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Faisal II

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Faisal II
Faisal in the 1950s
King of Iraq
Reign4 April 1939 – 14 July 1958
Regency ended2 May 1953
PredecessorGhazi I
Successor (Zeid bin Hussein as head of Iraqi and Syrian royal family)
Prime Minister
Prince 'Abd al-Ilah
Born(1935-05-02)2 May 1935
Baghdad, Kingdom of Iraq
Died14 July 1958(1958-07-14) (aged 23)
Baghdad, Arab Federation
Faisal bin Ghazi bin Faisal bin Hussein bin Ali
FatherGhazi I
MotherAliya of Hejaz
ReligionSunni Islam[2]

Faisal II (Arabic: الملك فيصل الثاني, romanizedal-Malik Fayṣal al-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 and Queen Aliya of Iraq, 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.[3] In 1941, a pro-Axis coup d'état overthrew the regent. The British responded by initiating an 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 the United Kingdom. There, he attended Harrow School alongside his cousin Hussein, the future King of Jordan.[3] The regency ended in May 1953 when Faisal came of age.

The overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy in 1953 and the formation of the United Arab Republic in February 1958 only provided impetuses to ideas of a 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 Hejaz and Grand Sharif of Mecca. Faisal's father was killed in a mysterious car crash when he was three years old; his father’s first cousin, Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, served as regent until Faisal came of age in 1953. He also suffered from asthma.[4]

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 first cousin once removed '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 Regent '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 ties, 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 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 left-leaning variants of pan-Arab nationalism. Recently, 143 drawings drawn by Faisal using either pencil or crayon were put on display at Iraq's National Archives depicting backdrops of the war he lived through. Such as drawings of aircraft, bombs, killer robots, and extreme fighting on both land and sea but some drawings depict more peaceful subjects, including landscapes, birds, and buildings, as well as maps of Europe and North Africa. These drawings offered a look into his mind during the chaotic time.[5]

1952 United States tour[edit]

In 1952, at age 17, Faisal began plans to visit the United States and its many development projects such as agriculture, power projects, canal systems, and land reclamation schemes. It was of particular interest to the King especially the Irrigation projects as Faisal would later tell the New York press that it was “very much needed in our country."[6]

On the 12th of August, 1952, Faisal began the five-week tour and, along with Regent 'Abd al-Ilah, they first arrived at 11 AM, in the Hudson River on the RMS Queen Mary and were given a tour around the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan. The next day, Faisal went on a tour of the Empire State Building and after arriving at the City Hall for a reception with Mayor Vincent R. Impellitteri, he famously went to attend a game held in the Ebbets Field. The visit was covered by many news outlets nationwide that many forgot Faisal's original motives for the visit. He would also famously be on the side of Brooklyn Dodgers but reportedly couldn't tell the difference between them and the other team, the New York Giants, in which one of his aides told him that it the team's names are written on their clothes.[6]

In the following days, he would tour the Radio City Music Hall and the Esso Oil Company. On the 16th of August, both would depart from LaGuardia Airport for Washington, D.C. where he met President Harry Truman.[6] Over the following weeks, he would meet other famous Americans such as Dean Acheson, the actor James Mason, and Jackie Robinson, among others.[7][8]


Less than a year after his visit to the United States, 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.[9] Reportedly, his reign was marked by tolerance and co-existence with other faiths and branches of Islam and projects such as an irrigation project, inspired by the US project.[10] Public buildings were built under his reign such as al-Shawy Mosque which he visited along with scholars and notables of Baghdad on TV.[11] Faisal initially relied for political advice upon his father’s cousin Prince 'Abd al-Ilah and General Nuri al-Sa'id, a veteran politician and nationalist who had already served several terms as Prime Minister. However, Faisal's reign simultaneously grew increasingly unstable against a backdrop of economic inequality coupled with the rise of Communism, anti-imperialist sentiment, and mounting Pan-Arab nationalism.

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.

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

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, an 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.

Plans for Greater Baghdad[edit]

During his reign, Faisal initiated large-scale plans for the modernization of Greater Baghdad. The goal of this ambitious project was to improve and develop infrastructure and housing, provide essential public buildings, reform the building industries, and train future Iraqi architects to not rely on Western help. The increase in the economy that subsequently enabled the plans for Greater Baghdad to be developed was due to negotiations with the British-controlled Iraq Petroleum Company in 1952 that achieved an equitable share of oil rights and a substantial increase in Iraq's revenue. Faisal also created the semiautonomous Development Board which consisted of six members including a foreign advisor with the goal of improving living conditions and construction. After various negotiations, the board received a percentage of the annual oil revenue and in 1955 it established a six-year plan with a larger budget, a quarter of which was assigned to public buildings. In an effort to secure the authority of King Faisal II and the Royal Family and to thwart possible tensions, funds needed to be invested in urban areas where it was feared the conflict would potentially appear.

Many architects from around the world were invited, among them were Alvar Aalto, Walter Gropius (who designed the faculty tower and gateway monument to Baghdad University), Le Corbusier and many more. Commissions for public buildings followed and the first ones went to the German architect Werner March for the Iraq Museum and the English firm J. Brian Cooper to build the National Parliament and the Royal Palace. An architect competition was set up for the National Bank which Swiss architect William Dunkel won. Some of the buildings designed during the plan were built even decades later after Faisal's reign ended under Saddam Hussein such as the Baghdad Gymnasium which was designed by Le Corbusier. Frank Lloyd Wright was also invited by Faisal to design much of Newer Baghdad, Wright seemed to not regard Iraq as an underdeveloped nation and wanted to preserve its character. Inspired by Harun al-Rashid and the Arabian Nights, Wright's plans seemed to echo old Abbasid architecture in Baghdad such as circular layout and are imbued in greenery to allude to the Garden of Eden.

Despite the contribution to the development of the city, some have criticized Faisal's plans for Greater Baghdad and the many styles that he introduced to be a "Westernization" of Iraq. The plans also acquired international attention as a letter from the British Board of Trade demonstrates that was sent to a number of British architects. Some of the criticism of the plans were used as justification during the 14 July Revolution.[12]

The Arab Federation[edit]

Faisal (left) with his cousin King Hussein of Jordan, in February 1958.

On 1 February 1958, neighboring Syria joined with Nasser's Egypt to form the United Arab Republic which Iraq did not recognize. This prompted the Hashemite kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan to strengthen their ties by establishing a similar alliance. King Hussein bin Talal, King of Jordan, sent his court minister to Baghdad, carrying a message to Faisal inviting him to go with some ministers to Amman, to consider the consequences of the event. On February 11, 1958, the King of Iraq went with some ministers, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and the Chief of the Royal Court. On the next day, Abd al-Ilah joined them, and there the two parties reached, on February 14, 1958, the declaration of the Arab Hashemite Union between Iraq and Jordan, also known as the "Arab Federation." Originally, Kuwait was to join but Britain was opposed to the unification.

Faisal, as the senior member of the Hashemite family, became its head of state and the head of the Union Government, and in his absence, Hussein would head the Union Government. The Federation was also open to other Arab countries joining it.[13]

Downfall and murder[edit]

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 nationalization of the Suez Canal, only exacerbated popular revulsion for the Baghdad Pact, and thus Faisal's rule. 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.[14] An identical process ensued within the Iraqi officer corps with the formation of a "Supreme Committee of Free Officers". Faisal's government endeavored to preserve the military's loyalty through generous benefits, but this proved increasingly ineffective as more and more officers came to sympathize 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 had not yet moved into the newly completed Royal Palace). According to Princess Hiyam's biography page, the royal family and royal staff left the palace through the kitchen. When they passed through the kitchen garden, rebel soldiers opened fire. The King was shot in the head and neck, while Nafeesa and Abadiya were shot in the back. Only Princess Hiyam survived the massacre of the royal family, being wounded in the leg or hip. The group was then taken to cars for transport to the Ministry of Defence. The King reportedly died along the way, and the cars were stopped. The King's body was hanged, while the Crown Prince was defiled and dragged through the streets.


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".[15][page needed]

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 Cemetery in Baghdad.[16][page needed]


Faisal initially asked for the hand of Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi, the eldest daughter of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. However, the offer was rejected by the princess herself.

In January 1957, Faisal became engaged to Princess Kiymet Hanım, a descendant of the Mamluk dynasty of Iraq. However, the engagement was broken three months later.

At the time of his death, the king was scheduled to marry to Princess Sabiha Fazile Hanımsultan (engagement in September 1957), the only daughter of Prince Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim of Egypt and Ottoman princess Zahra Hanzade Sultan.

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 to the youth in Arab countries, but that never happened.[17]

In pop culture[edit]

Military ranks[edit]

Faisal held the following ranks:[citation needed]


(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 renovates Baghdad's Royal Cemetery before King Abdullah visit". Sawt Beirut International. 28 March 2021. Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  2. ^ "IRAQ – Resurgence in the Shiite World – Part 8 – Jordan & The Hashemite Factors". APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map. 2005.
  3. ^ a b Al Sahly, Suadad; Lessware, Jonathan (14 July 2018). "60 years on, Iraqis reflect on the coup that killed King Faisal II". Arab News. Retrieved 10 January 2023.
  4. ^ S9.com Archived 6 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 14 July 2008.
  5. ^ "Iraqi Boy-King Faisal II's drawings shed light on country's past". 14 June 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Doomed Guests: Faisal II, the "Boy King" of Iraq". 23 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Truman Library Photograph: King Faisal II visiting the Naval Academy". www.trumanlibrary.org. Archived from the original on 8 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, the Near and Middle East, Volume IX, Part 2 - Office of the Historian".
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Iraq may need what it once had -- a constitutional monarchy". 25 March 2007.
  11. ^ "جامع احمد الشاوي". Archived from the original on 31 May 2022.
  12. ^ King Faisal II's plans for Greater Baghdad
  13. ^ "Al Moqatel - ثورة عام 1958، في العراق".
  14. ^ "Presidents of Iraq Since 1958". Worldatlas. 3 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Professor Safa Khulusi". Obituary. The Independent. 5 October 1995.
  16. ^ "60 years on Iraqis reflect on the coup that killed King Faisal II". Arab News. 20 May 2019.
  17. ^ https://algardenia.com/mochtaratt/14968-2015-02-14-16-21-07.html In Arabic (the Hobbies of King Faisal II)
  18. ^ Farr, Michael (2001). Tintin: The Complete Companion. London: John Murray. ISBN 978-0-7195-5522-0.
  19. ^ Giezbert, Franz-Olivier, ed. (2012). Les Personnages de Tintin dans l'Histoire: les Événements qui ont inspiré l'Œuvre de Hergé. Vol. II. Historia.
  20. ^ "King Faisal II". IMDb.
  21. ^ Kamal Salibi (15 December 1998). The Modern History of Jordan. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 9781860643316. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  22. ^ "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
Born: 2 May 1935 Died: 14 July 1958
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Iraq
4 April 1939 – 14 July 1958
14 July Revolution
Titles in pretence
Preceded by — TITULAR —
King of Syria
4 April 1939 – 14 July 1958
Reason for succession failure:
Kingdom abolished in 1920
Succeeded by
Loss of title
King of Iraq
14 July 1958