Princess Fawzia of Egypt

"Twice in my life, I lost the crown. Once I was the queen of Iran, and once I was the princess [of Egypt]. It’s all gone now. It doesn’t matter.”

 Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt is one of those incredible women that has all but faded into history.  Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1921, Fawzia was the daughter of King Fuad of Egypt and his second wife, Nazli Sabri.  (In Egypt it is acceptable to have several wives.)  She grew up in luxury, cared for by an English governess and educated abroad in Switzerland.  At this time, Egypt was precariously balanced between Egyptian monarchical and British colonial rule.


Fawzia was touted as one of the most gorgeous women in the world, and she was fluent in English, French, and Arabic.  A Sunni Muslim Egyptian who spent time in European society, she enjoyed fashion and never donned the hijab. After returning to Egypt, she felt confined by the rules and regulations of being a royal in a time when everyday Egyptian women were beginning to experience new freedoms.

In 1939, the 17-year-old Fawzia was given in marriage to Mohammed Reza, the crown prince of Iran.  The marriage was a diplomatic arrangement between two countries.  Egypt was given access and authority over a British-controlled region through Fawzia's new place in the Iranian royal family, and Iran's new monarchy received legitimacy from the century-old Egyptian monarchy.  Her marriage is best remembered by many modern Egyptians for being a Sunni-Shiite union.

King Farouk, his sister Fawzia, and her husband the Shah - source
Fawzia and Mohammed were married and lived in Tehran.  They had one daughter and seemed happy for a while.  Mohammed became the Shah of Iran, and Fawzia became Empress.  However, Fawzia soon lost her love for life and began to hate all things Persian.  Rumors swirled about her husband's philandering, Fawzia found Persian difficult to learn, and relationships with her in-laws were tense.  She was sick often, and her father demanded a divorce after seeing her frailty during a visit.  She left Iran, never to return.  The world followed their marital drama through magazines such as The Times.

Empress Fawzia and her daughter, Shahnaz - source

She later married an Egyptian aristocrat and had two more children.  The 1952-53 military coup by Nasser, however, overthrew the Egyptian monarchy and British colonial rule, completely turning Fawzia's world upside down.  Her brother, now the king, escaped to Italy and never returned to Egypt, but Fawzia and her family quietly moved to a home in Alexandria and began to fade further and further from the public eye.


Fawzia lived in anonymity for the rest of her life.  In 1976, Anwar Sadat (the president of Egypt at the time) extended a reconciliatory  invitation to Fawzia's daughter and her family to stay at a palace in Alexandria.  They all visited Fawzia's villa, and Fawzia said she would like to return the visit by calling on them.  This was shocking, for the palace that belonged to Sadat was once Fawzia's childhood home.  She had not been there in 24 years.  During her visit, her former servants met her with tears and embraces.

Fawzia and her second husband, Ismail

Throughout the coups and revolutions, Fawzia quietly remained in Egypt.  The onetime princess of Egypt and Empress of Iran passed away in July of 2013 as President Morsi was being deposed by the Egyptian military.  She must have had special insight into the rise and fall of Egyptian leaders over the years and once remarked:

"When you visit the tombs of kings and queens, you see they leave everything behind, even the crowns.”  {tweet this}

Further reading:
The Slow Disappearance of Queen Fawzia - New York Times Magazine 
Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt - The Telegraph
Princess Fawzia: the Beautiful, Sad Rose of the Nile - Egyptian Chronicles blog


  1. This is so interesting! I've never heard of her. I really enjoy all of your posts, but your determination to write, thoughtful, informative posts about so many different subjects, especially your attentions to varying ethnic groups and cultures, and your willingness to attempt to tackle difficult themes in a democratic and open manner is really refreshing. I really appreciate your contributions to the blogging world :)

    1. I second that, I couldn't have put a comment better. Great post, Emileigh.

    2. Wow, thank you guys! I really appreciate your kind words!

  2. Engaging, thoughtful post, dear Emileigh. I remember first hearing of Fawzia in school as a youngster (Egyptian history, both past and considerably more present, was a mainstay of many of our history books) and have enjoyed learning more about this fascinating woman and her often troubled life ever since. It's interesting, isn't it, how she was ahead of her time in some ways, yet also bogged down by old school traditions, like her first marriage being one of politics, not for love. I hope that amongst everything, she was still able to find some joy in her life, perhaps especially through her children from both unions.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Yes, it's very true. I hope she found some happiness as well!
      And that's really interesting that you guys learn so much about Egypt. We learn about ancient Egypt, but nothing about the more modern history. Very interesting!

  3. OH, I remember her from back then, when I was still studying Stage/Set and Costume Design at University. I did some research on the third wife Farah Diba and so I also 'met' Soraya and Fausia/Fawzia the first time. I really miss having the time to do research on several subjects ...
    Thanks for sharing!