Malekeh Jahan's Efforts Towards the Restoration of the Qajars


The segment below is a translation from pp. 323-328 of Prince Soltan Ali Mirza Kadjar's book Les Rois oublies. It is the only place, to this writer's knowledge, where this information is available. Prince Soltan Ali Mirza is now in the process of writing a book entirely dedicated to his grand-mother, Malekeh Jahan. The excerpts below will give a glimpse of the extraordinary character of this exceptional Qajar (Kadjar) princess and queen.

* * * * *

"Malekeh Jahan thus decides to enter Persia with her retinue and two of her youngest sons. She sells all her carpets in San Remo and comes to Paris in the spring of 1925, to meet with her son Soltan Ahmad Shah who is still residing at the Hotel Majestic.

She rents a small city palace (hotel particulier) in Auteuil, where she stays until the end of the summer in 1925. Then, with her family and retinue she embarks on a ship of British registry at Marseilles bound for Bombay. At that time, this was one of the most comfortable means of getting to Tehran.

Malekeh Jahan's decision to return to Tehran could be surprising, since the dynasty was in great danger at that very moment. But this woman of exceptional strength and character who was my grand-mother could not accept this to be the end of the Kadjars. She knew that the Persians were attached to her family and had great admiration for her son Soltan Ahmad Shah. How could she believe that a people could repudiate a lineage that made it progress, in the span of a century, from medieval obscurity to modernity; that it would let an illiterate colonel occupy the thousand year old Peacock Throne, when she herself descended from Gengis Khan and the Mongol horsemen that had once conquered the world?

She had obtained from the Shah the post of viceroy of Fars for her third son, Soltan Mahmoud Mirza, and that of governor of the province of Isfahan for the fourth, my father, Soltan Madjid Mirza. They, in turn, from Paris, had to nominate individuals to represent them on the spot. Thus, for a number of months, the administration of these two very important provinces was exercised by two princes, who, in reality, never set foot there in their lifetime.

In October of 1925, Malekeh Jahan sails off from Marseilles with a retinue of about thirty people, among them a Russian adjutant , lieutenant Ivan Adamovitch, former officer of the imperial Russian guard, the Polish doctor who was with them from Odessa -- doctor Jerusalski --, and attendants and ladies in waiting of various ranks.

In Bombay, on the ship, Bibi Khanom, her cousin and mother of Agha Khan III, comes to visit her, and so insists to keep her that Malekeh Jahan is obliged to stay a fortnight in Bombay -- a delay that she had not intended. She is splendidly received in the palace of the Agha Khan. From Bombay she takes another vessel, the courier of the Persian Gulf, for Basrah. When the ship makes a stop at Boushehr, the governor of this Persian port comes to pay homage and to welcome her into Persian waters. When the ship sails up the Shatt-el-Arab, the governor of Abadan -- which already by then was an important refinery -- does the same. The empress and her retinue alight in Basrah where they stay a few days. From there, Malekeh Jahan visits the holy city of Nadjaf, where she meets the grand ayatollahs. Normally these religious dignitaries do not receive women, but they make an exception for her.

She informs them of Ahmad Shah's plan, which consists of first obtaining from them a fatwa declaring the actions of Reza Khan's government contrary to Islamic law. With this, Soltan Ahmad Shah would have the possibility of firing his renegade prime minister, and, upon the request of the religious authorities, return to Tehran. The ayatollahs give their blessing to this agreement, which could only be implemented after Malekeh Jahan reaches Tehran. She alone would be able to inform her other son, the regent Mohammad Hassan Mirza, since all communication between the two brothers is under surveillance.

After the encounter at Nadjaf, the Empress returns to Basrah and takes the train for Baghdad -- the famous Berlin-Byzantium-Baghdad line constructed by the Germans before the war. From Baghdad she plans to reach Tehran by car on the drivable road that then connected the two capitals. ...

When Malekeh Jahan arrives in Baghdad in November 1925, the Iraqi kingdom has just been constituted, an arbitrary creation of British strategy in the Orient. There is no Iranian embassy yet in the capital of the caliphs, the government of Tehran not having recognized that of King Faysal. It is thus at the consulate-general that the queen and her retinue will stay. She goes on a pilgrimage to Kerbela, where the Kadjars are buried, then to Kazemein in the suburbs of Baghdad.

In Baghdad, one night, she is unceremoniously woken up, and without protocol chased out of the consulate together with all her entourage. Several cars then arrive, sent by a minister of the Iraqi government, who is a shiite. It is he who explains to Malekeh Jahan the reason for this treatment: the Kadjar dynasty has just been deposed in Iran. He proposes to the queen to take her and her retinue out of the capital.

About to get into one of the waiting cars, Malekeh Jahan hesitates. It is 4 a.m.. She is alone with only a few members of her retinue. They are surrounded by Iraqi soldiers. This unknown destination to which they are to be taken, is that not some Ipatiev house where they are to be executed like the Romanovs in Russia? Nevertheless she does not have a choice and she sets off. The residence where they are taken is a palace in the holy city of Kazemein that belongs to the Iraqi minister. He shelters his guests for close to a month -- he is shiite, as they are, and that is a sufficient explanation for his behavior. After all, Iraq being under British protectorate, it is out of the question that the British would permit an attempt at the Empress' life and that of her entourage. Assured that she is safe, she returns to Baghdad, where she rents a palace on the Tigris. She stays there for eight months.

It is in this palace that she receives, one day, a visit by an envoy of Reza Kahn, officially now the regent of the empire. This man offers her an enormous sum -- three million tumans -- that she may acquiesce to come to Tehran, to the palace that has been prepared for her in the park of the Golestan. However, her two sons would have to be sent to Italy, to a military school, under the control of the Italian crown. Guessing that the usurper wants to use her as a hostage or as a warrant for his legitimacy she refuses.

In April of 1926, the coronation of Reza Khan takes place, taking the title Reza Shah Pahlavi. The clergy of Tehran are present at the ceremony.

Malekeh Jahan, after having stayed eight months in Baghdad, goes to live in Beirut, where she rents a house with her retinue and her two young sons, my uncle Soltan Mahmoud Mirza, and my father, Soltan Madjid Mirza. It is thus that I am born in Beirut. This city is pleasing to her, and it makes exile bearable. Beirut, at the time, was a little paradise.

The oldest son of my grand-mother, Soltan Ahmad Shah, still lives in Paris at the hotel Majestic, hoping to return one day to Iran. But in May 1928, struck by a tuberculosis of the kidneys, he is taken to the American hopsital in Neuilly. Abbas Mirza, already had died of a tuberculosis of the bones. This illness, is this the curse of Kadjar princes? For a while the gravity of her son's situation is hidden from my grand-mother, but she finds out from a relative and rushes to France in 1929. Soltan Ahmad Shah dies in February of 1930, and Malekeh Jahan decides then to stay in France."




Back to Qajar (Kadjar) Page