Death of Iraq’s last princess closes tumultuous chapter in Middle East history


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Jonathan Lessware
Zaynab Khojji

May 10, 2020

Princess Badiya bint Ali, who died aged 100 in London on Saturday, was the aunt of King Faisal II
She took refuge in Saudi embassy in Baghdad after royal family was eliminated in 1958 coup

LONDON: When Princess Badiya bint Ali spoke in her later years about the coup that killed much of her family and brought an end to Iraq’s monarchy, she would still be moved to tears.

She watched, terrified, from the balcony of a building in another part of Baghdad as smoke rose from the Rihab Palace on July 14, 1958.

Princess Badiya, who died peacefully aged 100 in London on Saturday, was the last surviving princess of Iraq.

Her death marks an end to a tumultuous chapter in Middle East history that took her from a childhood in Makkah to the grand palaces of the region’s capitals and into exile in the UK.

Born in Damascus in 1920 into the Hashemite dynasty, Princess Badiya was the daughter of King Ali bin Al-Hussein, who briefly ruled the Hejaz kingdom in western Arabia and held the title of Grand Sharif of Makkah.

Princess Badiya’s nephew, King Faisal II, takes the oath in Iraq’s parliament in 1953 watched over by the princess’s brother Crown Prince Abdullah. (AFP/File)

Her grandfather, Hussein bin Ali, had led the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire and established the Hejaz kingdom in 1916.
In 1925 Princess Badiya and her family left Makkah for Iraq after the kingdom was overthrown by Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia.

In Jordan, Princess Badiya’s uncle had already established a kingdom with the support of the British, and as the Ottoman Empire crumbled, another uncle, Faisal I, became the king of Iraq in 1921.

For the young princess, arriving in Baghdad was a time of great excitement, and she was immediately smitten.
“Baghdad was lovely compared to Amman because Amman was small and lit with candles,” she recalled in an interview with Al-Sharqiya TV in 2012.

“There was electricity in Baghdad and a bridge and a high corniche. Baghdad was beautiful and I loved it.”

Faisal ruled for 12 years until his death from a heart attack, aged 48. His son, Ghazi, took the throne in 1933.
He was married to Princess Badiya’s sister, Princess Aliya.

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