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The biography of King Farouk,
This review is from: Too Rich: The High Life and Tragic Death of King Farouk (Hardcover)
This is one of 3 books in English that are devoted to the life of King Farouk of Egypt (1920--1965). The other two are McBride's "Farouk of Egypt: A biography", and McLeave's "The Last Pharaoh: Farouk of Egypt 1920--1965". There is also Adel Sabit's "A King Betrayed", which was translated from Arabic to English, but that is very hard to find. I understand that there are other biographies in Arabic and also in French that are not available in English.
The book was written in the late 80's (published in 1991), just in time to interview certain key people who knew King Farouk on a personal level and who died soon after (I have Irene Guinle particularly in mind).
Farouk became King of Egypt and Sudan upon the death of his father, King Fuad I, in 1936 at the age of 16. He was extremely good looking, truly loved by the Egyptian people and widely regarded as the hope of an entire generation for a new beginning. 16 years later, he was overweight, bald and (in his own words) almost blind. He lost his first wife, his throne, and most importantly the love and respect of the Egyptian people.
What went wrong?
The book makes an attempt to answer this question, but it is now clear (at least to me) that the answer is deeper and much more subtle than the writer initially imagined it would be.
What now seems clear is that King Farouk was one of the most maligned public figures in history and one of the very first victims of the tabloid press. I grew up reading that he was an alcoholic. Now it turns out that he was a strict Muslim who never touched alcohol. I was told that (like his father before him) he didn't speak Arabic. Now it turns out that his Arabic was perfect (you can hear at least one short sample of his speeches on youtube.com). One also constantly reads about his alleged womanizing. Now it seems established that he hardly had any interest in sex.
From the many interviews in this book, and others on this part of Egyptian history, a certain picture emerges. I now believe that King Farouk was an intelligent man who lacked a proper formal education. He was a patriot who found that not only the British (understandably)conspired against him, but also the major Egyptian nationalist parties.
He became King of Egypt at the age of 16 in 1936 (formally ascended teh throne in 1937), and right after that had to rule a country that was central to European interests in a World War that started in 1939. This was a very unfortunate development for a very young king of a very complex country with no formal training and no sincere friends.
He was treated very badly by the British, represented by the British High Commissioner Miles Lampson (who refered to him in public as "the boy"), by the major nationalist party at the time (The Wafd) and by his mother(you can find out about that in the book or in other sources).
I believe that at some point he lost hope and became depressed, which showed in the form of reckless but harmless behaviour (nothing at all compared to what Arab rulers after him are guilty of).
Everyone who knew King Farouk agree that at a personal level he was an extremely pleasant man, very kind, very well mannered and totally devoid of affectations (William Stadiem says that one of his major mistakes was to think that appearances don't matter--how wrong he was). In words of a cousin of his quoted in Hassan Hassan's book (In the House of Muhammad Ali), "He was greatly sinned against". His was a very sad story.