Famous Rulers in History The Shah of Iran Part 1

About the famous Persian ruler the Shah in Iran, history and biography, personal and early life.


Vital Statistics: Mohammed Riza Pahlavi (or Pahlevi), Shah of Iran, King of Kings, and Sun of the Aryans, was born on Oct. 26, 1919, in what was then Tehran's only hospital. The shah is 5 ft. 10 in. tall, dark-skinned, and athletic-looking. His most outstanding physical characteristic is his large nose.

Personal Life: For the first two years of his life, before his father took charge of the government, the shah lived in a rather ordinary part of Tehran comprised mainly of stores. His early childhood was marked by his proclivity for contracting serious disease. Shortly after becoming crown prince, he was stricken with typhoid fever, which was followed in short order by whooping cough, diphtheria, and a near-fatal bout with malaria. And if that wasn't enough, shortly after recovering from malaria, the shah fell off of a horse and was knocked unconscious. Miraculously, he escaped serious injury.

As the successor to the crown, the shah was educated toward that eventuality. When he was eight years old, he began breakfasting alone with his father and attending meetings of the Council of Ministers; and lest anyone have any doubts as to who the next shah would be, he remained at his father's side at parades, inspections, and other public appearances.

The shah's elementary school education took place at a military school which his father established for his sons. The other students were the sons of favored Iranian military officers. Soon the time came for the shah to continue his education in Europe. There he would learn the customs of a different culture, one he would have to deal with as head of state. At the age of 12 he was sent to Le Rosey Boarding School in Switzerland, probably the best-known boarding school in that country. To ensure that he didn't become too westernized, he was accompanied by his younger brother and an Iranian tutor, who also acted as a bodyguard.

The shah seems to have been a very ordinary student who devoted most of his energies to sports, according to the recollections of several students who attended school with him. Surprisingly, his closest friend did not attend Le Rosey--he worked there. Ernest Perron, 10 years Pahlavi's senior, was the handyman's son. One can't think of a more unlikely pair. Their attachment remained a lifelong one. Until his death in 1961, Perron served as the shah's personal secretary.

While attending Le Rosey, the shah had an affair with a young chambermaid, who was dismissed when the liaison came to light. This very unkingly behavior was quickly and quietly sloughed over.

The shah did not graduate from Le Rosey. Shortly before he was to take his final exams, he was summoned home by his father. Once back in Tehran, he returned to military school.

After finishing his two years at this school, the shah began to acquire a reputation as a playboy and a ladies' man, a reputation which has stayed with him. He has always been known for his fondness for fast cars, fast horses, airplanes, and beautiful women--especially Scandinavians. The "swinging shah" image hurt him politically in his early years, when he was branded a light-weight.

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