February 11, 2011

The last King of Egypt

The last king of Egypt lives in a rented house in Switzerland, spends his days going for long walks, reading and occasionally working as a consultant. He is divorced and recently the last of his three sisters died, a great loss.

Fouad II

According to Lucette Lagnado in the Wall Street Journal, his Swiss neighbors call him ‘Mr. Farouk,’ but close friends refer to him as ‘Your Majesty.’  After all, he did rule Egypt for 11 months – when he was a year old.  The passport issued to him by Monaco says ‘His Royal Highness Ahmad Fuad Farouk.’

Today is the birth date of the king’s father, Farouk, who – hoping to quiet a wave of unrest  – abdicated in favor of his infant son.  Fouad in any case was taken aboard the royal yacht with the rest of his family when they left Egypt in 1952.

It didn’t work – the army took over in a coup and Gamal Abdel Nasser became president of the first republic of Egypt in 1953.

Farouk in exile.

Farouk, who had become king when he was only 16 years old, was at the end of a long line of Albanians who ruled Egypt for a century and a half.  In exile, Farouk was something of a joke – a prodigiously fat hedonist who fed a huge appetite for women as well as food, who led a generally dissolute life, who left behind in his palace a considerable  collection of pornography.

But his story is a little more complicated than that.  So young when he ascended the throne, he depended on the advice of the man who had been his tutor since he was sent to school in England.  Ahmed Hassanein Pasha, resident in England at the time,  had been appointed to the post by Farouk’s father, who wanted the heir apparent to learn Arabic.

Ahmed Hassanein Pasha in 1924.

Farouk, like his father and all his forebears, had grown up speaking Turkish.  Muhammed Ali Pasha, the founder of their line, was a general in the army of the Ottoman Empire.  Born to Albanian parents, Ali Pasha was sent to drive the French out of Egypt.  He did, but then decided to stay and rule the country and apparently the Ottoman Sultan couldn’t do much about it. Henceforth, the Egyptian monarchy consisted of Turkish-speaking Albanians.

But Farouk learned Arabic and became Egypt’s first modern ruler to speak to his people in their own language.  With Hassanein Pasha as his chamberlain, he traveled Egypt, saw firsthand the poverty of his people and began to initiate some social reforms. He, in Hassanein’s company, toured damaged parts of Cairo and Alexandria during WWII.

Then something happened.  Hassanein Pasha died of a heart attack in 1946 and Farouk’s advisers became became a motley crew that, according to a profile in Time Magazine in 1965, were practically Shakespearean in their villainy.  Whatever tendency Farouk had to self-indulgence was fed and soon he became a remote figure, out of touch with his people, interested only in living the life of a royal playboy.

He died in a restaurant in Rome after a huge meal, collapsing onto the table.  He left his 13-year-old son, the last king of Egypt, to be raised by his older half-sisters.



  1. far out thank you Jean


    Comment by avery — February 11, 2011 @ 10:05 am | Reply

  2. What a sad story! So much potential gone to pot it seems. Imagine, “the first modern ruler to know and speak to the people in their own language!!!” Albania!!!!!!


    Comment by Carol — February 11, 2011 @ 7:24 pm | Reply

  3. thats a crazy story! very entertaining those rulers 😉


    Comment by nina c — February 11, 2011 @ 9:11 pm | Reply

  4. Great timing, Jean! The day of Egyptian liberation from another despot, Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian people are long overdue for decent government – hopefully, this is the dawn.


    Comment by Celia Carroll — February 11, 2011 @ 11:00 pm | Reply

  5. yes!


    Comment by jchatoff — February 11, 2011 @ 11:15 pm | Reply

  6. Some of this information is bias and incorrect; for instance Ahmed Hassanein pasha died in a car accident not of a heart attack. The king wasn’t that bad as he is portrayed in this article.


    Comment by nadia yassa — May 15, 2011 @ 9:11 am | Reply

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