13 September 2012
William Silvester provides a brief history of Faisal II, the Last King of Iraq, and the Iraqi stamps issued in his honour ...
Faisal was only four years old when he was told the tragic news that his father, Ghazi, King of Iraq, had been killed in a car accident in Baghdad on April 4, 1939.
In the chaos that ensued, some Iraqis accused the British consul of plotting the death of the king and stoned him to death. Others blamed the prime minister, Nuri as-Said.
Ghazi was succeeded by his son, Faisal II, born by his wife ‘Aliyah in 1935.
As he was still a child when his father died for most of his reign the regency was held by his uncle, ‘Abd al-Ilah. Faisal attended Harrow School in England with his cousin the future King Hussein of Jordan. The two boys were very close and even at that early age planned to unite their two kingdoms to combat militant pan-Arab nationalism.
It was not until 1953 that Faisal II came of age and mounted the throne of Iraq. In 1958 when Syria and Egypt joined to form the United Arab Republic (UAR), the two Hashimite Kings strengthen their positions with a similar bloc with the establishment of the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan. Faisal, the senior member, became head of state. His reign was destined to be short, however. Five months later Faisal II was forced to ask for military assistance from Jordan when a coup d’etat deposed him.
Colonel Abd al-Karim Qassim took control of the government of July 14, 1958 and ordered the royal family to vacate ar’Rihab Palace in Baghdad. When King Faisal, Crown Prince ‘Abd al-Ilah, his wife Princess Hiyam, his mother Princess Abadiya and assorted other royals and several servants arrived in the courtyard they were lined up against the wall. Captain Abdus Sattar As Sab’, a member of the coup, shot them all. Faisal and Princess Hiyam were not killed at once and Faisal was sent to a nearby hospital but died en route. Princess Hiyam reached the hospital and as she was not recognized by staff she was treated and later released. She fled the country for Saudi Arabia and later Egypt where she stayed until she died. Prime Minister Nuri as’Said was assassinated the next day when he tried to escape disguised as a veiled woman.
Iraq was then declared a republic and the Hashimite dynasty in Iraq came to an abrupt end. The country now entered a period of instability under the rule of Qassim that in time led to the rise of Saddam Hussein.
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