Fawzia Fuad, the last princess of Egypt and first Muslim woman to end her marriage

Fawzia Fuad was called the gifted girl, blue-eyed Venus, the oriental pearl. She went down in history as the last princess of Egypt, who voluntarily renounced the royal title and first Muslim woman to demand that her marriage be ended.

In her veins flowed the blood of aristocratic Frenchmen, graceful Circassians, freedom-loving Albanians. It seemed that the princess inherited the best qualities from her ancestors to live in luxury and prosperity. She lived a long and not always happy life.

Fawzia Fuad had to make difficult decisions and show courage and perseverance to find simple female happiness.


The first child of the Sultan of Egypt and Sudan, Fuad I, was born on November 5, 1921, in the Ras al-Tin palace (Alexandria). It was a girl named Fawzia bint Fuad. Her name means “victorious”. The daughter of King Fuad and Queen Nazli is supposed to be addressed only by the “Sultan’s Highness”.

A future worthy of the princess of Egypt was prepared for her. By the age of 17, Fawzia blossomed. The surrounding people noted the unusual beauty of the princess. Blue-black hair accentuated the whiteness of her skin. Piercing blue eyes stood out on a thin face. She had an innate grace, a thin waist, a chiseled figure.

The court writer described Princess Fawzia in these words: “The infinitely trusting and romantic ‘gift girl’ lived surrounded by endless nannies, aunts, and courtiers who did their best to protect her from the hardships of the outside world.”

The princess received an excellent education at an educational institution in Switzerland, spoke fluent French and English. She was close to the traditions of European culture. Fawzia grew during the blessed time of the “Eastern Thaw”, when the leading Muslim countries chose the pro-European path of development.

Fawzia Fuad
Princess Fawzia Fuad

Women were almost equal in rights with men, they could not wear a hijab, get an education, get a job. After completing her studies, the girl returned to her homeland. She became a prisoner of the royal title and the numerous regulations that inevitably accompany the daily life of rulers and Islam.

On her rare walks, she was accompanied by a crowd of servants and a lady-in-waiting. As a royal, she could not enjoy the joys of life that were available to her peers.


Crown Prince of Iran Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt
Crown Prince of Iran Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt

The ruling courts of Egypt and Iran easily agreed on the marriage of children. Fawzia Fuad only once had a chance to see her future husband before the wedding. According to rumors, Mohammed Reza decided on his future wife’s choice as soon as he saw a photograph of an Egyptian princess.

A magnificent wedding celebration took place in March 1939. The world admired the beauty of the 18-year-old bride and 20-year-old groom. Fawzia has been compared to the famous movie stars of that time – Vivien Leigh and Heidi Lamarr. Medallion in honor of the wedding of the Crown Prince of Iran Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and Princess Fawzia bint Fuad of Egypt.

Daughter Shahnaz

The couple with their daughter Princess Shahnaz

A year later, the first child was born in a young family – a daughter. The newborn princess was named Shahnaz. The husband dreamed of an heir. But the stumbling block was not the birth of the girl. The couple was young and healthy, they could have given birth to more than one child, including the crown prince.

Fawzia Fuad heard rumors about her husband’s “pranks”, and the fragile relationship cracked. In addition, the Egyptian princess, who, along with her marriage, received the title of Shahdokht (princess) of Iran, felt rejected by the ruling court.

The father of her husband, Reza Pahlavi, was of ignoble birth. He came to power in a military coup. Although the reigning king strove for a secular life, the despotic disposition made itself felt.

In her husband’s family, Fawzia Fuad fell under the relentless control of a wayward father-in-law. She was not allowed to take her favorite things from Egypt. King Reza Pahlavi ordered to send the unknown good back. The princess was given to understand at every step that she had a new life. Contacts with relatives were also banned. Unwittingly, the princess of Egypt and Iran ended up in a golden cage.

Soon Mohammed Reza Pahlavi came to power, receiving the title of King of Iran. Having received the status of the wife of the ruler of a powerful Asian state, Fawzia did not feel happier. The husband’s relatives, like himself, continued to pressure. Climate change turned malaria, and her husband’s unfaithfulness turned into depression.

The Queen consulted an American psychiatrist who practiced in Baghdad. A fan of European culture, Fawzia found Tehran a boring, backward city and yearned for cosmopolitan Cairo. Fluent in two European languages, she could not master Farsi and had to communicate with her husband in French.

Life magazine photographer Cecil Beaton attended the coronation of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The exotic beauty of the Iranian Queen delighted him. The journalist called her “Asiatic Venus.” In response, Fawzia took part in a special photoshoot for the magazine. Her face adorned the September 1942 Life issue. The whole world spoke about the beauty of the Queen. In general, in the photographs of that period of her life, Fawzia practically does not smile and looks sad and depressed.

The Queen took part in the public and political life of Iran. In the rank of colonel, she commanded the 2nd Cavalry Regiment of Princess Fawzia, led the APPWC association, whose activities were dedicated to the protection of pregnant women and children.


Official photo of Queen Fawzia of Iran in 1945, she took shortly before leaving for Cairo
Official photo of Queen Fawzia of Iran in 1945, she took shortly before leaving for Cairo

In an effort to find personal happiness, she made a bold decision – to return to Cairo. The fugitive clearly understood the ambiguity of her actions. She could become an outcast, lose all titles and posts. The immutable laws of the Muslim world place high demands on women. Fawzia took a great risk going to Egypt in 1945.

First Muslim woman to end her marriage

The Egyptian princess went down in history as the first Muslim woman to demand that marriage be ended. The price of freedom was very high. She had to leave her daughter to be raised by her husband. Mohammed Reza refused to recognize divorce for three years. The ruling courts agreed to consider the official reason for the wife’s inability to give birth to a son due to climate change unfavorable to her health.

Fawzia was stripped of titles, privileges, which were given in Iran. She became the princess of Egypt again.

Second marriage

Princess Fawzia with her second husband Ismail Shirin
Princess Fawzia with her second husband Ismail Shirin

Four years after the divorce, Fawzia Fuad remarried. This time, Colonel Ismail Shirin became her chosen one. The marriage turned out to be successful. The Egyptian princess fully experienced the happiness of motherhood, giving birth to a son and daughter. The family lived on the Fawzia estate in Cairo and a villa in Alexandria.

In 1954, a coup took place in Egypt, as a result of which power was in the hands of the cruel, tyrannical Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser. The deposed ruler Farouk, who was the younger brother of Fawzia, had to flee the country. The princess and her husband, although they feared for their lives, remained at home. Fortunately, everything worked out, the lieutenant colonel did not touch them.

The next ruler of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, adhered to loyal political views. He invited the last Egyptian princess to a meeting. During small talk, Fawzia emphasized that she had lost the crown twice. Talking about the past, the elegant and beautiful woman smiled.


The last princess of Egypt was 91 years old. Her youngest daughter and spouse survived her. Despite the loss of royal titles and privileges, she remained a princess for her people until the last day.

She was buried on July 3, 2013, in Cairo, next to her second husband. The Egyptian city of Fawzibad, streets in Cairo and Maadi are named after the princess.

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