Queen Nazli’s story: part II – bird in a gilded cage

After recovering from the loss of her mother and completing a two-year stay in Paris alongside her sister, Eminah, Nazli’s life took an unexpected turn when she was forced into marriage with her Turkish cousin, Khalil Sabri.  Unfortunately, the marriage proved short-lived, ending in divorce after a mere eleven months.

In the aftermath of her divorce, Nazli sought refuge in the home of her deceased mother’s best friend, Safiya Zaghloul, the wife of the revolutionary activist and former Prime Minister of Egypt, Saad Zaghloul. There, she crossed paths with Safiya’s nephew, Saeed Zaghloul.  Both being freedom-loving individuals, they fell in love, but their relationship ended when Saeed was compelled to go into exile alongside his uncle Saad during the 1919 revolution.  However, fate had more surprises in store for Nazli.

Ahmed Fouad (1868 – 1936)

Ahmed Fouad Pasha was the great-grandson of Muhammad Ali, the grandson of Ibrahim Pasha, the Wali and Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, and the son of Ismail the Magnificent, Khedive of Egypt and Sudan. In 1917, he became Sultan of Egypt upon the death of his brother, Hassan I of Egypt.

Fouad’s first marriage in 1895, at the age of 27, was to Princess Shivakiar Khanum Effendi, aged 19, his first cousin once removed.  Princess Shivakiar (1876–1947) was the great-granddaughter of Ibrahim Pasha and the great-great-granddaughter of Muhammad Ali.  Shivakiar bore him a son, Ismail Fouad, who tragically passed away in infancy, and a daughter named Fawkia.  Their relationship was stormy, perhaps in part due to Shivakiar’s strong and independent spirit, leading to divorce after just 3 years of marriage in 1898.  The separation was marked by a dramatic incident where Fouad was shot in the throat during a dispute with Shivakiar’s brother, Prince Ahmad Saif-uddin Ibrahim Bey, leaving him with a lifelong scar.

Fouad and Nazli: a chance encounter or destiny?

One evening in 1919, while attending the opera, the beautiful and vivacious Nazli Sabry captured the attention of another attendee, Sultan Ahmed Fouad.  To everyone’s astonishment, Sultan Fouad proposed to Nazli, and a mere twelve days later, they exchanged vows in a lavish ceremony held at Bustan Palace in Cairo.  Fouad was 51 years old, surpassing his bride by about 26 years.

Instead of moving into the royal residence, the independent Nazli must have had a rude awakening when she found herself within the haramlek of the Saffron Palace at Abbasiya, where Fuad was born, facing restrictions reminiscent of an era past.  Sultan Fouad, in his pursuit of a male heir, held firm opinions about a woman’s role, akin to the traditions of his Ottoman forebears.

With no male heir to his name, he looked to Nazli with hope to rectify the situation, cautioning her that her fate would be confined to the haremlek unless she could provide him with a son.

Luckily for Nazli, she became pregnant early in the marriage and gave birth to their first and only son on February 11, 1920, in Abdeen Palace.  When Egypt was declared independent in 1922 Sultan Fouad became King Fouad and Nazli became Queen of Egypt

The palace, it seemed, held an uneasy life for Queen Nazli, marked by rumors of mistreatment, including confinement within her suite for extended periods and limitations on her public engagements, relegating her primarily to flower shows and operatic events.  Queen Nazli’s ambitions and thirst for freedom exceeded the norms of her era, leading to whispers that she once made an unsuccessful attempt to end her life with an overdose of aspirin.

 Among Queen Nazli’s ladies-in-waiting was a lady named Zainab Sa’id, whose daughter Farida would grow up to become first wife to Nazli’s own son, the crown prince Farouk.

King Fouad’s control extended beyond his wife to their son – the young crown prince Farouk was only allowed to visit his mother for one hour every day.

Queen Nazli and her children

Yet, amidst these challenges,  Queen Nazli must have had moments of joy, bringing four daughters into the world: Fawzia in 1921, Faiza in 1923, Faiqa in 1926, and Fathiya in 1930.  Her travels alongside her husband to Europe in 1927 celebrated her French heritage, earning her recognition in France.  Queen Nazli also graced the opening of Parliament in 1924, seated in a special section of the guest gallery.  1924 was also the year her younger sister, Eminah, died in childbirth, having been married only the previous year.

Sir Ahmed Hassanein Pasha

Sir Ahmed Hassanein Pasha

Ahmed Hassanein Pasha, a remarkable Egyptian aristocrat, lived a life that spanned continents and centuries.  Born in 1889 into a distinguished lineage, he was the son of an esteemed Al-Azhar University professor and the grandson of the last admiral who commanded the Egyptian fleet before its disbandment in 1882.  Ahmed was educated at Balliol College at Oxford University.

In 1926, Ahmed Hassanein Pasha married Lutfiya Seiffullah Yousry, aged 21 and 16 years his junior, whom he met in Washington during his tenure as the First Secretary to her father, Seifallah Yusri Pasha, Egypt’s first ambassador to the United States.  Loutfia’s mother was Princess Shevekiar, a woman of immense wealth in her own right and the ex-wife of King Fouad.  In 1927, Ahmed Hassanein was knighted by the Queen of England, becoming Sir Ahmed Hassanein.  Loutfia gave birth to four children with Hassanein before they divorced in 1937.

Their children were Tarek, Hisham, Jayeda and…  Nazli

Lutfiya and the children

King Fuad I, the father of Farouk, recognized Hassanein’s exceptional talents and entrusted him with a pivotal role in 1935, tutoring the Crown Prince during his education in London.  Beyond academia, Ahmed Hassanein Pasha distinguished himself as a diplomat, an Olympic champion, an adept photographer, and a writer.  However, it was his spirit of adventure during the 1920s that carved his name into the annals of history as a legendary adventurer.

Death of King Fouad I

After the death of King Fouad in 1936, the 16-year-old crown prince Farouk became the new King of Egyptand Queen Nazli became Queen Mother.

King Farouk I of Egypt

Sir Ahmed Hasanein Pasha returned from England with the 16-year-old Farouk and became chamberlain to Queen Nazli, governor of the household at Abdeen Palace, and advisor to the young King Farouk.

Ahmed Hassanein Pasha In His Office At Abdeen Palace

It would appear that Hassanein was, contrary to some rumors, well thought of by the young king and that Farouk heeded Hassanein’s advice on all important matters up to the time of Hassanein’s death in 1946.  Further proof of this is the fact that Farouk’s reign began to run into trouble, especially with the British after Hassanein’s death.  Queen Nazli’s brother, Sherif Sabri Pasha, served on the three-member Regency Council that was formed during Farouk’s minority.

The Marriage of her eldest daughter, Princess Fawzia to Iran

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, King of Iran, and his wife, Queen Fawzia

Yes, that is correct—Princess Fawzia was merely a political pawn between Egypt and Iran (I think the photo above says it all).   Queen Nazli, to no avail, voiced her opposition to the marriage between her daughter Fawzia and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the heir to the Iranian throne, which took place in Abdeen Palace in 1939.  Queen Nazli deemed the union inappropriate, citing Egypt’s distinguished status and standing in comparison to Iran.

The Pahlavis were a newly established dynasty, as Reza Khan, the son of a peasant who began his military career as a private, eventually rising to the rank of general, seized power in a coup in 1921.  Fawzia was not in love with Mohammad Reza; in fact, they only met once before the wedding.  In 1940, Queen Fawzia gave birth to a daughter, Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi.

By 1945, rumors that Fawzia was not in good health and suffering from depression reached Cairo prompting King Farouk to send an Egyptian government official to investigate.  Fawzia was indeed in bad health in Iran, and Farouk ordered her to be taken to Cairo.  When she arrived home, it took several months for her to regain her health.  She subsequently refused to read any letters from her husband and ignored his requests for her to return to Iran.  In 1948, Princess Fawzia divorced the Shah, but sadly, a condition of the divorce was that Shahnaz remained in Iran.

Queen Nazli and Ahmed Hassanein Pasha

In 1942 Nazli and Ahmed Hassanein Pasha, Chief of the Royal Cabinetwere secretly married by Sheikh Mustafa el Maraghi of Azhar.  more here

Rumor had it that Queen Nazli suspected Hassanein was having an affair with Asmahan, a famous Syrian singer.  Asmahan’s story is far from dull and worth reading

Two Suspicious Deaths: Asmahan and Hassanein

On July 14, 1944, tragedy struck as a car transporting Asmahan and a female companion careened off the road near Mansoura, Egypt, and plunged into a canal.  The car, a two-door model, had the two women seated in the back.  Unfortunately, they were believed to have lost consciousness and tragically drowned.  Remarkably, the driver of the car managed to escape this harrowing accident.

Two years later, on February 19, 1946, Ahmed Hassanein Pasha met a tragic end in an automobile collision with a British military vehicle.  His final resting place is the cemetery on Salah Salem Street, where a mausoleum was constructed in his memory.  The mausoleum was designed by the renowned architect Hassan Fathy, who was Ahmed’s brother-in-law through his marriage to Aziza Hassanein.  Ahmed Hassanein’s full biography is here.

After Hassaneins death, Queen Mother Nazli left Egypt and went to the United States for kidney treatment.

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