The former royal family of Egypt has announced the death of Princess Fawzia, the second daughter of the late King Fuad I and sometime Queen of Iran as the first wife of Shah Mohammed Reza. She was 91 and passed away in Alexandria yesterday.
Princess Fawzia was born in Alexandria on 5 November 1921 and was the first child born of the then Sultan Fuad’s second marriage to Nazli Sabri. The following year her father assumed the title of King.
On 16 March 1939 Princess Fawzia was married off to the Crown Prince of Iran, Mohammed Reza, an arranged marriage which soon proved unhappy. In October 1940 the Crown Princess gave birth to a daughter, Princess Shahnaz, and the following year she became Queen of Iran when her husband was brought to the throne through the forced abdication of his father, Reza.
According to Shah Mohammed Reza’s biographer Abbas Milani, Fawzia, whose wealthy Sunni family had ruled Egypt for a one and a half century, was believed to look down on the poor, Shiite parvenus that were the Pahlavis, a dynasty founded by her father-in-law.
Her difficult relationship with her mother-in-law and her husband’s infidelities eventually made her return to Egypt. Her absence from Iran was officially explained by her health being endangered by the Iranian climate.
This was also the reason given for the divorce, which was finalised in 1947. In his memoirs, the Shah would later claim her inability to bear a son as the reason for divorce, but this was obviously nonsense as Fawzia had both a son, Husain, and a daughter, Nadia, by her second husband, the officer and politician Ismail Chirine, whom she married in 1949.
In 1952 Fawzia’s brother, King Farouk I, was overthrown in the revolution which, within a year, also brought an end to the Muhammad Ali dynasty. However, Princess Fawzia remained in Egypt. Her second husband died in 1994 and their daughter in 2009.