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King of Egypt Farouk was born in 1920. In 1938, two years after the death of his father, King Fu'ad, Farouk ousted the Wafd government led by Nashas Pasha.
Farouk failed at attempted reform, and his popularity plummeted. His reign was marked by corruption, and he was branded an ineffectual leader, losing the support of the military after Egypt's poor showing in its 1948 war with Israel.
In 1952 he was forced to abdicate after a military coup led by Gamal Nasser.
Among his many reforms, King Henry VIII introduced an all-important job to the English monarchy: the groom of the stool. One lucky boy, chosen from the sons of his most trusted nobles, got the job of following the king around with a portable toilet.
The groom of the stool needed to be ever vigilant. He was expected to watch the king as he ate, make notes of what he consumed, and prepare for the job to come. When the moment came, the groom would help the king undress and then clean up his mess.
This was actually a highly respected job. The groom of the stool was trusted with unparalleled intimate access to the king. He also got to live in the castle with a handsome salary.
Wiping up after the king of England became a proud tradition that continued for almost 400 years.
WI King Farouk Survives
I suppose it depends on the circumstances. If the original coup is foiled somehow the British might become wise to second attempt. If OTL's coup never materialises for whatever reason then you're absoluly right, the question is, when and with what trigger?
If we assume one way or another Farouk remains King until his OTL death in 1965, this leaves his son Faud suceeding the throne at age 13. In this case I'd assume that a coup would be impossible to avoid as there is no way a 13 year old boy would seriously be considered a unifiying influence in the 20th Century (no Justin Bieber jokes please).
There may be a regency council, but most of the pro british and pro monarchist politicians (there was something of an overlap) already lost a great deal of popular support by the late 40s. Perhaps if the Wafd had placed a greater emophasis on youth mobilisation during the 20s, they might have a have sufficient influence to continue the monarchy after Farouk's death but this may not be easy to pull off.
10 Mad Royals in History
Our understanding and treatment of mental illness has advanced quite a bit over the centuries -- and thank goodness for that. It wasn't so long ago that people who had been deemed "mad" (among other things) were routinely locked up and basically left to rot away in deplorable conditions. It was considered shameful and embarrassing to have an insane person in the family.
But what if that person happened to be the most powerful person in the country? Dealing with a mad monarch takes more than a little finesse. He or she could choose to execute the royal physician for suggesting that he or she might not be fit to rule. Meanwhile the country is falling into ruin. And in many places, the monarch was considered to have been divinely appointed, so questioning authority is akin to questioning one's god.
This is why history is full of royals who may not have been diagnosed as mentally ill by a medical professional, but whose actions and behaviors have qualified as "crazy" to the layperson. We'll start with a possible case of mistaken identity just to complicate things.
Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon, reigning from 556 to 539 B.C.E., and though he isn't mentioned in the Bible, many experts believe he was the real Babylonian king who went mad and acted like an animal rather than Nebuchadnezzar.
According to Daniel 4:25, Nebuchadnezzar, had a disturbing dream which his interpreter Daniel told him meant, "You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth."
So said, so done. One day Nebuchadnezzar was bragging about his greatness the next, he was driven from his home, living with wild animals and eating grass. Seven years later, he recovered his sanity and praised God [source: Easton's Bible Dictionary].
But numerous Babylonian writings and other ancient texts -- including the Dead Sea Scrolls -- make it clear that Nabonidus was the king with the unsound mind. So why the change? Some scholars believe that it's due to mistakes in the translation. Others think that it was a deliberate choice on the part of the editors of Daniel to better advance their ideals. Nebuchadnezzar was a very powerful king who destroyed the first temple in Jerusalem, so if the story was about him instead of Nabonidus, it's one of punishment and redemption [source: Bledsoe].
9: King George III of England
By the time he died, King George III could neither see nor hear, and was considered completely insane. His urine was reportedly tinged blue and/or red, and stories had spread about crazy behavior such as attempting to shake hands with a tree because he thought it was the King of Prussia [source: Johnson].
King George III ruled from 1760 to 1820, and his other claim to fame apart from his madness, was that the American colonies were lost under his reign. He was also cultured and conscientious, and unlike many of the other kings on this list, devoted to his wife [source: The Royal Household].
Modern diagnoses of the cause of the king's insanity have included schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, sexual frustration or the hereditary blood disorder porphyria. Porphyria can mimic the symptoms of madness, causing confusion as well as red urine. Perhaps the arsenic in the medications given to him may have triggered or aggravated the disease [source: Johnson].
Scholars who believe that the king was truly mentally ill point to the disparate differences in his writing and behavior. In "manic" periods, for example, he had convulsions and wrote and talked excessively -- to the point that he foamed at the mouth. These scholars attribute his blue urine to the plant gentian, often used in medication [source: BBC].
In the last decade of King George's life, Britain was actually ruled by his son, the Prince of Wales, as regent [source: The Royal Household].
Charles VI has gone down in history as both "Charles the Beloved" and "Charles the Mad." So how did he get both titles?
He received the first after restoring order to France. He became king at age 11 in 1368, but his uncles ruled until he was 21, ruining the finances of the country and causing numerous revolts. Charles then took over, got rid of the uncles and reinstated his father's trusted advisers [sources: Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, France.fr].
Unfortunately, the happy period only lasted about four years before he began to earn his second title.
While pursuing the man who attempted to assassinate an adviser, Charles became convinced that he was being chased by enemies. Ultimately he killed several of his own knights and nearly murdered his brother. His periods of lucidity became briefer over the years, as he sometimes did not recognize his wife or family, or didn't even remember that he was the king. He went long periods without bathing, ran through the corridors of his palace at all hours, and claimed that he was Saint George [source: Rohl et al.].
But Charles VI's most famous delusion was that his body was made of glass. He refused to be touched and required that special protective clothing be made to keep him from shattering [sources: Fink and Tasman, Sommerville]. Today it's thought that he probably had bipolar disorder, but at the time his illness was considered God's will because he had supported the antipope Clement VII [source: Fink and Tasman].
Maria I also had two different titles: "Maria the Pious" and "Maria the Mad." She was the first queen in Portugal to rule in her own right (rather than as a regent for a minor or consort). Her reign began in 1777 and lasted for 39 years. Maria I was considered to be a good and competent ruler until becoming delirious in 1786. Her husband Peter III (who was also her uncle) died that year, and her son passed away in 1791 [source: Livermore].
Deeply religious to the point of mania, Maria I was also devastated by the death of her confessor in 1791. She considered herself damned, in turns ranting, raging, screaming and wailing [source: Roberts]. Treatments included bloodletting and enemas -- "purgatives" that were commonly used to treat insanity. The queen did not willingly submit to these, and who can blame her?
Dr. Francis Willis, who had treated George III, came to the court in Portugal and diagnosed her as insane. His treatments were even worse -- straitjacketing, blistering and ice baths. Willis wanted to take her to England, away from the court and priests that he accurately considered to be negative influences on her mental health -- but not surprisingly, the court objected. Her son Prince João took over as regent in 1799. Unfortunately the prince wasn't suited to the job, and the court fled to Brazil after France invaded Portugal. Queen Maria I died there in 1816 [source: Roberts].
Let's head back to antiquity with a mad emperor, Justin II. He ruled from 565 to 578 and became emperor under somewhat suspect circumstances. His uncle Justinian I passed away and his chamberlain Callinicus claimed that Justinian designated Justin II as his successor on his deathbed. Callinicus wanted to be political allies with Justin, so he may have fabricated the story.
At first, Justin II seemed to have the empire's best interests in mind -- he took care of the financial end and was tolerant of a minority group of Christians (although he later persecuted them). Then he decided to stop paying other countries around the empire to keep the peace, and his decision led to the loss of part of Italy as well as war with Persia [sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Evans].
Perhaps these failures triggered his mental illness? Regardless, by 574 his wife was acting on his behalf. She convinced him to make a general in his army, Tiberius, his adopted son and heir. Justin II remained emperor in name only until his death, with Empress Sophia and Tiberius ruling as co-regents. Those last few years of his life were terrible. He tried to throw himself out of the windows of his palace, screamed, howled, babbled and bit his chamberlains. Stories circulated that Justin had actually eaten two of them. To soothe him, servants wheeled him around on a wagon for hours while organ music played [sources: Evans, John of Ephesus].
History has given this queen the sobriquet of Juana la Loca or "Joanna the Mad." But many question today whether she was really insane. Joanna married Phillip the Handsome (he fared better with the titles, obviously) in 1496. She was deeply in love with him, but he had numerous mistresses, and Joanna was jealous [source: Encyclopedia Britannica]. Her succession to the throne was murky. She became regent (temporary ruler) of Castile after the death of her mother Isabella I in 1504, but her father, Ferdinand II of Aragon, didn't accept this and convinced the courts that she was too ill to reign. Civil war in Castile made him change his tune, and although his son-in-law Phillip initially agreed that Joanna was mad and unable to rule, Phillip reneged as soon as Ferdinand left for Aragon [source: Andrean].
The courts recognized the couple as rulers, but after Phillip died, Ferdinand II returned and became regent, although not with Joanna's consent. She traveled through Granada for eight months with her husband's coffin and was rumored to kiss and caress the corpse. Her father confined her to a convent, where she stayed through his death and the reign of her son Charles I over both Castile and Aragon -- a period of 50 years [sources: Gomez et al., Andrean]. She may have had melancholia, schizophrenia or depression. But it's also possible that she wasn't insane at all. Instead, her father and son successfully perpetuated the idea to keep her from ruling [source: Gomez et al.].
Legend has it that King Erik XIV's last meal was a bowl of poisoned pea soup [source: Öhrström]. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. He ascended to the throne in 1560 but only ruled for eight years. The king was known to be intelligent and well-read. Erik proposed marriage to several royal women over the years (including Queen Elizabeth I) before finally marrying his mistress, a peasant woman named Karin Månsdotter in 1567 [sources: Mäkelä-Alitalo, Encyclopedia Britannica ].
Erik XIV was very ambitious and sought to expand his kingdom, an unpopular view. His half-brother Duke John also wanted to expand his territory and Erik had him imprisoned for high treason in 1563 [source: Glete]. Apparently the king began showing signs of madness and violence around this time. He ordered the murders of five nobles of the Sture family, already imprisoned for conspiracy against him. He personally stabbed Nils Svantesson Sture [sources: Cronholm, Encyclopedia Britannica].
This act proved to be too much for the other nobles, and Erik was dethroned in 1568. Duke John became ruler of Sweden, as John III. John was concerned about Erik getting out of prison, and ordered that guards should kill Erik if there was any attempt at freeing him [source: Mäkelä-Alitalo]. The pea soup, laced with arsenic, took care of that.
3: Christian VII of Denmark
Officially, Danish king Christian VII ruled from 1767 until his death in 1808, but for a large part of it, he was king in name only. Christian was considered incompetent not only due to his wild night life (he caroused with prostitutes in brothels) but also because of his mood swings, paranoia, hallucinations and self-mutilation. Some modern researchers have suggested that he had schizophrenia. Others that he had porphyria [sources: Rohl, Langen, Danish Royal Collection]. Ultimately he was mostly good for rubber stamping various decrees set forth by members of his court. He married the sister of King George III (yes, Mad King George), Princess Caroline Matilda, around the time he was crowned.
Christian's physician Johann Friedrich Struensee gained the confidence of the king and a lot of power. Christian gave him the title of State Councilor in 1768, and Struensee made numerous progressive reforms to modernize the country. That goodwill went away once Struensee began an affair with Caroline Matilda, and her divorce was finalized in 1772. Later that year, Struensee was executed [source: Toyne].
Both moves were orchestrated by Christian's power-hungry stepmother, dowager Queen Juliane Marie. She essentially ruled from 1772 until 1784, when Christian's son Prince Frederick VI took over as regent. Christian is rumored to have died of a heart attack or stroke after being frightened by the arrival of Spanish ships he thought were hostile. But there's not much proof to substantiate that [source: Schioldann].
Royals in Europe don't hold a monopoly on crazy behavior. Case in point: King Farouk of Egypt, who ascended to the throne in 1936. He was said to have mysophobia, an intense fear of contamination that caused him to search for imaginary bits of dirt. He only drove red cars and banned anyone else from owning a red one. He supposedly shot out the tires of vehicles that tried to pass him on the road. Farouk was also reportedly a packrat and a kleptomaniac, and legend has it that he stole Winston Churchill's watch [sources: Crompton, Scriba].
Though celebrated by nobility in his early years, Farouk's subjects didn't care for his shopping sprees, food indulgences, wild expenditures and corrupt governing. They also were unhappy with the loss of most of Palestine after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and its occupation by British forces [source: Cavendish].
The king was overthrown during the Egyptian Revolution in 1952, and his infant son was declared ruler -- although in truth the country was governed by a nationalistic group of officers within Egypt's army. The monarchy was dissolved in 1953, and Farouk died of a heart attack in Italy in 1965 after consuming a huge dinner of a dozen oysters, lobster thermidor, a double portion of roast lamb with fried potatoes and a large helping of trifle for dessert [sources: Cavendish, Scriba].
1: Zhu Houzhao, Emperor Zhengde
We'll end our look at just a few of the crazy rulers in history (you can find long lists of many more, trust us) by going to China. Zhu Houzhao is the personal name of the 10th emperor of the Ming Dynasty, who took the name of Zhengde when he ascended the throne in 1505.
Zhengde had no interest in affairs of the state, preferring affairs of the heart. His vast harem wasn't enough, so he picked up women on the street and had prostitutes in the royal palace. He enjoyed drinking, learning languages, pretending to be a commoner, and traveling incognito as much as possible. He also liked hunting wild animals almost as much as hunting people (both women for his harem and enemies, real and imagined) Once Zhengde was nearly killed by a tiger he was attempting to tame [source: Theobald, Encyclopedia Britannica, Huang].
The actual governing of the country was left to high-ranking eunuchs and friends, who heavily taxed the people and essentially sold public offices to the highest bidders. Anybody questioning Zhengde's strange behavior might be exiled or even killed. Eleven officials were flogged so much they later died of their beatings [sources: Theobald, Encyclopedia Britannica].
But this recklessness couldn't last for long. He had a boating accident at age 31 and passed away a year later. Truly mad or merely eccentric? It's hard to say, but it's obvious that Zhengde wasn't cut out for the throne.
Author's Note: 10 Mad Royals in History
I enjoy history and I'm particularly fascinated by the historical diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, but I still didn't know much about several of these so-called mad royals until researching them. Choosing just 10 was difficult, and I have several royal biographies on my reading list now (as if it wasn't long enough already).
Gone, but not forgotten: King Farouk’s lasting legacy
“Propaganda today is a powerful weapon, and in thirty days of ceaselessly flooding every newspaper, radio programme, and public speech with hatred against one man, almost anybody could be persuaded to believe him a villain,” former Egyptian monarch King Farouk wrote in his rarely-seen memoirs unearthed by Al Arabiya News.
The ex-king appeared to have been right. Unlike most monarchs, he holds the dubious award of having more literature written about his scandalous personal life than his reign.
To say that Egypt’s last king has a bad reputation would be an understatement. During the latter years of his reign, Western media painted him as an eccentric, corrupt, spineless, lecherous Nazi sympathizer who was possibly even mentally unstable.
Anecdotes of Farouk’s reign are endlessly compelling.
Recounting one famous incident, Time magazine, which referred to him as “Farouk the Foolish,” reported that he had had a series of nightmares about being eaten by lions. Troubled by these continual visions, Farouk drove to Cairo’s zoo and shot two lions in their enclosure.
British soldiers stationed in Egypt would sing unprintable songs about him and his glamorous first wife, Queen Farida. Even the CIA contemptuously referred to him though a not-so-subtle acronym “FF.”
Yet, as Winston Churchill was supposed to have said, history is written by the victors (the legendary British wartime leader himself may have relished his own home truth – Farouk, a self-confessed avid “collector” and horologist who also had the dubious reputation as a kleptomaniac, was said to have stolen Churchill’s beloved pocket watch.)
However, after half a century, with the Egyptian monarchy now a distant memory, separating fact from fiction is becoming ever harder.
Common perceptions of Farouk forged in the aftermath of the revolution are still in the popular mindset, with a lack of new emerging narratives to explain his reign, according to Robert Vitalis, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Ideas about him and the ancien régime got cemented in the aftermath of his overthrow,” said Vitalis.
The decadence of Farouk’s lifestyle is not uncharacteristic of other royal dynasties in the Middle East at the time, he added.
Farouk’s reputation – and that of the monarchy – has enjoyed a revival since 2007, when the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), of which Al Arabiya is a subsidiary, released a 34-episode dramatization of Farouk’s life, entitled el-Malek Farouk.
The series portrays him in more of a positive light than in Western media, and led to a brief revival of monarchic nostalgia, perhaps largely out of dissatisfaction with the status quo of the era of former President Hosni Mubarak.
With Farouk’s son Fuad, the current royal pretender to the throne, still alive, is there any chance of a return of the monarchy, with Fuad at the helm?
After the uprising of Jan. 2011, some monarchists who were “convinced neither by the army nor by the Muslim Brotherhood” leaned towards the return of a kingdom and the foundation of a new royalist party, King Fuad’s spokesperson Maged Farag told Al Arabiya News.
“They wanted the reinstatement of a monarchy in Egypt after the failure of the republican regime in solving Egypt’s problems for the past 60 years,” Farag said, clarifying that the royalists wanted the return of the 1952 constitution.
In 2012, supporters of the monarchy submitted a request to the Political Parties Affairs Committee for the establishment of a new party called El-Hezb el-Malaki el-Destouri (The Constitutional Royalist Party).
“They submitted their demand at a time when forming parties in Egypt was a trend,” Farag said.
However, the party did not get approval from the committee, and its representatives “dropped the idea,” especially since they did not get the support of the king himself.
“Their party would’ve had no weight in Egypt’s political life, as King Fuad refused to take part in their party,” said Farag.
“Fuad is the king of all Egyptians. He can’t belong to a specific party as he’s just a figure to the country. It‘s the prime minister who [would] deal with the country’s issues,” Farag said.
The constitution, passed in January, stipulates that Egypt is a republic, making a monarchist party unconstitutional, Farag added.
At the time, the would-be party garnered support from around 5,000 Egyptians, the Egyptian news website Masress reported.
The existing appeal of the monarchy, though limited, will likely remain for some time, said Khaled Fahmy, a history professor at the American University of Cairo.
“Monarchies are glamorous by definition,” said Fahmy.
Nostalgia towards the monarchy could be linked to dissatisfaction with successive regimes. “The successive state, from 1952 onwards, is a failed state, in the sense that it hasn’t delivered,” Fahmy added.
To view the entire seven-part series, visit the King Farouk: The Forgotten Memoirs homepage.
Revisiting the Avaricious, Lustful, Greedy, Fat King Farouk
The slothful Egyptian sovereign might not have been a Kennedy, but his downfall led to even worse.
Consider a Middle Eastern country. Its most powerful man is a firm patriot exceedingly popular with the masses, profoundly skeptical of communism, and entirely capable of befriending America if only his better instincts can be appealed to. Treated by Washington with some sort of respect, he could be a useful national rallying point against the Soviet hazard. But such far-sightedness is altogether too much for mischief-making spooks to contemplate. Within months he has been hurled from power, leaving a legacy of detestation for America and all its works that endures almost 70 years on.
Which Middle Eastern country and which ruler are we talking about? The Iran that Mohammad Mossadeq governed until 1953? No: the Egypt that King Farouk governed until 1952.
An ex-officio tragedy clings to the last member of any monarchical house (in Farouk’s case, the last adult member, since his infant son Fuad theoretically reigned for a year after Farouk had fled). Yet Farouk’s undoing—hastened by the CIA program crudely known as “Operation Fat F**ker”—has an especial significance, not least for the shadows that it would cast on the Cold War’s future. Had Farouk stayed in control, it is impossible to imagine Gamal Abdel Nasser bringing the world to Armageddon’s brink in the Suez War of 1956. Accordingly, Farouk’s disgrace and exile are no mere cause for moist Ruritanian compunction, legitimate though that feeling probably is. Rather, they continue to help determine the front pages of our newspapers. Farouk, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, remains a figure at once sad, exasperating, and humbling to contemplate. We should ask ourselves how we would have fared in his position (alternately choking on the incense of outlandish flattery and quailing at the dangers of conspiratorial spite) before we rush to deride him.
Two long out-of-print volumes do Farouk something like justice: A King Betrayed (1989), by the monarch’s cousin A.M. Sabit, written with first-hand experience of Farouk’s doings and Too Rich: The High Life and Tragic Death of King Farouk (1991), by journalist William Stadiem. Both are worth seeking out, the former for its unpretentious veracity, the latter for its unshockable prose style, which suggests an improbably productive pact between Taki Theodoracopulos and Hunter S. Thompson.
Farouk, despite his birth in Cairo on February 11, 1920, had more Albanian and Turkish than Egyptian ancestry. His father, Fuad I, had not even bothered to make himself fluent in Arabic. Farouk, by contrast, displayed even as a child a natural competence in languages. He would master Arabic, French, English, and Italian with equal ease.
Linguistic flair often cohabits with laziness in every other aspect of intellectual or cultural life, and such laziness, it must be admitted, was Farouk’s default mode. Like most young males in every age, he exerted himself only in subjects that appealed to him, eschewing disinterested mental effort. (His closest approach to philosophical discourse consisted of throwing bread at passers-by, in the heroic tradition of Bertie Wooster and Bingo Little at the Drones Club.) If Farouk ever read a book from cover to cover, history has not recorded the feat. A subsequent mistress, Irene Guinle, astringently commented: “He had three telephones by his bed…[and would] ring up his so-called friends at three in the morning and invite them to come over to his palace to play cards.” Still, even she credited him with “impeccable manners.”
This was more than could be said for the six-feet-five-inches Sir Miles Lampson, who held most of the real power in Cairo once Farouk (in 1936) had succeeded Fuad I on the throne. Theoretically no more than British high commissioner to Egypt, Lampson acted with a Cromwellian brand of tyrannical egotism. The fact that he habitually and openly referred to Farouk as “Boy” says it all.
Lampson’s boorishness (predictably he never mastered Arabic) might have had some vague justification if the British Empire in 1936 had been anything more than the wreckage of a nice idea. No such luck. Any chance of continued imperial vigor had been eliminated through the 1914-1918 mass-suicide by which Britain got as much as possible of its ruling class—and thus its empire-administering class—exterminated on the Western Front. Moreover, Lampson labored under the delusion that if only he could humiliate Farouk enough, then an appreciative Whitehall administration would give him the job that he really craved: the viceroyalty of India. He affected stunned surprise when “Boy” Farouk, full of hormones and self-confidence, seethed under such disdainful treatment.
The year of Farouk’s accession being also the year of Mussolini’s Abyssinian triumph, Lampson dreaded the potential influence of Farouk’s Italian-dominated camarilla. Unfortunately for Lampson’s chauvinistic posturing, he himself had a Roman-born wife. Which inconvenient truth gave Farouk the pretext for one of his better jokes: “I’ll get rid of my Italians,” he told the disgusted Lampson, “when you get rid of yours.”
Farouk’s slothful good nature, taste for millionaires’ company, and fundamental philosemitism (his favorite mistresses were Jewish) militated against his admiring the Third Reich. On the other hand, Farouk happily enough used Hitler as a bogeyman with which to alarm Britain. At a meeting with Churchill in 1942, Farouk—in a gesture worthy of reverence by paleocons everywhere—surreptitiously pilfered the British prime minister’s watch. A local robber, grateful for a royal pardon, had taught him the requisite conjuring trick.
Abstracting timepieces from exposed wrists assumes a steady nerve, which Farouk indubitably still had. He needed it. The victims of Muslim Brotherhood assassins between 1945 and 1949 included not only Cairo police chief Selim Zaki Pasha, but also two Egyptian prime ministers: Ahmed Maher and Mahmoud El Nokrashy. Nevertheless the monarch himself looked safe. While ordinary Egyptians in the street might have loathed most politicians, they continued to cheer Farouk.
Besides, Lampson made the mistake that almost everyone else in the Western world made during 1945: assuming that Churchill would coast to victory in the first postwar British election. After voters cheerfully forsook Churchill in favor of Clement Attlee, Farouk took great pleasure in appealing to Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin over Lampson’s head. The maneuver worked. Attlee wanted to dissolve the British Empire as soon as possible—in 1946-1947, he had Irgun terrorists as well as Congress Party separatists to contend against—and under no circumstances would he let Lampson rule any imperial domain. Perforce, a furiously disillusioned Lampson (by this time ennobled as Baron Killearn) handed over his ambassadorial office to Attlee’s preferred candidate, Sir Ronald Ian Campbell.
The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 hurt Farouk’s cause badly. Ignoring all recent lessons about the rapid movement of armored divisions, the Egyptian army’s strategists sent in (Sabit’s own words) “teams of infantry with fixed bayonets—these then being mown down by well-entrenched Jewish settlers armed with heavy-duty machine-guns.”
Historians continue to debate the extent to which Nasser, his front man Muhammad Neguib, and the other leaders of the Free Officers’ Movement acted consciously on CIA orders to force Farouk out. But it is certain that without the CIA, they would hardly have dared act at all. Even when they did act, it was the damnedest close-run thing. To quote afresh from Sabit, who witnessed many of the relevant events: “If Farouk had, that first morning of the coup d’état [July 23, 1952], taken his car and driven straight to the Alexandria Garrison Headquarters at Mustapha Pasha Barracks, he would have been able to assume command of a substantial military force which considerably outnumbered the Cairo rebels. …But he preferred to remain inactive.”
Politically inactive, yes but not personally so. In extremis, Farouk demonstrated the raw physical courage that many voluptuaries amaze their foes by exhibiting. With his own hunting rifle, he killed no fewer than four enemy soldiers before being persuaded that his surrender alone could prevent further bloodshed. He earned many epithets, but “coward” was not among them.
Nor was “ingrate.” In 1946, Farouk had offered sanctuary to the Italian ex-kings Victor Emmanuel III and Humbert II. Now Italy provided Farouk with asylum. In Naples and—above all—Rome, his generosity to any crook, freeloader, and fantasist who crossed his path continued to get the better of him. So did his ravenous appetite. Already plump as a youngster, he grew almost spherical after abandoning Egypt. The dolce vita grew ever less dolce, ever more deathly.
On March 18, 1965, the 45-year-old Farouk breathed his last in a Rome hospital, having suffered a massive seizure a few hours beforehand at the nearby Île de France restaurant. Perhaps simple obesity, chain-smoking, and excessive consumption of carbohydrates finished him off, but many Egyptians believed, and some continue to believe, that Nasser had had the ex-monarch poisoned.
Upon Farouk’s death, The New York Times (forever willing to subsidize Stalinist mythomaniacs like Walter Duranty, Castroite mythomaniacs like Herbert Matthews, and race-hustling mythomaniacs like Jayson Blair) officially pronounced the deceased sovereign beyond the moral pale: “One could pile up pejorative adjectives like sybaritic, avaricious, lustful, greedy, to reach a contemptible total. Farouk ended up in luxurious exile, caring nothing for Egypt or the impoverished Egyptian people. The epitaph for King Farouk has to be bitter and contemptuous.”
Truth to tell, Farouk engaged in sexual vices no more and no less outrageous than those which successive Kennedys have practiced without thus incurring the smallest New York Times censure. Stadiem’s conclusion that Farouk sinned chiefly by being fat and bald—instead of lean, Ivy League-schooled, immaculately coiffed, and resplendently toothed—is hard to dispute.
Even harder to dispute is Stadiem’s other conclusion: that the modern Pentagon mania for misinterpreting every Middle Eastern conflict in terms of 1776 brings disaster wherever it has been attempted. Daniel Larison has repeatedly demonstrated how in reality, this hubris (which this magazine was founded specifically to combat) typifies Trump no less than his predecessors. For so long as it lasts, America’s policymakers will continue deserving the bitter aphorism that Ngo Dinh Diem’s sister-in-law hurled at them: “Whoever has the Americans as allies does not need enemies.”
King of Bling: Farouk of Egypt
During his 12 years on the throne, King Farouk of Egypt hoarded a thousand bespoke suits, cars, jewels and watches. In fact, the corruption seemed embodied in his bloated figure and cartoon-villain moustache.
“I suppose that the greatest moment in the life of any revolutionary is when he walks through the royal palaces of the freshly deposed monarch and begins to finger his former master’s possessions,” wrote the freshly deposed King Farouk of Egypt in the early 1950s, adding that he would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when the pillaging took place: “I admit that I would have enjoyed seeing those prudish, clerkly sect leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood as they drifted through my rooms like elderly ladies on a cook’s tour, pulling open drawers, prying into cupboards and wardrobes, and gaping like country bumpkins at the number of the king’s clean shirts.”
Farouk was somewhat loose with the historical facts: he was overthrown by the Free Officers’ Movement of the Egyptian army, which staged a military coup that ignited the Egyptian revolution of 1952, rather than the Muslim Brotherhood. But he was spot-on about the shirts. During the 12 years of his reign as ‘King of Egypt and Sudan, Sovereign of Nubia, of Kordofan and of Darfur’, Farouk amassed more than a thousand bespoke suits, alongside museum-worthy collections of rare stamps and coins, cars (including a Mercedes-Benz 540K that Adolf Hitler gave him in 1938 as a wedding gift) jewels (he would shake a sistrum studded in diamonds, rubies and emeralds in order to summon his servants) watches and, allegedly, the world’s largest collection of pornography, including an “album of semi-nude photographs” found under his pillow. Farouk happily copped to the finery, but balked at the idea of smut. “They were classical artworks,” he protested.
So far, so kleptocratic business-as-usual, you might think: the usual tale of a detached leader who strip-mines his country of its wealth while leaving its people among the poorest in the world. It was a damning verdict that the aloof Farouk did little to challenge indeed, the corruption seemed embodied in his bloated figure — the result of a fondness for industrial quantities of oysters and soda — and the cartoon-villain twists of his handlebar moustache (on whose oily lines David Suchet would later model that of his Hercule Poirot).
But modern historians argue that it’s not the whole story, pointing out that the Muhammad Ali dynasty, of which Farouk was the last significant scion, had worked wonders in lifting Egypt from a provincial backwater of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 19th century into a state so strong that the Imperial British felt compelled to curtail its rise only decades later. “I can’t speak on the people’s behalf, but I think we did a titanic amount to change a country that was steeped in the Middle Ages,” said Prince Abbas Hilmi, modern descendant of the Ali dynasty, last year. “And many are looking back from the chaos and violence of our own era to a time of glamour, class, religious tolerance and a civilised society. Some even refer to it as ‘the beautiful era’.”
And Farouk was at its centre. At the time of his birth, in 1920, amid the precipitous decline of the Ottoman Empire post-World War I, Egypt was a British protectorate, nominally ruled by his father, Sultan Ahmed Fuad. Constant uprisings led the weary British to declare Egypt an independent state in 1922, and the sultan immediately declared himself King Fuad I, bringing him parity with other emerging monarchies in Hejaz (present-day Saudi Arabia), Iraq and Syria. Fuad had little love for his subjects: he was of Albanian descent, spent much of his upbringing in Italy (and resembled a dyspeptic Mussolini, with added Dali-esque moustache), and spoke no Arabic, describing Arabs as “ces cretins” for good measure. After divorcing his first wife, who’d failed to deliver the required heir, Fuad married 24-year-old Nazli Sabri, a free-spirited aristocrat with stark, silent-movie looks. When Farouk was born, eight months after the marriage, Fuad ordered ten thousand pounds in gold to be distributed to the poor, with a further eight hundred for Cairo’s mosques Nazli, meanwhile, was confined to an Ottoman-style harem while producing Farouk’s four sisters (one of whom, Fawzia, would later marry Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran).
Farouk had a gilded-cage upbringing. The heir also lacked the astuteness or ruthless eye for political cunning that his father possessed, according to Khaled Fahmy, a history professor at the American University in Cairo. Where Fuad’s idea of a prank was to place a gold coin in a bucket of clear acid and watch, chortling, as unsuspecting servants screamed in flesh-seared agony when they tried to retrieve its contents, Farouk contented himself with more pedestrian hijinks, such as knocking the fezzes off the heads of court officials with well-aimed tomatoes and cucumbers after a copious palace lunch.
At 16 Farouk was sent for training at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich (along with a 20-man entourage), where he became known to the locals as ‘Prince Freddy’. While in London, Farouk was invited to lunch by King George V, where he met the future Edward VIII the two took “an immense liking to each other”, according to Farouk (later, when they were both in exile, he would muse that “we have not yet met as two abdicated monarchs, but when we do I am sure that he will have a typically pungent comment”). As to character, the jury was firmly out. “In the notes of his English tutor in 1936, he was already lying a lot as a young man,” said Philip Mansel, historian and author of Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean. “He would lie about the number of ducks he bagged on a shoot. He was more interested in sleeping in and going on shopping trips to London than excelling himself academically.” It was somewhat of a rude awakening, therefore, when King Fuad died in April 1936 and the 16-year-old Farouk became Egypt’s ruler.
He began with a ringing panegyric — “I am prepared for all the sacrifices in the cause of my duty… My noble people, I am proud of you and your loyalty… We shall succeed and be happy,” he declared in a radio address to the nation — and spent the rest of his reign signally failing to live up to it, interfering with the parliamentary system, presiding over corruption scandals, allowing a small clique of landowners to snap up all of Egypt’s lush Nile-side farms, and indulging his taste for baroque Empire-style furniture to such a degree that the style came to be known as ‘Louis-Farouk’.
It wasn’t Farouk’s only extravagance. He forsook matters of state and family life (he’d married Safinaz Zulficar in 1938, a daughter of Egyptian nobility who bore him three daughters) in favour of racing his Rolls-Royces and Bentleys (they were always coloured red, so the police knew not to pull them over), and playing high-stakes card games.
During the hardships of World War II, Farouk attracted opprobrium for keeping the lights burning at his palace in Alexandria while the rest of the city was blacked out as a defence against Axis bombing. Due to the continuing British influence in Egypt, many Egyptians, Farouk included, were positively disposed towards Germany and Italy — one reason, perhaps, that he didn’t deem it necessary to decline Hitler’s Mercedes — provoking the British to ‘persuade’ the King to replace his government with a more pliant one (nonetheless, Egypt remained officially neutral until the final year of the war). The humiliated Farouk sought solace in torrid evenings at the Hotel Auberge in Cairo. “He would arrive at closing time, because gambling was the most important thing,” according to Roger Owen.
Farouk tried much to prop up his increasingly unpopular regime, not least a marriage reboot: he divorced Farida in 1938 and married Narriman Sadek, a 17-year-old known as the ‘Cinderella of the Nile’ for her middle-class background (though the 300-pound Farouk decreed that she could come to the ball only if she weighed 110 pounds or less on the wedding day). Among the gifts received was a jewelled vase from Haile Selassie and a writing set with Russian gemstone surround from Stalin Sadek also bore Farouk his much-needed son and heir. None of it could save the king’s bacon, however, particularly after the Egyptian army’s failure to prevent the loss of vast chunks of Palestine to the state of Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war (and accusations that his personal greed resulted in the army’s being outfitted with shoddy, antiquated weaponry). Farouk abdicated in favour of his infant son, and went into exile in Italy and Monaco, leaving his silk suits to the not-so-tender ministrations of that same army Egypt became a republic in 1953.
Farouk was not unaware of his precarious status he once quipped that soon there would be only five kings left: the king of England, and the kings of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs. He now threw himself into closer acquaintance with the latter, haunting the resorts and rivieras of Europe while the Egyptian state sold off his coins and watches and displayed his jewellery collection in museums. Sadek, tired of Farouk’s philandering, divorced him and returned to Egypt. Farouk himself died after entertaining a young woman to a typically heavy supper at the Ile de France restaurant in Rome. “At his death, hospital officials found on his person the dark sunglasses he seldom abandoned, a pistol, two gold cufflinks, a gold wedding ring, a gold wristwatch, and $155,” as The New York Times itemised in its 1965 obituary. There may not have been any would-be marauders to gape, country-bumpkin-like, at this impressive array, but the paper’s readers could be in no doubt that, even in his diminished state, Farouk remained the eternal king of bling.
Originally published in Issue 56 of The Rake. Subscribe here for more.
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Farouk I, also spelled Faruk, Arabic Fārūq al-Awwal, (born Feb. 11, 1920, Cairo, Egypt—died March 18, 1965, Rome, Italy), king of Egypt from 1936 to 1952. Although initially quite popular, the internal rivalries of his administration and his alienation of the military—coupled with his increasing excesses and eccentricities—led to his downfall and to the formation of a republic.
Farouk, the son and successor of King Fuʾād I, was educated in Egypt and England before ascending the throne in 1936. As king he continued his father’s rivalry with the popular-based Wafd party, with which he clashed over many issues, including administrative functions, appointments, and even the form used for his coronation.
After the outbreak of World War II, Farouk tried to maintain neutrality, despite the presence of British troops in Egypt, but in 1942 the British forced him to name as prime minister the Wafd leader Muṣṭafā al- Naḥḥās Pasha. In October 1944 Naḥḥās negotiated the Alexandria Protocol, a step toward the creation the following year of the Arab League, a regional organization of Arab states. Farouk wanted to place himself at the head of this movement, and he dismissed Naḥḥās, who had lost the support of the British.
Egyptian nationalism suffered from a shattering defeat at the hands of the newly created state of Israel (1948) and from the failure to terminate British military occupation of Egypt. The military defeat especially enraged many Egyptian army officers, who saw Farouk’s corruption and incompetence as being largely the cause of it. His activities became intolerable in 1952, and the Free Officers, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, overthrew his regime in July and forced him to abdicate. He was succeeded by his infant son, Fuʾād II, but less than a year later Egypt became a republic.
‘Nasty, painful, depressing:’ King Farouk’s tragic royal romance
The latest in Al Arabiya’s series on the colorful reign of Egypt’s King Farouk looks at his failed marriage with Narriman Sadek, a commoner who became Egypt’s last queen, as revealed through the monarch’s long-forgotten memoirs and interviews.
Tears were streaming down King Farouk’s face. His wife, Queen Narriman, was giving birth to the future sovereign of Egypt, who was one month premature. The current king, who had kept a bedside vigil by Narriman’s bed, held her hand, repeating “Push, Nunny, push!”
The rarely seen memoirs of Egypt’s King Farouk paint a rosy picture of his early married life. But some say the union quickly deteriorated after Farouk’s overthrow in July 1952.
“It cannot be considered a happy marriage,” said Akram el-Nakeeb, Narriman’s son from a subsequent marriage.
Narriman’s memories of her exile with Farouk and their divorce in Feb. 1954 - which she initiated - were “nasty, painful and depressing,” Nakeeb told Al Arabiya News.
In the divorce proceedings, Farouk had given her the choice to either stay with him or return to Egypt without their two-year-old child, Ahmed Fuad, who had for less than a year been the de jure king of Egypt before the monarchy was formally abolished.
Narriman chose to leave Farouk.
The ex-queen – who Nakeeb still refers to as “mummy” – was “in agony” at leaving her son “so that she [was] able to return back to her home land at the time.”
Her marriage to Farouk had lasted less than three years, and began after the dust had settled on Farouk’s failed first marriage with Farida, whom he divorced in Nov. 1948. Queen Farida had been unfaithful, as the ex-king said in his memoirs, and he was also in need of an heir.
“I had for years been a lonely man in my heart, even though I was surrounded by courtiers, aides and social friends,” Farouk wrote in his memoirs.
“Narriman was the first human being since I had achieved full manhood who really began to penetrate through the barrier, and to understand the man behind the panoply of royalty,” he continued.
“People seem to forget that it is always a human being upon whose head a crown rests.”
Before their first meeting, the king was shown a photograph 16-year-old Narriman Sadek, the daughter of a middle class civil servant.
“I found myself at once attracted to the girl’s face,” Farouk wrote.
Going just by the photo, Narriman appeared to the king to display “a mouth that held a glint of lively humor, and eyes that danced with gentle friendliness.”
Farouk contrived to meet her in the store of his court jeweler, and the two seemed instantly to be attracted to each other.
Narriman then broke off her engagement to a well-known lawyer, Zaki Hashim, and in preparation to be married to the king, she was sent for several months to Rome, living in the Egyptian embassy. She studied history, etiquette, music and four European languages, and returned to Egypt weighing – in accordance to the king’s orders - no more than 110 lbs.
After their wedding, Farouk, eager to not repeat the failure of his first marriage, took Narriman on an extended honeymoon to the French Riviera.
While on the honeymoon, Farouk also took time to indulge in his gambling habit victorious bouts at the baccarat table helped him pretend to “earn” the money to buy furs and jewelry for his wife. “Narriman certainly enjoyed it as much as I did,” he wrote.
Just six months later, the revolutionary Free Officers forced Farouk from power, sending him, Narriman, his daughters and the infant Fuad into exile on the royal yacht. They first sailed to Naples, then on to the Italian island of Capri, a place which the ex-king is “perfectly suited to,” a newspaper at the time commented sneeringly.
A short time into their exile in early 1954 – and after the memoirs were published – Narriman, who was still only 20 years old, divorced him.
In the court case, which resulted in Narriman returning to Egypt with almost nothing, she agreed to lose custody to their son, Ahmed Fuad, and dropped her original demands for alimony. The reasons cited for divorce, according to a newspaper report at the time, were “adultery, maltreatment, mental cruelty, and estrangement.”
‘What about Narriman?’
Narriman told reporters about her decision to leave Farouk: “It was the will of Allah, and when Allah wills he places scales on our eyes and seals our ears to wise counsel.”
With the final settlement ruling in favor of the ex-king, Narriman then returned to Egypt.
She would later re-marry twice, and suffered from ill-health in her later years. She died in virtual seclusion in 2005, at the age of 72.
Close to her death, the former queen gave an interview in which - as with the rest of her life - most of the interest concerned her famous husband.
“We have spoken much about King Farouk,” she mumbled. “What about Narriman?”
To read the sixth part of the series, entitled: “King Farouk’s fabulous wealth” click here.
To read the entire seven-part series, visit the King Farouk: The Forgotten Memoirs homepage.
King Fu'ad, Farouk - History
Paunchy, balding and bloated, Farouk was thirty-two when he lost his throne. The Egyptian monarchy had been set up by the British in the 1920s and Farouk had been king for sixteen years since succeeding his father, Fuad I, in 1936. Sir Miles Lampson, the British high commissioner, described him in a report to the Foreign Office in 1937 as ‘uneducated, lazy, untruthful, capricious, irresponsible and vain, though with a quick superficial intelligence and charm of manner’. Farouk’s attempts to introduce reforms made little progress against the Egyptian establishment of politicians and major landowners. He also butted his head vainly against the British and by 1949 he was despised at home and abroad as an ineffectual playboy.
By that time a group of Egyptian army and airforce officers was secretly planning a revolution to get rid of both the British and the entrenched Egyptian regime. They had all been stung by ignominious defeat in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and they blamed the King, the politicians and the corruption endemic in the system. The Free Officers, as they called themselves, gathered substantial support among the officer corps. Their leader was Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat was one of them. Many of them had been at the Military Academy in Cairo in the later 1930s and, according to Sadat, a secret officers’ revolutionary society had been founded as early as 1939. Nasser was a teacher at the Military Academy in the 1940s and influenced many up-and-coming young officers.
The Egyptian army had long been controlled by the king, but Farouk’s scandalous and grotesquely self-indulgent lifestyle and the belief that some of his closest associates had profited by supplying defective weapons and munitions to the forces had eroded the army’s loyalty. At the end of 1951 the Free Officers ran their own slate of candidates for election to the board of directors of the Officers’ Club in Cairo. Their candidate for club president was General Mohammed Neguib, one of the few high-ranking officers who had distinguished himself in the war. The King personally endorsed rival candidates of his own, but the Free Officers’ candidates won.
Farouk regarded his election defeat as evidence of a seditious conspiracy in the officer corps, as indeed it was. His efforts to recover control drove the plotters to drastic action. They feared that their counsels had been penetrated by informers and that they were in imminent danger of arrest.
The decision to attempt a coup seems to have been taken early in the morning of July 22nd. At midnight, while the court was enjoying a late champagne and caviar picnic in Alexandria, some 200 officers and 3,000 troops took control of army headquarters and put senior officers under arrest. Troops occupied the airport, the Cairo broadcasting station and the telecommunications centre, and tanks and infantry patrolled the Cairo streets. There was no opposition and at 7am on July 23rd Sadat announced the take-over on Cairo radio.
Farouk, at his summer palace in Alexandria, has been criticised for not immediately taking command of the troops there. Apparently, he turned that course down for fear of causing civil war and bloodshed. Instead he appealed to the American ambassador for help, but the Americans had no confidence in him and the CIA had been encouraging the plotters, whose armoured columns now took control of Alexandria. The British force in the Canal Zone made no move to interfere. Farouk betook himself to the Ras el-Tin palace by the western harbour in Alexandria, but the coup leaders ordered the captain of his seagoing yacht, the Mahroussa, not to sail without their orders.
Some of the rebel officers wanted Farouk knocked on the head, but early on Saturday the 26th, with the Ras el-Tin palace surrounded by troops, he was ordered to abdicate and clear out. He complied, almost in tears, and at 6pm that evening he sailed for Naples with his wife and children, seen off politely by General Neguib to the strains of the Egyptian national anthem and a 21-gun salute. He had to leave a thousand suits and his pornographic necktie collection behind, but with him went crates labelled champagne and whisky which had been surreptitiously packed with gold bars. His baby son, Prince Ahmed Fuad, was proclaimed king and a regency council appointed. In September, however, Egypt became a republic, with General Neguib as president. He was a figurehead who would soon be ousted by Nasser.
Meanwhile, Farouk had made for Capri and stayed, ironically enough, at the Eden Paradiso Hotel to begin with, eventually settling in Monaco. He died in Rome in 1965, soon after his forty-fifth birthday, after collapsing at a restaurant where he had been entertaining a blonde of twenty-two to a midnight supper. He had once been reported as saying: ‘There will soon be only five kings left: the kings of England, diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs.’
Richard Cavendish is a longstanding contributor to History Today, having penned dozens of the Months Past columns. He is also author of Kings and Queens: The Concise Guide.