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Faisal II
King of Iraq
Reign April 4, 1939 – July 14, 1958
Predecessor Ghazi I
Father Ghazi I
Mother Aliya
Born May 2, 1935
Died July 14, 1958 (aged 23)
Burial Royal Mausoleum, Adhamiyah
Religion Sunni Islam [1]

Faisal II (Arabic: الملك فيصل الثاني Fayṣal) (May 2, 1935 – July 14, 1958) was the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq's last King. He reigned from 4 April 1939 until July 1958, when he was killed during the "14 July Revolution" together with several members of his family. His regicide marked the end of the thirty-seven year old Hashemite monarchy in Iraq, which became a republic.


Family and early life


Birth and early years

Faisal at the age of 5

Faisal was the only son of Iraq's second king, Ghazi, and his wife Queen Aliya, second daughter of 'Ali bin Hussein, King of the Hijaz and Grand Sharif of Mecca. His father was killed in a mysterious car crash when Faisal was three years old; Faisal's uncle 'Abd al-Ilah served as Regent until he came of age in 1953.

King Faisal was the model used by Belgian comic writer Hergé for his character Prince Abdullah of Khemed in The Adventures of Tintin.[2] He suffered from asthma.[3]

1941 coup

The young monarch's early minority coincided with World War II, in which Iraq was formally allied with the British Empire and the Allies. In April 1941, his uncle was briefly deposed as Regent by a military coup d'état which aimed to align Iraq with the Axis powers. The 1941 coup in Iraq soon led to the Anglo-Iraqi War. Promised German aid never materialized, however, and Ilah was restored to power by a combined Allied force composed of the Jordanian Arab Legion, the Royal Air Force and other British units. Iraq resumed its British alliance, and joined the United Nations.

During his early years, Faisal was tutored at the royal palace with several other Iraqi boys. As a teenager, Faisal attended Harrow School in the United Kingdom with his cousin, King Hussein of Jordan. The two boys were close friends, and reportedly planned early-on to merge their two realms, to counter what they considered to be the threat of militant pan-Arab nationalism. Their ultimate efforts in this direction would ironically lead to Faisal's downfall.

Also hastening Faisal's demise was the decision taken by his regent (later confirmed by him) to allow Great Britain to retain a continued role in Iraqi affairs, through the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1948, and later the Baghdad Pact, signed in 1955. Massive protests greeted news of each of these alliances, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators and an increasing deterioration of loyalty to the Iraqi crown.

In 1952, Faisal visited the United States, where he met President Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, the actor James Mason and Jackie Robinson, among others. Photos of this journey may be viewed here.

Iskander Mirza, First President of Pakistan, with King Faisal II in 1956, in Baghdad.

Adult reign

Faisal attained his majority on May 2, 1953, commencing his active rule with the best of intentions and a seriousness of purpose that his father had often seemed to lack. However, his inexperience ran headlong into the changing Iraqi political and social climate, exacerbated by the rapid development of pan-Arab nationalism. These elements, coupled with numerous mistakes made by Faisal and his ministers, doomed his efforts - and, as it turned out, his reign.

Faisal initially relied for political advice upon his uncle and General Nuri al-Sa'id, a veteran politician and nationalist who had already served several terms as Prime Minister. As oil revenues increased during the 1950s, the king and his advisors chose to invest their wealth into development projects, which increasingly alienated the rapidly-growing middle class and the peasantry. The Iraqi Communist Party increased its influence. Though the regime seemed secure, intense dissatisfaction with Iraq's condition brewed just below the surface. An ever-widening gap between the wealth possessed by political elites, landowners and other supporters of the regime on the one hand, and the poverty of workers and peasants on the other, intensified oppostion to Faisal's government. Since the upper classes controlled the parliament, reformists increasingly saw revolution as their sole hope for improvement. The toppling of Egypt's monarchy in 1952 by Gamal Abdel Nasser provided an impetus for a similar undertaking in Iraq.

On February 1, 1958, neighbouring Syria joined with Nasser's Egypt to form the United Arab Republic. This prompted the Hashemite kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan to strengthen their ties by establishing a similar alliance. Two weeks later, on February 14, this league formally became the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan. Faisal, as the senior member of the Hashemite family, became its head of state. However, Faisal's reign, together with his new nation, would come to an abrupt end a mere five months later.

Downfall and murder

An opposition forms

Faisal's political situation deteriorated in 1956, with uprisings in the cities of Najaf and Hayy. Meanwhile, Israel's attack on Egypt, coordinated with Britain and France in response to Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal, only exacerbated popular revulsion at the Bagdhad Pact - and thus, Faisal's regime. The opposition began to coordinate its activities: in February 1957, a "Front of National Union" was established, bringing together the National Democrats, Independents, Communists, and the Ba'th Party. An identical process ensued within the Iraqi officer corps, with the formation of a "Supreme Committee of Free Officers". Faisal's government endeavored to preserve the military's loyalty through generous benefits, but this proved increasingly ineffective as more and more officers came to sympathize with the nascent anti-Monarchist movement.

14 July Revolution

In the summer of 1958, King Hussein of Jordan asked for Iraqi military assistance during the escalating Lebanon crisis. Units of the Iraqi Army under the command of Abd al-Karim Qasim, en route to Jordan, chose to march on Baghdad instead, where they mounted a coup d'état on 14 July 1958. During the "14 July Revolution," Faisal II ordered the royal guard to offer no resistance, and Faisal himself surrendered to the insurgents. Around 8 AM, Captain Abdul Sattar Sabaa Al-Ibousi, leading the revolutionary assault group at the palace, ordered the King, Crown Prince 'Abd al-Ilah‎, Princess Hiyam ('Abd al-Ilah‎'s wife), Princess Nafeesa ('Abd al-Ilah‎'s mother), Princess Abadiya (Faisal's aunt) and several servants to gather in the palace courtyard. Here, they were told to turn towards the wall, where all were immediately machine-gunned by their mutinous captors. Faisal, who had not died during the initial fusillade, was transported to a hospital, but died en-route.

Nuri as-Said, Faisal's Prime Minister, was brutally murdered by Qassim's supporters the following day. The monarchy was formally abolished, and control over the country passed to a tripartite "Sovereignty Council," composed of representatives of Iraq's three major ethnic groups. A lengthy period of political instability ensued, culminating in the ultimate triumph in 1963 of the Ba'th Party, which in turn led to the eventual coming to power of Saddam Hussein.


Faisal's first betrothed was Pincess Kiymet, a descendant of the last Mamluk dynasty of Iraq. This engagement was called off a year later.

Faisal then asked for the hand of Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi, the sole child of the Iranian monarch Muhammad Reza Shah, but was turned down by Shahnaz. At the time of his death, King Faisal was engaged to be married to HH Princess Sabiha Fazila Khanum Sultan, the only daughter of HE Damat HH Prince Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim Beyefendi of Egypt, by his wife, HIH Princess Zahra Khanzadi Sultan.

Military ranks

Faisal held the following ranks [4]:

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Michael Farr, Tintin: The Complete Companion, John Murray, 2001.
  3. ^ Retrieved on 14 July 2008.
  4. ^ Royal Ark

Further reading

  • Khadduri, Majid. Independent Iraq, 1932-1958. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 1960.
  • Lawrence, T. E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Retrieved 14 July 2008
  • Longrigg, Stephen H. Iraq, 1900 to 1950. Oxford University Press, 1953.
  • Morris, James. The Hashemite Kings. London, 1959.

External references

Faisal II of Iraq
Born: May 2 1935 Died: July 14 1958
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ġāzī I
King of Iraq
April 4, 1939 – July 14, 1958
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
King of Iraq
July 14, 1958
Succeeded by
Prince Zeid
Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein


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