Genealogy and History
Qajar (Kadjar) Rulers and Heads of the Imperial Kadjar House
(For pictures of these rulers see: Picture Gallery of Qajar Rulers on main page)
The Qajar (Kadjar) rulers are members of the Qovanlu clan of the Qajars (Kadjars), themselves members of the Oghuz branch of the larger Turkic peoples of central Asia. Within the Qajars (Kadjars) themselves, distinction is made between Qajars (Kadjars) of the ruling house (pronounced with two long "a": Qaajaar as in "all") and the non-ruling Qajars (Kadjars) (pronounced with two short "a": Qajar as in "apple"). This distinction in pronounciation also applies to the distinction made by the Qajars (Kadjars) themselves between Qajars (Kadjars) of princely origin in the male line and Qajars (Kadjars) whose mothers or female ancestors were of princely ancestry but their fathers were not. Thus many a descendant of a prominent Qajar (Kadjar) family may not claim the title "Prince" even though they may be closely connected even to the royal family but so only through a female relative.(1)
The first ruler of the Qajar (Kadjar) Dynasty, Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar (Kadjar), son of Mohammad Hassan Khan Qajar (Kadjar), was already a local ruler's son, before he became king.(2) His father even claimed kingship of Persia for a while as a Qajar (Kadjar) shah but was not successful in maintaining the claim. Aqa Mohammad Khan, however, conquered his rivals by force of will, iron and blood; united the country, and crowned himself king of all of Persia and her vassal countries. He chose Tehran as his capital because it was ideally located and easy to defend. Before the Qajars (Kadjars), Tehran was a small insignificant town north of Rey. Aqa Mohammad Khan could have no offspring, since he was mutilated as a child by his rivals while he was a hostage at their seat of power. Later when he was able to escape and rally his troops to conquer the country, he made them pay dearly for their earlier crime. (See Prince Soltan Ali Mirza Kadjar's book on the subject: Les Rois Oubliés (The Forgotten Kings), Edition No1/Kian, Paris, 1992. See also Mrs. Emineh Pakravan, Agha Mohammad Ghadjar, Nouvelles Editions Debresse, Paris, 1963.)
Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar (Kadjar) decreed the line of succession for the Qajar (Kadjar) royal house to be by primogeniture in the male line, with the caveat that the mother of the crown prince must be a Qajar (Kadjar) princess herself and a Qovanlu. Then he chose as his successor his nephew Fath Ali Khan, who became Fath Ali Shah and thus is really the patriarch and progenitor of the Qajar (Kadjar) ruling house. His son Abbas Mirza, the legendary Qajar (Kadjar) prince, was to be his successor. He died one year earlier than his father and thus the succession passed on to Abbas Mirza's son, Mohammad Mirza, later Mohammad Shah. Upon Mohammad Shah's death, his son Nasser-ed-Din Mirza, Abbas Mirza's grandson, becomes king. Nasser-ed-Din Shah is the longest reigning Qajar (Kadjar) monarch. His reign became the standard against which his successors' reigns were measured, including those of the succeeding dynasty, the Pahlavis. Upon his death after almost fifty years on the throne, his aged son, Mozaffar-ed-Din Mirza, becomes Shah. Mozaffar-ed-Din Shah's legacy is the granting of Persia's first Constitution, giving the country a constitutional monarchy and an elected parliament (Majles). Upon his death, his son Mohammad Ali Mirza becomes king. Mohammad Ali Shah's reign is cut short by one of the most turbulent episodes of Persia's modern history, the Constitutional Revolution of 1909, and his attempts to control the maelstrom these events had unleashed. He steps aside in 1909, and his twelve year old son, Ahmad Mirza, is declared Shah, though he reigns with a regent until the age of eighteen. Soltan Ahmad Shah was thus the first true constitutional monarch of Iran, abiding devotedly to the principle of constitutional rule, to the point that his insistence on the rule of law in 1919 during the negotiations towards the Anglo-Persian Agreement of that year, sealed his fate, and made the British look for an alternative to him. This "search" culminated in the coup of 1921 by Reza Khan (later Reza Shah Pahlavi), and the overthrow of the Qajar (Kadjar) Dynasty in 1925. Soltan Ahmad Shah dies in exile in 1930 and is buried in Kerbela, Iraq.
The Qajar (Kadjar) royal line continues, in exile, to this day, however!
Soltan Ahmad Shah is succeeded by his brother, Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza, who declares himself Shah in 1930 in exile. Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza dies in exile, in England, in 1943. In 1930, upon Soltan Ahmad Shah's death, Soltan Ahmad Shah's son, Prince Fereydoun Mirza declares himself Head of the Imperial Kadjar House and remains so until 1975. (This is where the split between the holder of the title Head of Imperial Kadjar House and Heir Presumptive first occurs in the Qajar (Kadjar) Imperial House.) Upon his death in 1975, Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza's son, Prince Soltan Hamid Mirza succeeds him as Head of the Imperial Kadjar House and Heir Presumptive, uniting the two titles in his person again. Upon his death in 1988, Prince Soltan Mahmoud Mirza, brother of Soltan Ahmad Shah, becomes Head of the Imperial Kadjar House, but the title of Heir Presumptive devolves upon Soltan Hamid Mirza's son, Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza II. In turn, upon Soltan Hamid Mirza's death, Prince Soltan Mahmoud Mirza's nephew, Prince Soltan Ali Mirza Kadjar, son of Prince Soltan Abdol Madjid Mirza, becomes the Head of the Imperial Kadjar House of Persia, while the title Heir Presumptive remains with Prince Soltan Hamid Mirza's son, Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza II. While Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza II remains Heir Presumptive (though he has not claimed that title to date), Prince Soltan Ali Mirza Kadjar remains the present Head of the Imperial Kadjar House.
There is an important distinction between these two appellations of "Head of the Imperial House" and "Heir Presumptive." This distinction is elaborated on and explained in the next section entitled "Qajar (Kadjar) Succession." To go to it, please click here.
(1) For a good article on the origins and genealogy of the Qajars (Kadjars), see Ann K.S. Lambton's study, Qajar Persia, University of Texas Press, 1988; see also Abbas Amanat's essay on Qajar Iran in Layla S. Diba, ed., Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925 , I.B. Tauris Publishers, London, 1998; as well as Prince Soltan Ali Mirza Kadjar's book on the subject: Les Rois Oubliés (The Forgotten Kings), Edition No1/Kian, Paris, 1992, and Prince Abounasr Azod's book (in Persian) A Review of History: The Qajars and Their Time, Iranbooks, Inc., Bethesda, MD., 1996.
(2) The spelling of Aqa Mohammad Khan's (later Shah) name in Persian is a matter of controversy, and its transliteration in English, is therefore also subject to the same politics. "Aqa" with a "qaaf" in Persian refers to a "man" (male gender). "Agha" spelled with a "gheyn" refers to a woman (female gender). When spelling Aqa Mohammad Khan's name with a "gheyn" in Persian, the implied insult is that he was not a "man" because of the mutilation he had suffered at the hands of his enemy, Adel Shah Afshar, when he was a child. He had indeed been mutilated, not castrated, which was a far greater outrage inflicted on him. This insulting spelling was particularly used in the Pahlavi era by those who wished to ingratitate themselves with the Pahlavis. It is slowly being rectified, thanks, in no small measure, to efforts such as those of these pages over the last few decades. In English, therefore, the correct transliteration of this ruler's name is "Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar (later Shah)."
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