Famous Rulers in History The Shah of Iran Part 2

About the famous Persian ruler the Shah in Iran, history and biography of his rise to power, personal and early life including his marriages.


It was soon time for the shah to begin thinking about marrying and producing an heir to keep the Pahlavi dynasty alive. Or rather, for his parents to begin thinking about his marriage. The shah had little to say in the matter when a marriage was arranged with Fawzia, the daughter of Egypt's King Fuad I. The shah was 19.

When Fawzia gave birth to a girl, the shah's disappointment was obvious. He still had no male heir. Fawzia returned to Egypt, and the couple was divorced in 1948. The shah resumed his playboy habits, which he had never really given up. He even flew women in from Europe.

It was three years before another suitable wife was found in half-Persian, half-German Soraya Esfandiary. The were married on Feb, 12, 1951. When it became apparent that Soraya could not bear children, she went into exile in Italy. In 1958, the divorce became official, but the shah continued to correspond with Soraya. Once more the royal family looked for a wife for the shah.

The shah caused quite an international stir when he publicized his intention to marry the 18-year-old daughter of ex-King Humbert of Italy, a Catholic. Pahlavi, a devout Muslim, even visited the pope to ask for a special dispensation, but the pope refused to permit the marriage. All of this became academic when the girl announced that she had no intention of marrying the shah anyway.

Pahlavi finally settled on another Iranian, Farah Diba, and they were married in December, 1959. Ten months later, Farah gave birth to a boy--the much-desired Pahlavi male heir.

The shah is one of the richest men in the world. Along with his immense oil holdings, regal allowance, and ski villa at St. Moritz, he owns over 2 million acres of land in Iran. Most of this wealth was acquired by "expropriation," first by the shah's father, who was not a rich man when he assumed the crown, and then by the shah himself.

Rise to Power: The shah's father, Riza Pahlavi, a former donkey driver, was a cavalry officer who gathered enough power to force the reigning Ahmad Shah to appoint him first as war minister and then as prime minister. In 1921 he deposed the shah in a military coup and abolished the monarchy. Four years later he had a change of heart and proclaimed himself the new shah. He took the name Pahlavi from an ancient Persian language, a public relations move to disassociate himself from the corrupt Kajar dynasty he had overthrown.

In September, 1941, shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Allies pressured Shah Riza to expel the large community of Germans in Iran and join with the Allied powers. Instead he declared his neutrality. Angered by the move and aware of Iran's strategic position and oil reserves. Britain and the Soviet Union invaded Iran and forced the shah to abdicate in favor of his 21-year-old son. Soon after, Iran declared war on Germany.

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