Faisal II of Iraq

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Faisal II
King Faisal II of Iraq.jpg
King of Iraq
Reign4 April 1939 – 14 July 1958
Regency ended2 May 1953
PredecessorGhazi I
SuccessorMonarchy abolished
Muhammad Najib ar-Ruba'i, President of Iraq
Prime Minister
Prince 'Abd al-Ilah
Born(1935-05-02)2 May 1935
Baghdad, Iraq
Died14 July 1958(1958-07-14) (aged 23)
Baghdad, Arab Federation
Royal Mausoleum, Adhamiyah
SpousePrincess Fadila Ibrahim Sultan (Engaged, Faisal II died the day before the wedding)
Faisal bin Ghazi bin Faisal bin Hussein bin Ali
FatherGhazi I
MotherAliya of Hejaz
ReligionSunni Islam[1]

Faisal II (Arabic: الملك فيصل الثانيAl-Malik Fayṣal Ath-thānī) (2 May 1935 – 14 July 1958) was the last King of Iraq. He reigned from 4 April 1939 until July 1958, when he was killed during the 14 July Revolution. This regicide marked the end of the thirty-seven-year-old Hashemite monarchy in Iraq, which then became a republic.

The only son of King Ghazi of Iraq and Queen Aliya, Faisal acceded to the throne at the age of three after his father was killed in a car crash. A regency was set up under his uncle Prince 'Abd al-Ilah. In 1941 a pro-Axis coup d'état overthrew the regent. The British responded by initiating a brutal invasion of Iraq a month later and restored 'Abd al-Ilah to power. During the Second World War, Faisal was evacuated along with his mother to England, where he attended Harrow School. The regency ended in May 1953 when Faisal came of age.

Faisal's reign grew increasingly unstable against a backdrop of economic inequality coupled with the rise of Communism, anti-imperialist sentiment and mounting Pan-Arab nationalism. The overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy in 1952 and the formation of the United Arab Republic in February 1958 only provided further impetuses to revolution. The Hashemite Arab Federation was formed between Iraq and Jordan in February 1958 with Faisal as its head, which did not quell widespread opposition. In July 1958, a group of Royal Iraqi Army officers led by Abd al-Karim Qasim mounted a coup d'état and overthrew the monarchy. Faisal was executed along with numerous members of his family in the process.

Family and early life[edit]

Birth and early years[edit]

King Faisal II at the age of 5

Faisal was the only son of King Ghazi of Iraq and his wife, Queen Aliya, second daughter of 'Ali bin Hussein, King of the Hijaz and Grand Sharif of Mecca. Faisal's father was killed in a mysterious car crash when he was three years old; his uncle, Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, served as regent until Faisal came of age in 1953.

King Faisal II was the model used by Belgian comic writer Hergé for his character Prince Abdullah of Khemed in The Adventures of Tintin.[2] He suffered from asthma.[3]

1941 coup[edit]

King Faisal II of Iraq c.1944

Faisal's childhood coincided with the Second World War, in which the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq was formally allied with the British Empire and the Allies. In April 1941, his uncle 'Abd al-Ilah was briefly deposed as Regent by a military coup d'état which aimed to align Iraq with the Axis powers. The 1941 coup in Iraq soon led to the Anglo-Iraqi War. German aid proved insufficient, and the puppet 'Abd al-Ilah was restored to power by a combined Allied force composed of the mercenary Jordanian Arab Legion, the Royal Air Force and other British units. Iraq resumed its British overlordship, and at the end of the war joined the United Nations.

During his early years, Faisal was tutored at the royal palace with several other Iraqi boys. During the Second World War, he lived for a time with his mother at Grove Lodge at Winkfield Row in Berkshire in England. As a teenager, Faisal attended Harrow School with his second cousin The Prince Hussein, later to become King Hussein of Jordan. The two boys were close friends, and reportedly planned early on to merge their two realms, to counter what they considered to be the "threat" of Communism and pan-Arab nationalism.

In 1952, Faisal visited the United States, where he met President Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, the actor James Mason, and Jackie Robinson, among others.[4][5]

Hastening Faisal's demise was the decision taken by his regent (later confirmed by him) to allow the United Kingdom to retain a continued role in Iraqi affairs, through the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1948, and later the Baghdad Pact, signed in 1955. Increasing massive protests greeted news of each of these alliances, contributing to the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators and an increasing deterioration of loyalty to the Iraqi Crown.

End of regency[edit]

Prince Abdullah (holding hat) at Mount Vernon USA. He was the regent for his nephew Faisal during his infancy. They were both killed during the 1958 coup.
Postage stamp of his 1953 coronation

Faisal attained his majority on 2 May 1953, commencing his active rule with little experience and during a changing Iraqi political and social climate exacerbated by the rapid development of pan-Arab nationalism.[6]

Faisal initially relied for political advice upon his uncle Prince 'Abd al-Ilah and General Nuri al-Sa'id, a veteran politician and nationalist who had already served several terms as Prime Minister. As oil revenues increased during the 1950s, the king and his advisers chose to invest their wealth in development projects, which some claimed increasingly alienated the rapidly growing middle class and the peasantry. The Iraqi Communist Party increased its influence. Though the regime seemed secure, intense dissatisfaction with Iraq's condition brewed just below the surface. An ever-widening gap between the wealth of the political elites, landowners and other supporters of the regime on the one hand, and the poverty of workers and peasants on the other, intensified opposition to Faisal's government. Since the upper classes controlled the parliament, reformists increasingly saw revolution as their sole hope for improvement. The Egyptian Revolution of 1952, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, provided an impetus for a similar undertaking in Iraq.

On 1 February 1958, neighbouring Syria joined with Nasser's Egypt to form the United Arab Republic. This apparently prompted the Hashemite kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan to strengthen their ties by establishing a similar alliance. Two weeks later, on 14 February, this league formally became the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan. Faisal, as the senior member of the Hashemite family, became its head of state.

Downfall and murder[edit]

Faisal (left) with his cousin King Hussein of Jordan. In February 1958, the two Hashemite Kingdoms formed the Arab Federation that lasted until Faisal was deposed in a bloody coup on 14 July 1958.

An opposition forms[edit]

Faisal's political situation deteriorated in 1956, with uprisings in the cities of Najaf and Hayy. Meanwhile, Israel's attack on Egypt, coordinated with Britain and France in response to Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal, only exacerbated popular revulsion for the Baghdad Pact, and thus Faisal's regime. The opposition began to coordinate its activities; in February 1957, a "Front of National Union" was established, bringing together the National Democrats, Independents, Communists, and the Ba'ath Party.[7] An identical process ensued within the Iraqi officer corps with the formation of a "Supreme Committee of Free Officers". Faisal's government endeavoured to preserve the military's loyalty through generous benefits, but this proved increasingly ineffective as more and more officers came to sympathise with the nascent pro-republican anti-monarchist movement.

14 July Revolution[edit]

In the summer of 1958, King Hussein of Jordan asked for Iraqi military assistance during the escalating Lebanon crisis. Units of the Royal Iraqi Army under the command of Colonel Abd al-Karim Qasim, en route to Jordan, chose to march on Baghdad instead, where they mounted a coup d'état on 14 July. During the 14 July Revolution, Faisal II ordered the Royal Guard to offer no resistance, and surrendered to the insurgents.[citation needed] Around 8 am, Captain Abdul Sattar Sabaa Al-Ibousi, leading the revolutionary assault group at the Rihab Palace, which was still the principal royal residence in central Baghdad, ordered the King, Crown Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, Crown Princess Hiyam ('Abd al-Ilah's wife), Princess Nafeesa ('Abd al-Ilah's mother), Princess Abadiya (Faisal's aunt) and several servants to gather in the palace courtyard (the young King having not yet moved into the newly completed Royal Palace). There they were told to turn toward the wall and were immediately executed by their captors.


Many years later, when the Iraqi historian Safa Khulusi met Al-Ibousi, who was once one of Khulusi's students, and questioned him on his part in Faisal's death, the former student answered, "all I did was remember Palestine, and the trigger on the machine-gun just set itself off".[8]

During the regime of Saddam Hussein, Faisal II was reburied under a marble tomb located next to that of his father in the restored Royal Mausoleum in Baghdad.[9]

Notable published works[edit]

Faisal II was the author of Ways to Defend Yourself (1951), an Arabic book on judo and self-defense, and He printed 50 copies of it and gave it to other kings and leaders on top of them his uncle King Abdullah of Jordan. He also gave a copy of it to the League of Arab Nations hoping to reprint it and distribute it for free on the youth in Arab countries, but that never happened.[10]

Military ranks[edit]

Faisal held the following ranks:[citation needed]


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(eponymous ancestor)
Abd al-Muttalib
Abu TalibAbdallah
(Islamic prophet)
(fourth caliph)
(fifth caliph)
Hasan Al-Mu'thanna
Musa Al-Djawn
Abd Al-Karim
(Sharif of Mecca)
(Sharif of Mecca)
Abu Numayy I
(Sharif of Mecca)
(Sharif of Mecca)
(Sharif of Mecca)
(Sharif of Mecca)
Barakat I
(Sharif of Mecca)
(Sharif of Mecca)
Barakat II
(Sharif of Mecca)
Abu Numayy II
(Sharif of Mecca)
(Sharif of Mecca)
(Sharif of Mecca)
Auon, Ra'i Al-Hadala
Abdul Mu'een
(Sharif of Mecca)
Monarch Hussein
(Sharif of Mecca King of Hejaz)
Monarch Ali
(King of Hejaz)
Monarch Abdullah I
(King of Jordan)
Monarch Faisal I
(King of Syria King of Iraq)
(pretender to Iraq)
'Abd Al-Ilah
(Regent of Iraq)
Monarch Talal
(King of Jordan)
Monarch Ghazi
(King of Iraq)
(pretender to Iraq)
Monarch Hussein
(King of Jordan)
Monarch Faisal II
(King of Iraq)
Monarch Abdullah II
(King of Jordan)
(Crown Prince of Jordan)


Martyr Faisal II College (Kolleyet Al-Shahid Faisal Al-Thani) is a military school in Jordan that was named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IRAQ – Resurgence in the Shiite World – Part 8 – Jordan & The Hashemite Factors". APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map. 2005.
  2. ^ Michael Farr, Tintin: The Complete Companion, John Murray, 2001.
  3. ^ S9.com. Retrieved on 14 July 2008.
  4. ^ https://www.trumanlibrary.org/photographs/view.php?id=4206
  5. ^ "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, the Near and Middle East, Volume IX, Part 2 - Office of the Historian".
  6. ^ Eppel, Michael (1999). "The Fadhil Al-Jamali Government in Iraq, 1953-54". Journal of Contemporary History. 34 (3): 417–442. doi:10.1177/002200949903400306. JSTOR 261147. S2CID 153649796.
  7. ^ "Presidents of Iraq Since 1958".
  8. ^ Professor Safa Khulusi, Obituary, The Independent, 5 October 1995.
  9. ^ "60 years on Iraqis reflect on the coup that killed King Faisal II", Arab News 20 May 2019
  10. ^ https://algardenia.com/mochtaratt/14968-2015-02-14-16-21-07.html In Arabic (the Hobbies of King Faisal II)
  11. ^ Kamal Salibi (15 December 1998). The Modern History of Jordan. I.B.Tauris. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  12. ^ "Family tree". alhussein.gov. 1 January 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2018.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Khadduri, Majid. Independent Iraq, 1932–1958. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 1960.
  • Lawrence, T. E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Retrieved 14 July 2008
  • Longrigg, Stephen H. Iraq, 1900 to 1950. Oxford University Press, 1953.
  • Morris, James. The Hashemite Kings. London, 1959.
  • De Gaury, Gerald. Three kings in Baghdad, 1921-1958 (Hutchinson, 1961).
Faisal II of Iraq
Born: 2 May 1935 Died: 14 July 1958
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ghazi I
King of Iraq
4 April 1939 – 14 July 1958
14 July Revolution
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Ghazi I
King of Syria
4 April 1939 – 14 July 1958
Reason for succession failure:
Kingdom abolished in 1920
Succeeded by
Zeid bin Hussein
Loss of title
King of Iraq
14 July 1958