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Farouk I
1920 - 1965

Farouk I was the second king of modern Egypt. Though he was dynamic and a nationalist, the realization of being powerless under British sovereignty turned his interests from statecraft to the gratification of his desires.


Farouk, the only son of Fuad I, was born in Cairo on Feb. 11, 1920. Educated first in Cairo and later at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, he was recalled to ascend the Egyptian throne in 1936 and crowned in 1937. Though he was most promising in his early days and was thought to be dedicated to the interests of Egypt, Farouk soon resumed the old struggle between the populist forces of the Wafd and the palace, and drifted toward intrigue, absolutism, and debauchery that ultimately caused the collapse of the monarchy in Egypt.

Seeds of Discontent

In 1936 more favorable terms had been reached between Britain and Egypt, but nevertheless the relationship was characterized and perceived as one permitting Britain to dominate Egypt. Farouk's rule was further complicated by new domestic developments in Egypt, particularly in political and economic matters.

The rise of the Society of Moslem Brothers, first started in 1928 and eventually catapulted into position of dominance in Egyptian politics, was one of the more critical political forces to affect the political stability of Egypt during Farouk's reign. The Moslem Brothers championed a program of Islamic reform, advocated struggle against all foreign influence, and challenged the legitimacy of the parliamentary system. The increasing literacy of Egypt and thus the increasing social and economic awareness of large segments of the Egyptian masses gave rise to various other protest movements seeking an alteration in the social, economic, and political systems. Farouk's tendency toward authoritarianism and his insistence on active intervention in politics made it impossible for any legitimately elected government to meet the expectations of the newer elements in society and complicated infinitely the task of governing the country.

World War II

The approaching storm of World War II made British interference in internal Egyptian affairs inevitable, for Britain was primarily concerned with the security of the British Empire, and Egyptian national needs, as perceived by Egyptians, had to be subordinated to Britain's security needs. Egypt's desire to steer a neutral course during World War II and its alleged flirtation with Italy prompted Britain to make strong representation to Farouk. On Feb. 4, 1942, the British ambassador, escorted by British tanks, surrounded Abdin Palace and forced King Farouk to dismiss an allegedly pro-Italian Cabinet and to replace it with the popular Wafd Cabinet. The King surrendered to British demands, and the Wafd ruled till 1944.

This overt intervention by the British in the internal affairs of Egypt and their dictation of a specific prime minister led to the discredit of both King and party. Farouk, recognizing his impotence on the world scene, reacted unusually, indulging himself in the frivolities of life. The personal corruption of Farouk, though he might have shown a tendency in that direction earlier, can be traced directly to his recognition of the futility of his position within his own country. The Wafd was similarly discredited for serving as a result of a military intervention by Britain, the power that it had tried to dislodge from the scene.

Crisis and Exile

The old liberal constitutionalism that had characterized Egyptian politics was discredited, and it was only a question of time when the whole system would collapse. In 1952 the Egyptian army led by Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser seized power and forced Farouk to abdicate on July 26 and go into exile in Italy.

Despite the negative nature of Farouk's reign, his personal corruption, and his lust for power and for women, his reign had some very positive qualities as well. He was very active in inter-Arab politics, helped in increasing the Arab orientation of Egypt, assisted in developing the League of Arab States whose headquarters became Cairo, and took an interest in the aspirations of the Palestinians. Under his rule Egypt developed economically, industrialization assumed more concrete form, and Egyptians took greater roles in the economy. Many of the measures later adopted by Nasser designed to increase the economic viability of Egypt were in fact initiated during Farouk's reign. Farouk founded many institutions of higher learning, such as Farouk I University (renamed Alexandria) and Ain Shams University.

Farouk had three daughters by his first marriage and one son, Fuad II, by his second marriage, to Narriman. Upon Farouk's abdication and exile, his son was declared king and a regency council was established, but eventually Egypt was declared a republic and the Alawid dynasty, which had ruled Egypt since Mohammed Ali assumed power in 1805, came to an end. Farouk died in exile in Rome on March 18, 1965, of a heart attack and was brought back to Egypt for burial.


Farouk, the son of King Fu'ad (reigned 1922 - 1936) and Queen Nazli, and the grandson of Khedive Ismail ibn Ibrahim (reigned 1863 - 1879), was born in Cairo, on 11 February 1920. Privately tutored until the age of fifteen, Farouk intended to enter a British public school. He was, however, unable to gain admission to Eton and the Royal Military College at Woolwich, but he went to England anyway to pursue his studies. At the Royal Military College he took afternoon classes as an unenrolled student. His formal education was cut short by the death of his father, King Fuad, on 28 April 1936. Returning to Egypt, he ascended the throne as a minor and ruled with the assistance of a Regency Council until July 1937.

Upon first coming to power, he enjoyed much local popularity. Young, handsome, and seemingly progressive, he was thought to be an ideal person to foster parliamentary democracy in Egypt. In truth, however, he engaged in the same anti-constitutional practices that had so marked his father's tenure of power. During his reign he constantly plotted against the Wafd, Egypt's majority political party, contended with Britain over monarchical privilege, and intrigued to enhance the sway of the monarchy over the Egyptian parliament. In 1937, shortly after coming to the throne, he removed the Wafd from office. The Wafd had just concluded the Anglo - Egyptian Treaty of 1936, which increased Egypt's autonomy but fell far short of realizing the long-cherished goal of complete independence.

With the onset of World War II, Farouk's clashes with the British intensified. The monarch supported a series of minority ministries, many of which were, in British eyes, insufficiently committed to the Allied war cause. Political tensions came to a head in early 1942 while Germany military forces under the command of General Erwin Rommel were advancing in the western desert toward Alexandria. The British demanded a pro-British Wafdist ministry. When Farouk delayed, the British ambassador, Miles Lampson, on 4 February 1942 surrounded Abdin Palace with tanks and compelled the monarch, under threat of forced abdication, to install the Wafd in office. That day was a defining moment in Egypt's twentieth-century history. It undermined the legitimacy of parliamentary democracy and prepared the way for the military coup of 1952.

The immediate postwar years in Egypt were full of political violence and official corruption. In 1948 the Egyptian army suffered a humiliating defeat in the Arab - Israel War as the state of Israel came into being. During this period, groups opposed to parliamentary government increased their following throughout the country, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood, the Communists, and the Socialists. Within the army an elite of idealistic, young officers organized themselves in the Free Officers movement. Increasingly, King Farouk came to symbolize all that was wrong with the old order. Outrageously wealthy, he flaunted his wealth in a country wracked by poverty. His penchant for gambling and carousing with women offended many. Learning of the growing opposition to his rule inside the military, he tried to move on his enemies before they turned on him. He did not succeed. On 23 July 1952 the Free Officers, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, seized power. Three days later, on 26 July 1952, the new rulers exiled the king. Sailing from Alexandria harbour on the royal yacht Mahrussa, he was accompanied into exile by his family, gold ingots, and more than two hundred pieces of luggage. His deposition in 1952 effectively brought an end to the rule over Egypt of the family of Muhammad Ali, who had come to Egypt as a military leader in the midst of Napoléon Bonaparte's invasion and had installed himself as Egypt's ruler in 1805. Farouk's infant son, Ahmad Fu'ad, succeeded briefly to the throne, but in June 1953 Egypt abolished the monarchy and became a republic. Farouk continued to lead a dissolute life while residing in Rome. On 18 March 1965 he succumbed to a heart attack in a nightclub.










This web page was last updated on: 23 December, 2008