Abdol-Hossein Farmanfarma

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Abdol-Hossein Mirza Farman Farma
شاهزاده عبدالحسين ميرزا فرمانفرما
Abdol-Hossein Mirza Farman Farma
Prime Minister of Iran
In office
1 February 1915 – 2 July 1915
Monarch Ahmad Shah Qajar
Preceded by Mostowfi ol-Mamalek
Succeeded by Abdol Majid Mirza
In office
25 December 1915 – 1 March 1916
Monarch Ahmad Shah Qajar
Preceded by Mostowfi ol-Mamalek
Succeeded by Vosough od-Dowleh
Personal details
Born c. 1859
Died 1939
Tehran, Iran
Alma mater Austrian Military Academy in Tehran

Prince Abdol-Hossein Farman Farma (c. 1859 – 1939) was one of the most prominent Qajar princes, and one of the most influential politicians of his time in Persia. He was born to Prince Nosrat Dowleh Firouz (circa) 1859, and died in November 1939 at the age of 80. He was the 16th grandson of the Qajar crown prince Abbas Mirza. He fathered 24 sons and 13 daughters by 8 wives. He lived to see four sons die within his lifetime.


Portrait of Prince Abdul Husayn Mirza (Farma Farmaian), One of 274 Vintage Photographs. Brooklyn Museum.

Prince Abdol Hossein was born to Prince Nosrat Dowleh Firouz in approximately 1859 through his wife Hajieh Homa Khanoum. His youth was spent perfecting the arts of swordmanship, poetry, hunting, riding, calligraphy, ceremonial etiquette, and other subjects required of a Persian nobleman. He continued his education at the Austrian Military Academy in Tehran where he distinguished himself as a soldier and strategist. He also showed himself to be an enthusiastic builder of bridges and roads, with a very keen interest in new Western sciences and social improvements. By 1882, following his time in the academy, he reached the rank of colonel and took command of the military units in the province of Kerman. Two years later in 1884, he was reassigned to Iranian Azarbaijan where he became the Commander of the Qarasuran Corps (Gendarmerie and Security Administration). In 1886, Abdol Hossein Mirza's father died. In recognition of his distinguished military service, he is awarded the title of "Amir Tooman" in 1887. Shortly afterwards he married Princess Ezzat-Dowleh, daughter of the king and his first of many wives, in 1888. At the time he was approximately thirty years old. Following the marriage, and out of respect for Ezzat-Dowleh and also due to her high social rank, he took no other wives for the next twenty years. During part of this time he served as Commander in Chief of the Army in Azarbaijan, Governor of Kerman (twice), Governor of Kurdistan, Governor of Fars, Governor of Kermanshah, and Governor of Azarbaijan. In his capacity as governor he founded one of Iran's first secular schools for girls.

In 1899, due to the intrigues of the Mozzafar-al-Din Shah's entourage he was exiled to Baghdad in Ottoman Mesopotamia. His wife Princess Ezzat-Dowleh (Mozafar din Shah's daughter), voluntarily fled with him into exile and stayed with him for five years. She was then able to convince the Shah to let Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farma return. Upon his return Abdol Hossein sent his sons to schools in Europe, leaving his wife very much alone. The two grew further apart as time passed.

In 1906 the ascendance of her brother Mohammad Ali Shah to the throne plunged the country into civil war again as the new shah tried to crush the democratic movement. During the Iranian Civil War Farman Farma sided with the constitutionalists who were victorious.[citation needed] He continued his government service by holding the posts of Minister of Justice and War Minister. He also became the leader of a party of conservative moderates. In his role as Minister for Justice he introduced the Western custom of court trials into the Persian legal system.

Eventually, Farman Farma was dispatched by the Shah to Tabriz in order to make peace between warring Persian and Kurdish tribes. During his stay there he had married his second wife, the daughter of a Kurdish mountain chief, in order to seal a pact. The young Kurdish bride had actually been sent back to her tribe and died a few years later. Princess Ezzat-Dowleh and Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farma grew even more apart and the two became completely estranged.

In 1911 Farman Farma married his second true wife, Masoumeh Khanoum who was accepted by a very lonely Princess Ezzat-Dowleh amidst the chaos of the civil war. Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farma returned to Tehran in 1915 after quelling the secession in the west of Iran. With his arrival he brought his third wife, named Batul (the marriage, like that of his Kurdish wife, was to seal a pact).

Farman Farma was in Tehran for only one year, serving first as War Minister and then as Prime Minister. For most of his tenure he was trying to keep the country unified, which he successfully managed to do. During his time as Prime Minister, he established the Ministry of Health, and created the Pasteur Institute of Iran whose first action was to introduce a smallpox vaccine that saved countless lives. After only three months he resigned from the post of Prime Minister. In 1916, he returned to Shiraz for his second appointment as governor general of the Fars province.

Reza Shah Pahlavi behind Ahmad Shah with Abdol-Hossein Farman Farma, 1918

On his arrival in Shiraz, the entire province was in total chaos. His first task was to prevent the spread of a famine. He carried this out by organising Iran's first agricultural cooperative. To ensure his acceptance by the people of Shiraz he took a wife, Fatimeh Khanoum, from one of the leading local families. He also raised an all-Iranian regiment to restore security and order to the province with the help of British General Percy Sykes who referred to Farman Farma as "my friend" in his famous History of Persia.[1] Sykes also went on to praise Farman Farma as "one of the ablest men in Iran". Farman Farma for his part was a well known Anglophile.

In 1918 he was infected by the Great Influenza Epidemic that killed one-fifth of the population in Shiraz, but he just pulled through.[2] He completed his term as the governor of Shiraz in 1921 when he was replaced by his nephew Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. Upon his return to Tehran he was arrested, with two of his elder sons (Nosrat Dowleh the foreign minister, Abbas Mirza Salar-Lashgar a general), by Reza Shah who had just taken power in a coup. He spent the next three months in the Qasr-e-Qajar jail until Reza Shah had proclaimed himself War Minister and consolidated his power base. Upon his release Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farma retired from politics and tended to his remaining estates and villages from Tehran after a great portion of them were confiscated by Reza Shah. He spent his final years under house arrest suffering from gout, arthritis, and insomnia. He died in 1939 and is buried in the Shrine of Shazdeh Abdol Azim.

Historical Anecdote[edit]

The founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, Reza Shah, then known as Reza Khan or "Master Reza" was a sergeant in the household guard known for his bravery and strength. When Farman Farma equipped his unit with Maxim Machine Guns he promoted Reza Khan to the rank of officer and gave him command of a gun. After that, Reza Khan was to be known as "Reza Khan-i-Maximi": Machine-Gun Reza. Over the next 14 years Reza Khan progressed to the rank of Field Commander under the command of Farman Farma before becoming involved in a British backed coup to establish himself as the new Shah. After the coup in 1921, Farman Farma demanded to see Reza Khan when he heard that two of his sons had been arrested. When he walked into Reza Khan room, Reza Khan (the Minister of War) jumped to attention in respect for his old commander. It was Reza Khan's Prime Minister, Seyeed Zia who managed to get Farman Farma arrested and put into jail for three months while Reza Khan consolidated his power base. Farman Farma was released the minute Syeed Zia was taken to jail himself.

Name and Title[edit]

His full official name and title was Hazrat Aghdas Vala Shahzadeh Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farma. This translates directly as "His Highness, Prince Abdol Hossein, the Eminent and Exalted One, the Greatest of All Commanders." When surnames became compulsory he took his last title as his family name., viz. Farman Farma literally translating to "Greatest of All Commanders".

The title "Farman Farma" did not originate with Prince Abdol-Hossein Mirza Farman Farma. It was first held by his grand-uncle Hossein Ali Mirza Farman Farma, Abbas Mirza Nayeb Saltaneh's younger half-brother. Prince Abdol Hossein's father, Prince Firouz, would battle his own uncle, Prince Hossein Ali Farman Farma, in support his brother Prince Mohammad (later Mohammad Shah Qajar) and win the right to the succession for Prince Mohammad. Forty years later, Nasser-al-Din Shah, Firouz Mirza's nephew, would bestow the title Farman Farma on Prince Firouz in gratitude for his role in consolidating the succession to the Qajar (Kadjar) Throne. The title Farman Farma then passed on to his son Prince Abdol Hossein Mirza, during the reign of Nasser-ed-Din Shah. Nasser-ed-din Shah and Prince Abdol Hossein were cousins, but Nasser-ed-Din Shah was about thirty years his senior. Only Prince Abdol Hossein carried the title "Farman Farma", while most of his offspring carry the family name derived from the former title "Farman Farmaian" (lit. Those belonging to Farman Farma)

Non-Persian honors[edit]

He was awarded the following honors outside of Persia:


Contrary to many Persian politicians and royal household members at the time and due to the uncertain political climate, Farmanfarma felt that his sons and daughters should obtain modern European educations as opposed to Classical Persian Educations. He ensured that they worked particularly hard towards this goal throughout their lives. As a consequence the vast majority of his sons and daughters, after having obtained first class educations, went on to work in senior and key roles throughout the Iranian government from the turn of the century through to the 1970s.

(Main source: "Shahzdeh's Tree, A Family Genealogy of Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farma", compiled by Mitra Farman Farmaian Jordan, 1997, Universal Printing, Washington).

Government Positions Held[edit]

  • Commander in Chief of the Army in Azarbaijan.
  • Commander of the Gendarmerie
  • Governor of Tehran (1896)
  • Governor of Kerman (1892–1893), and (1894–1896)
  • Governor of Kurdistan (1894)
  • Governor of Fars (1897–1898), and (1916)
  • Governor of Kermanshah (1903)
  • Governor of Azarbaijan (1907)
  • Governor of Isfahan (1908)
  • Minister of Justice (1907), (1909)
  • Minister of War (1896–1897)
  • Minister of Interior (1910), (1915)
  • Prime Minister (1915), (1915-1916)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Sources and References[edit]

  1. ^ Brigadier-General Sir Percy Sykes. A history of Persia, Vol. II. Macmillan 1921. See from Chapter LXXX onwards [1].
  2. ^ Brigadier-General Sir Percy Sykes. A history of Persia, Vol. II. Macmillan 1921, page 515 [2].
Political offices
Preceded by
Mostowfi ol-Mamalek
Prime Minister of Iran
Succeeded by
Abdol Majid Mirza
Preceded by
Mostowfi ol-Mamalek
Prime Minister of Iran
Succeeded by
Vosough od-Dowleh