western-educated scholar, in 1945. Because he was the grandson of the Khedive Ishmael Pasha, her brother had no choice but to accede to her request.
Their home in Cairo, the Zohria Palace, was regarded as an oasis of civilisation by the many English to whom they played host. But what seemed for the first years to be an ideal marriage soon became strained. After her brother abdicated in 1952, all her property in Egypt was confiscated, even her family photograph albums. Her past was wiped out, and money problems loomed. She lived for some years in Paris, but tired of the ranks of exiled royalty eking out a living in Europe. Her marriage had already failed, she divorced, and with her remaining funds left for America.
Despite offers by rich suitors she chose to remain single and keep her independence - she would not become a rich American's captive 'Princess'. She kept her husband's name (she always remembered him with great affection) and she set out to create a new life. When asked why she didn't come to England, where she had many friends, she said that in England she would still be expected to behave in certain ways, while in Hollywood she could mix freely with people from every walk of life. Yet for all of this Faiza, like all exiled people, deep down longed for her country, a country which perhaps had become only a place in her imagination. She could not be persuaded back to Egypt - even Sadat had tried and failed. But her loyalties were patent, and in 1992 she was actively raising funds for Egypt's earthquake victims.
The melancholy of having seen too much of what life had exacted of her and her ill-fated family had left indelible marks. Princess Faiza knew that she could never escape her past and the spectre of her brother, yet in the last years in Los Angeles she found a new freedom - in the foothills of the same Hollywood that over 50 years ago had first stirred her imagination in the palaces of Cairo. The irony was that her own life had been more fabulous and unbelievable than any Hollywood movie.