November 5, 2021
In the late 1930s, an article in the Iranian Constitution had to be changed, to allow the union of two teenagers; Prince Reda Pahlavi and HRH Princess Fawzia of Egypt. The teenagers were 19 and 17, respectively. After changing the article that demanded the mother of the Crown Prince to be of Iranian origin, the young couple married on March 15, 1939 at Abdeen Palace in Cairo. Another wedding ceremony awaited them in Iran at Marble Palace, Tehran, which became their residence.
This dynastic arranged marriage, was far from a love match, yet was welcomed by both royal families, as it also united the two nations.
In the lavish wedding in Cairo, the guests received bonbon boxes made of gold and precious stones; flower-filled floats paraded down the wide avenues; fireworks shimmered in the skies over the Nile.
HRH Princess Fawzia was born on November 5 1921 at Ras al-Tin Palace in Alexandria, the eldest daughter of HRH King Fuad and his second wife, Queen Nazli Sabri. She received her education at home and spoke Arabic, Turkish, English and French.
HRH Princess Fawzia grew to become one of the most beautiful women in the world, “a more luscious version of Hedy Lamarr, a softer Vivien Leigh.” She was photographed on the cover of Life magazine and her life was chronicled in newspapers worldwide.
In Tehran, the marriage between the young royals was not a success. Queen Fawzia (the title of empress was not yet used in Iran) didn’t speak adequate Persian. She missed her family, friends and lavish life in modern, cosmopolitan Cairo, in comparison to the underdeveloped city of Tehran, from her point of view.
Disagreements grew between her and her husband and her in-laws. In addition to the loveless marriage, rumors circulated about her husband’s infidelity. Queen Fawzia fell into depression. She moved to Cairo in 1945 and filed for divorce. She was forced to leave behind her 5-years-old daughter Shahnaz. Her divorce was finalized in 1948 and she reclaimed back her title as Princess of Egypt.
In 1949, at Koubba Palace in Cairo, Princess Fawzia married Colonel Ismail Chirine (1919–1994), a distant cousin. He served as commander in chief of the Egyptian army before the 1952 coup coup d’état that ousted King Farouk.
HRH Princess Fawzia and Ismail Chirine had two children, one daughter and one son. Unlike her relatives who left Egypt after 1952, she stayed with her family. After the government confiscated her palace in Cairo, the family settled in a villa in Alexandria, where she lived a quiet, almost anonymous life.
HRH Princess Fawzia, died in Alexandria in 2013 at the age of 91. She was buried in Cairo next to her second husband, Ismail Chirine, who died in 1994.
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