Bahai News - Inside the court of Naser od-Din Shah Qajar

Inside the court of Naser od-Din Shah Qajar,
1881-96: The life and diary of Mohammad Hasan Khan E'temad os-Saltaneh

Source: Middle Eastern Studies
Publication date: 2001-01-01
Arrival time: 2001-03-31


Mohammad Hasan Khan E'temad os-Saltaneh (1843-96), a high official in the court of Naser od-Din Shah Qajar (1848-96), has been something of an enigma to historians of nineteenth-century Iran.1 The bare facts of his life are well known, but despite his fame, the man himself eludes us. Contemporary descriptions are fragmentary: most regard him with varying measures of awe or contempt. Those who despised the man and his politics denounced him as a Russophile reactionary and shameless liar, one who falsified historical facts to justify the heinous acts of his father and to tarnish the reputation of Iran's two reformist Prime Ministers, Mirza Taqi Khan Amir Nezam (Amir Kabir) (1848-51) and Mirza Hossein Khan Moshir od-- Dowleh (Sepahsalar) (1871-73). Those who rushed to his defence praised him as a freedom-loving patriot who only desired the independence and progress of his country. Ignoring his caste-ridden scorn for the common people and numerous references in his diary to beatings of servants and subordinates, these apologists claimed that E'temad os- Saltaneh was an intensely sensitive, polite, and magnanimous man who never used foul language and always treated the people under him with gentleness and kindness.2

The answer may lie in the sources and the beginning of an answer lies in one extraordinary source in particular. During two separate periods, the first from the summer of 1875 to the winter of 1876 and the second from March 1881 to April 1896, E'temad os-Saltaneh scrupulously recorded his personal and political observations and feelings in a diary. But the diary is not merely a history of Naser od-Din Shah's court as recorded by E'temad os-Saltaneh, it is also a self-portrait that reveals its author in all his vulnerability. It confesses his dreams and ambitions. It shows his fears and anxieties. It lists the deep insecurities which always plagued him. But it is even more crowded and lively. Curiously, in the end both the mystery of the seemingly powerful but in fact feeble Qajar state and the riddle of the 'evil' - yet - 'kind' E'temad os-Saltaneh hid a further surprise - the powerful role of women. This article aims to extract from this long and fascinating diary entries that reveal, within the confines of a limited number of pages, the scope and diversity of E'temad os-Saltaneh's story. His life was neither neat nor smooth, nor did it always conform to the social mores of his time. It was passionate and cruel, full of controversy and conflict, but always in motion. Enjoying the personal support of the Naser od-Din shah, E'temad os-- Saltaneh knew success in full measure, but his personal and political life was unhappy.3

Starting in 1868, with his appointment as the personal interpreter of Naser od-Din Shah, hardly a day went by without E'temad os- Saltaneh and the Shah spending several hours in audience. Very few individuals outside the royal harem enjoyed such access at court. E'temad os-Saltaneh tried to write in his journal every day, recounting his audience with the Shah. Some days he was more successful in this attempt, other days went by without him writing anything. He appears generally to have written down the events of the day during his long evenings when time was usually ample. In addition to his daily encounters with the Shah, he was at pains to record meetings with relatives, government ministers, foreign diplomats, and a wealth of others including servants, subordinates and even prostitutes. On many occasions when he was tired, or when he wished to share the news of the day with his wife, E'temad os-Saltaneh dictated the events and his wife, Ashraf os-Saltaneh, wrote them down with a great deal of care and patience.4 From references made in the diary, it becomes clear that Ashraf os-Saltaneh was the only other person who was aware of the contents of the diary.5 At times, E'temad os-Saltaneh used the diary to communicate with her, calm her fears and control her anger.

The majority of the entries, however, dealt with non-familial issues and focused firmly on life at court. Through the diary, we see the Qajar court in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, living under the shadows of two powerful neighbours, the Russian and British empires. Russia and Great Britain pursued different objectives in their relationship toward Iran. For Great Britain, Iran constituted a vast buffer zone that kept Russia at a distance from British India. It was more in Great Britain's interest to influence the Iranian government diplomatically, and to insure its independence of Russia, than to occupy its territory. For Russia, however, Iran looked like another feeble country ready to be conquered by the Tsarist army. Iran seemed especially appealing because it provided Russia with a land bridge to the warm water ports of the Persian Gulf and the riches of India. Living in a state of chronic anxiety, with their political survival and financial security at the mercy of the Shah, insecure courtiers vacillated between pro-British and pro- Russian positions. The diarist, who was an advocate of a close alliance with Tsarist Russia, was involved in a game of survival against rivals who wished nothing short of his political destruction.

Here the diary served a therapeutic purpose. E'temad os-Saltaneh, who could not express himself freely and openly in front of the Shah and his courtiers, used the diary to unburden himself. The diary provided him with the opportunity to pour out his heart and express his most private and intimate feelings about his royal master and the servants and officials who surrounded him. In it he attacked and refuted his antagonists at the royal court. The jeering venomous monologue of the diary was directed against those who insulted and abused him or those who despite their youth occupied higher, more influential and profitable government positions. He portrayed them as ignorant, uneducated, and corrupt rascals and flatterers who betrayed their country and their royal master only to secure their government positions and to fill their pockets. The general tone of the diary gives the impression of an intensely narcissistic man, with little genuine sensitivity to areas of conflict, suffering, and tragedy in the lives of others. He lacked spontaneity of feeling and his relations with people were pretty much on the surface. He had grown up among courtiers who respected etiquette and higher authority. And now he was living with people for whom money and greed played an infinitely greater role. He showed little interest in self-study or self-criticism. Tormented, jealous, cruel, loving, devoted and at times idealistic, E'temad os-Saltaneh, who was stung by his many disappointments, tried to blame his failures in life on the Shah and his rivals at court. In a way, the diary was the personal weapon of a deeply insecure man who tried to salvage his pride by attacking his real and imaginary enemies.

The diary provides the reader with a wealth of information on the Iranian political and cultural scene during the second half of the nineteenth century. It also allows us for the first time to gain an insight into the life and personality of a ruler - Naser od-Din Shah - who dominated Iran for nearly 50 years, as it faced the challenges posed by two European powers clashing over its role. This does not, however, mean that E'temad os-Saltaneh's statements and interpretation of events were objective and unbiased. E'temad os- Saltaneh was extremely subjective and he presented events with a slant of self-importance. At times, he went as far as falsifying events in order to vindicate himself, while accusing the Shah and his enemies of abusing him.6 These factual and historical inaccuracies that appear throughout the diary remind us that this otherwise valuable book should be used as a historical source for study of nineteenth-century Iran only with a great deal of caution.

After the death of its author, the diary travelled a long journey before it appeared in print. It was given to Naser od-Din Shah with the rest of E'temad os-Saltaneh's personal belongings7 and it remained at the court for seven years after the assassination of the Shah in 1896.8 In 1903 Ashraf os-- Saltaneh, who had remarried and lived in the holy city of Mashhad, requested that the new monarch, Mozaffar od-Din Shah, return the diary to her.9 The request was granted and the diary was returned to Ashraf osSaltaneh. After her death, the diary, in accordance with her will, was handed over to the library of the holy shrine at Mashhad.10 Finally, in 1966 the Iranian historian Iraj Afshar published the diary under the title of Ruznameh- ye Khaterat-e Etemad os-Saltaneh.

E'temad os-Saltaneh was born in 1843(11) during the reign of Mohammad Shah (1834-48), the third monarch of the Qajar dynasty (1797- 1925). His mother, Khowrshid Khanom, was a granddaughter of Mostafa Qoli Khan, a half brother of Aqa Mohammad Khan, the founder of the Qajar dynasty.12 He was the third son of his father, Haj Ali Khan Moghaddam Maraghei, who married four times and had one child from each marriage.13 Haj Ali Khan, who traced his descent from Mongol rulers,14 served Naser od-Din Shah (1848-96) first as his 'farrashbashi', or the chief of outer court servants, from 1849 to 1858, and then as governor of Khuzestan (at the time Arabestan, 1859- 1862/63);15 Minister of Justice (1863/64-1865/66); and Min\ister of Pensions and Pious Endowments (1865/66-1868).16 E'temad os-- Saltaneh's life and career were inextricably interwoven with the turbulent life and career of his father. From his early childhood his father raised and educated him in the expectation that he would become a household servant of the Shah. As E'temad os-Saltaneh grew into adolescence he continued to accompany his father wherever he travelled in the realm and the two became a familiar sight.

Ali Khan had first risen to power at the court of Mohammad Shah and was for a time his 'nazer' or court inspector and 'khan salar, or chief of the royal household.17 In 1845, three years before the death of Mohammad Shah, Ali Khan (known at the time as Ali Khan Nazer) was accused of stealing from the royal treasury.18 He was removed from his post and beaten repeatedly by the Shah and his court servants. Fearing for his life, Ali Khan fled Tehran for the holy city of Qom, seeking refuge in the holy shrine of Ma'sumeh. The flight to Qom did not, however, deter the Shah and his Chief Minister, Haj Mirza Aqasi, from insisting on his arrest.19 The governor of Qom was ordered to detain and send Ali Khan to Tehran in chains. Many years later E'temad os-Saltaneh recalled his father's ordeal in his diary and remembered that only a clergyman and his followers had tried unsuccessfully to prevent the governor's agents from detaining him.20 Ali Khan remained in prison for a year and was finally released on the intervention of Malek Jahan Khanom (known by her title, Mahd-e Olya, the Sublime Cradle), the first wife of the Shah and the mother of the Crown Prince, Naser od-Din Mirza. He also received permission to leave Iran for a pilgrimage to Mecca in the company of the Shah's mother.21 On his way back to Tehran, Ali Khan who had assumed the title of 'haji' (or haj for short)22 made a stop in Tabriz where he paid a visit to the Crown Prince, Naser od-Din Mirza, and then returned to the capital with Mahd-e Olya.23 Shortly after their return in 1848, the ailing Mohammad Shah died and Mahd-e Olya assumed power as regent for her son Naser od-Din Mirza. She appointed Haj Ali Khan chief administrator for the northern province of Gilan.24 Shortly thereafter, Naser od-Din Mirza became Shah and recalled Haj Ali Khan to the capital.

Among the first actions taken by Naser od-Din Shah (1848-96) on becoming the ruler of Iran was to appoint Mirza Taqi Khan Amir Nezam (Amir Kabir), Chief Minister.25 An exceptionally capable administrator, who came from 'a humble origin', Amir Kabir was, in effect, the man behind the throne. He assumed all executive powers and embarked on a policy of military, financial, administrative, and educational reforms. Amir Kabir also appointed Haj Ali Khan as the 'farrashbashi', or chief of the outer court servants. Because of his father, the young E'temad os-Saltaneh found his way into the royal harem, accompanying the Shah on his trips.26

As part of his plan to increase the power of the Qajar state and to train officers for a modern military force and officials for a modern government, Amir Kabir created the Dar ol-Fonun, the first college to teach the sons of Iran's ruling elite in modern European sciences. Among the first students to register at the new school was E'temad os-Saltaneh. The school's European instructors, who had been invited by Amir Kabir, arrived in Tehran in 1851. A short time before their arrival, however, the Shah sacked his Prime Minister and in January 1852 ordered his execution. Haj Ali Khan was the loyal servant assigned to carry out the execution order.27 The Shah's death warrant stated that 'Haj Ali Khan, ... the court's chief servant ... is assigned to go to Fin of Kashan and relieve Mirza Taqi Khan Farahani [Amir Kabir]. In performing this mission, he should be assured of imperial favours and he shall be honoured among his peers. '28

Haj Ali Khan was well aware that the Shah might change his mind and he wanted to create the illusion that he had already left the capital. That evening, Haj Ali Khan did not go to his house. He stayed at the house of his oldest son, Abdol Ali Khan.29 The next day, early in the morning, he hurried to the town of Kashan where Amir Kabir resided with his wife Malekzadeh (Ezzat od-Dowleh), the sister of the Shah.30 Once in Kashan he went into the bathhouse at the Fin royal garden where the former prime minister was taking a bath. There, the executioner who had accompanied Haj Ali Khan opened the veins of Amir Kabir and, after watching the condemned man bleed for a time, suffocated him with a bath towel pushed into his throat.31 The odour of shame and embarrassment surrounding Haj Ali Khan's role in the murder lingered in his family for many decades. In a letter to his father, written many years later, the eldest son, Abdol Ali Khan Adib ol-Molk, denounced the heinous murder that had brought shame and disrepute to his family.32 The youngest son, E'temad os-Saltaneh, however, tried to absolve his father by manufacturing historical facts. He claimed that Amir Kabir had asked the Shah to shoot his own mother, Mahd-e Olya.33 He also asserted that the ambitious and domineering Prime Minister was planning to remove the Shah and replace him with the Shah's younger brother, Abbas Mirza (later known as Molk Ara).34 His father had not murdered a benefactor but rather a traitor who was about to stage a palace coup. The bloodstained career of Haj Ali Khan was, however, about to become even bloodier.

On 15 August 1852 three members of the Babi sect, a popular messianic group, made an attempt on the life of Naser od-Din Shah outside the Niyavaran palace, north of Tehran.35 The three Babi assassins were retaliating against years of persecution of the sect at the hands of the central government and the Shia clergy. The Shah escaped the assassination attempt with superficial wounds, but the incident provided Haj Ali Khan with another golden opportunity to demonstrate his devotion to the Shah and acquire more power in the court. Acting as the Shah's chief investigator and prosecutor, he helped organize a reign of terror, targeting the entire Babi community in the capital and surrounding villages. Members of the Babi community were dragged into the streets where they were tortured. Holes were made in the flesh of several prisoners and candles were stuck into the holes and lit;36 when the candles had burnt down, the prisoners were either cut into pieces or shot in the back. Other prisoners were parcelled out among the members of different social groups and professional guilds for similar treatment. The ulama of Tehran, princes of the royal family, government accountants and financial officers, the students of Dar ol- Fonun, and court servants then turned the streets of Tehran into a torture chamber and an execution field. Many years later, in a tone filled with pride, E'temad osSaltaneh claimed that his father was responsible for capturing Mirza Hossein Ali Baha'ullah, one of the most important followers of the Bab, later founder of the Bahai faith. `In this village [Shiyan] Mirza Hossein Ali Baha' was captured by my father and because of this there was a great deal of hostility between my father and Mirza Aqa Khan [the new Prime Minister]... Mirza Aqa Khan resigned from premiership. The Shah did not pay any attention and protected my father. At the time I was ten years old.'37

A few months before the suppression of the Babis, E'temad os- Saltaneh had finally begun to attend Dar ol-Fonun. There he became acquainted for the first time with modern sciences and with European ideas. He also studied French with Mirza Malkam Khan, the Armenian- born reformer who had returned to Iran after an eight to nine-year stay in France.3"8 Upon graduation, E'temad os-Saltaneh received an army rank and was appointed the adjutant to the Crown Prince, Mohammad Qasem Mirza. In June 1858, the Shah's Crown Prince died.39 More importantly, on 30 August 1858 his father's ally, the Chief Minister Mirza Aqa Khan, was sacked, and shortly after E'temad os- Saltaneh's own father was removed from all his posts. The Shah ordered Haj Ali Khan to leave the capital and reside in the town of Golpayegan. Once again the family experienced uncertainty, anxiety, and turmoil.

A year passed before the Shah pardoned Haj Ali Khan and appointed him governor of Arabestan. He also received the new title of Ziya' ol- Molk. In his new post, the governor was joined by his 16-year-old son who was appointed the deputy to the governor and a year later appointed the governor of Shushtar. Sometime in 1857/58, E'temad os- Saltaneh also married for the first time. Her name was Soltan. She gave birth to E'temad os-Saltaneh's only child, a girl named Ozra, who died in 1882 at the age of 24 or 25. Perceiving a threat of retribution from his second wife, Ashraf os-Saltaneh, E'temad os- Saltaneh was extremely careful not to discuss his first wife and their daughter in his diary. It is not surprising, therefore, that he did not refer to Soltan as `my first wife' but as `the mother of my daughter'.40

In 1862/63, Haj Ali Khan was removed from the governorship of Khuzestan and was recalled to the capital. E'temad os-Saltaneh returned to Tehran with his father. Shortly after they had arrived in the capital, Haj Ali Khan was appointed Minister of Justice and received the new title of E'temad os-Saltaneh. Once again he appointed his son as his deputy. In 1865/66, Haj Ali Khan was removed from his post. Only a short time later, he was appointed Minister of Pensions and Pious Endowments. He retained his new post until his death in 1868 at the age of 63.

Meanwhile, in 1863/64, E'temad os-Saltaneh went to Paris as the second secretary to the Iranian embassy in France, at the height of Napoleon III's reign. He spent over three years in Paris, learning French apparently with great skill and proficiency. It seems very likely that he never received a formal educatio\n in France. The extensive, and at times unsystematic and fragmented, knowledge he displayed in his works was most probably the result of a random but sustained process of self-education. France in the mid-1860s could have provided a young Iranian diplomat an extensive and liberal education. Many young Iranians, who were astonished by the status and life style of the English and French middle classes, were greatly impressed by the political and technological advances such as the railway and by the political and the literary freedoms offered in these countries.41

In E'temad os-Saltaneh's case, however, there was no trace of appreciation for the French or the English political and social systems. If he studied European thinkers and philosophers, he left no trace of their influence in his works. The sole exception was Voltaire. E'temad osSaltaneh mentioned the name of the French thinker on several occasions and translated his biography from French into Persian.42 Still he was, and remained throughout his life, a staunch conservative and a committed traditionalist who defended the status quo and opposed political, intellectual, and social Europeanization. He denounced modern ideas as dangerous and detrimental to the security and stability of the Qajar state and openly advocated censorship. E'temad os-Saltaneh argued that European-- type reforms could only be useful if there were a need to re-organize the administrative structure of the government. There was no reason, however, to introduce modern European rules and laws into non- governmental affairs. The country had no need for European laws, he felt, because it already had a legal code - the Shari'a or the Islamic law.43

Acting as the defender of tradition and religion, E'temad os- Saltaneh presented himself as a pious man and a devout Muslim who felt deeply attached to traditional Islamic customs, beliefs, and rituals. The entries in his diary indicate that he prayed regularly and fasted during the month of Ramadan. He had convinced himself that his devotion would prolong his life and would protect him from disease and death. Fond of religious ceremonies, he devoted himself to commemoration of the Shia Imams. He visited 40 mosques during the holy month of Muharram when Shia Muslims mourn the death of Hossein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad and their third Imam. His religiosity went so far as to oppose the idea of displaying a sculpture of Naser od-Din Shah on a horse, stating that `making such a sculpture was prohibited (haram) among the nation of Islam'.44

He was careful, however, not to be identified as a Shia religious fanatic. He was vehemently opposed to such anti-Sunni ceremonies as `Omar Koshun', when Shia Iranians set effigies of the Caliph Omar (the second caliph) on fire,45 and he supported the Ottoman state as the last hope for the preservation and protection of Islam. `In my opinion if the Ottoman sultanate becomes unstable, in less than 50 years all Muslims, Shia and Sunni will either become Babis or Protestants and the religion of Mohammad will be abolished.'46 He also bemoaned the failure of the Iranian government to respond positively to Ottoman appeals for unity. `Then Nusret Pasha [the Ottoman ambassador to Iran] ... gave a long speech on Islamic unity between Iran and the Ottoman state ...The Ottoman government has sent this individual with the idea of [securing] unity with Iran. But, unfortunately we have become so lethargic and defeated by Russia that there is no hope left in us.'47

Upon his return to Iran in 1867, E'temad os-Saltaneh was appointed the personal attendant of the Shah.48 A short time later, in the spring of 1867, he accompanied the Shah on a journey to the holy city of Mashhad in northeastern province of Khorasan. Many years later, he wrote in his diary that the trip was a turning point in his life and signalled his rise to power.49 In 1868, shortly after their return from the holy city of Mashhad to Tehran, the Shah appointed E'temad os-Saltaneh as his personal interpreter (motarjem-e homayun).50 His responsibilities involved translating the latest news from European newspapers, as well as reading informative and educational items from French press, for the Shah. His power and influence grew even greater after he accompanied the Shah to Ottoman Iraq in 1871. On the way back from the royal pilgrimage to the holy cities of Shia Islam in southern Iraq, E'temad os-Saltaneh married Ezzat Malek Khanom (later known by her title Ashraf os-Saltaneh),51 a great granddaughter of Fath Ali Shah (1798-1834), the second Qajar monarch. Upon arrival in the capital, Naser od-Din Shah appointed E'temad os-Saltaneh director of the official government newspaper Ruznameh-ye Dowlati or Ruznameh- ye Iran, and head of the state press office (dar ot-tarjomeh).52 He also received the title of Sani 'od-Dowleh.53

In 1872, with support and encouragement from the Prime Minister Moshir od-Dowleh (1871-73), he established the 'Moshiriyyeh' school where the princes of the royal family and government officials could study French, English, geometry and geography.54 A year later, in 1873, E'temad os-Saltaneh accompanied the Shah on the first royal tour to Europe. After returning to Iran the Shah appointed E'temad os- Saltaneh deputy to the ministry of justice55 as well as superintendent of the royal palaces, gardens and streets of the capital.56 He was dismissed from this last post in 1881. In 1882, however, after years of serving his royal master, he was finally appointed Minister of Press and Publications, and five years later, in 1887, he received his father's last title, E'temad os-Saltaneh.57 Aside from his governmental responsibilities, E'temad os-Saltaneh also wrote a large number of works on history and geography and translated short stories and plays from French into Persian. Some of these works were written and/or translated by him while many others were written and/or translated by the scholars who worked under his supervision.58 His most important work was, however, his personal diary.

Begun in 1875, as he rose through the ranks of court officials, by its second incarnation from 1881 to 1896, the diary entries became increasingly disillusioned. The growing bitterness displayed in his diary sprang from the depths of his frustration with the Shah and his jealousy towards his rivals at the royal court. Although he repeatedly expressed his devotion and love toward the Shah 59 he also criticized his royal master for wasting time with childish hobbies. More importantly, he attacked the Shah for refusing him a more influential role within the government60 and for delegating much of his power and responsibilities to young and ambitious courtiers in return for gifts and bribes.

Among these officials, he focused most of his attacks on Naser od- Din Shah's last Prime Minister, Ali Asghar Khan Amin os-Soltan61 and the Shah's favourite son, Kamran Mirza, minister of war and governor of Tehran. E'temad os-Saltaneh felt nothing but scorn for both men. Seeing himself as morally and intellectually superior to them made him painfully conscious of the fact that personal devotion to his royal master and intellectual distinction did not ensure acceptance or recognition in the eyes of the Shah. Both Amin os-Soltan and Kamran Mirza had grown increasingly more powerful by accumulating more governmental posts for themselves and their clients while E'temad os-Saltaneh had remained the newspaper reader of the Shah or, as he scornfully put it, `the storyteller of his majesty'.62

On several occasions he threatened to resign, but in the end financial considerations and hard political calculations prevented him. This constant and frustrating struggle against his enemies within the government created a sense of weariness, depression and isolation which began to show in his writing. Fear, anxiety, and loneliness took a heavy toll. Despite his appointment in 1882 as Minister of Press and Publications, he became increasingly marginalized at court. The winning side belonged to the spirit of sycophancy, of servility, and corruption. Those who were less adaptable faced a painful choice. If they wanted to exercise power, they had to turn into unprincipled and deceitful flatterers.

In 1895, E'temad os-Saltaneh lost his mother who had been the object of his devotion. His health, which had always given him trouble, grew worse in the last years of his life. But the road he had taken since 1868 he tried to follow to the end, accompanying the Shah, reading and translating the latest news items from the European newspapers. In April 1896, at the age of 53 he collapsed and died suddenly as he was leaving his desk. His end came most likely as a result of a massive heart attack.63 In his will, E'temad osSaltaneh left his entire estate to Naser od-Din Shah. The Shah retained a collection of ancient gold coins and forty thousand toman cash for himself, and returned what was left of the estate to E'temad os- Saltaneh's second wife, Ashraf os-Saltaneh.'64

On 1 May 1896, only four weeks after E'temad os-Saltaneh's death, Mirza Reza Kermani, a disciple of the revolutionary orator Sayyed Jamal od-Din Afghani (1839-97), assassinated Naser od-Din Shah at the shrine of Shah Abdol Azim south of Tehran. It is ironic that in the last years of his life E'temad os-Saltaneh had grown increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of the Qajar monarchy, and underlying this irony was his friendship with the inspiration behind the Shah's assassination, Afghani, whom he had invited to Iran in 1887. In his diary, he praised Afghani as a brilliant writer and speaker. In 1889, however, when Afghani was invited for a second time to Tehran, E'temad os-Saltaneh opposed the idea and warned that he could cause a serious problem for the Shah and his government. Though his warning proved to be prophetic, the reasons behind it were more personal than political. E'temad os-Saltaneh believed \that his principal nemesis, the Prime Minister Amin os-Soltan had invited Afghani for a second time to Iran not only to appease and `flatter the Russians',65 but also to persuade him to take over Etemad os-Saltaneh's position as the head of the official government newspaper. E'temad os-Saltaneh in fact viewed Afghani as an intellectual giant who could easily replace him.

The revolutionary preacher's knowledge and fame had caused E'temad os-Saltaneh a great deal of insecurity. Afghani was an orator, teacher, journalist, and political activist who had lived in Afghanistan, Egypt, the Ottoman empire, Iran, India, Russia, France and England, where he had established close friendships with intellectuals and government officials. He was fluent in Arabic and during his stay in Paris he had published an Arabic newspaper (al- Urwa ul-Wuthqa) with the help of his Egyptian disciple Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905). In comparison, E'temad os-Saltaneh was the director of a newspaper that had functioned as the propaganda mouthpiece of the Shah and his government. It was known that the Minister of Press and Publications did not know Arabic66 and had little experience, connection or influence outside Iran. E'temad os-Saltaneh claimed that he opposed inviting the Pan-Islamist orator because he could pose a serious threat to the security of the Qajar monarchy, but it was the security of his own job that worried him the most.

E'temad os-Saltaneh's self-preoccupation was certainly a metaphor for the myopia of the traditional monarchy he served. Like his predecessors, Naser od-Din Shah laid claim to rule as an absolute monarch. Such claims, however, failed to mask the weaknesses of royal rule. At the top of the power structure stood the Shah. In theory he ruled by divine right and his subjects had to obey him as the shadow of god on earth. He owned all state lands and grants of land were often given to pay wages and provide pensions for state officials or awarded to favourites of the Shah either inside or outside the royal harem. In reality, however, there were serious limitations on the power of the Shah.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the military power and the political prestige of the Qajar state declined as a result of defeats at the hands of the Russians and the British. As its territory shrank, the Qajar court was forced to face the fact that it had to meet the two European powers on their terms. Internally, Naser od- Din Shah ruled a vast and fragmented territorial entity, which incorporated diverse and isolated geographical regions. Each region possessed its own unique characteristics, which distinguished it from others in climate, ethnic and linguistic composition, social organization, religion and local customs. Heterogeneity constituted the most fundamental characteristic of the country. The Qajar monarchy, however, failed to create a centralized state with an efficient bureaucracy and a military establishment that could bring the fragmented country under the control of the government.

The Qajar army `was a worthless rabble, without serviceable arms or drill, or the semblance of discipline'.67 The Qajar government was neither a modern bureaucracy nor a modern state system. The courtiers and officials who served the Shah were attached to him by personal loyalty rather than any sense of commitment to an ideology, state, or nation. The government was an extension of the Shah's household and government officials were the household servants (nowkar) of their royal master. They performed in his name as servants tied to his person and obligated to implement his policies. Policies of the state were often decided in face-to-face meetings between the Shah and the individual courtiers. This generated jealousy and rivalry among his officials. The Shah had the right to appoint and dismiss his officials. Everything they owned, including their home, and personal property, belonged to the Shah and after their death he could keep all or parts of their estates for himself. It was a regime of fear, anxiety, and insecurity.

In the absence of an organized army and civil administration, towns, villages, and tribal areas enjoyed a high degree of autonomy and selfgovernment and were for the most part free from the central government's interference. Even within the walls of the capital, there were no trustworthy courts of justice and the authority of the government was constantly challenged by random acts of vigilantism. Nowhere can this weakness be more clearly seen than in some of the incidents reported by E'temad osSaltaneh in his diary.

In one entry, E'temad os-Saltaneh described the murder of Jalil Mirza, a Qajar prince and a great grandson of Fath Ali Shah, the second Qajar monarch. Returning home from a dinner party, the prince was detained by the police of Sangelaj, one of Tehran's districts. With no obvious reason or justification, the police took him to the home of Sayyed Mohammad, the 'kadkhoda' (headman) of the district. The kadkhoda, who was dead drunk, knew the prince and had a history of enmity toward him. So he began to abuse and torture the young man, first burning his face, and then severing his eyes, ears, nose and tongue. After killing Jalil Mirza, he hid the body for a day or two and then wrapped it in a rug and tossed it into a mosque. Meanwhile, the parents of the prince who were searching for their son discovered the body, but they could not identify it because of the severe burns. The victim's mother finally identified her son thanks to a birthmark on his foot. After some investigation, the kadkhoda was detained and taken to the house of Kamran Mirza, the governor of Tehran, and the Minister of War. Initially, the accused denied the charges, but he finally confessed. Meanwhile, Galin Khanom, the victim's aunt who was also a wife of the Shah, informed the monarch of the incident. The Shah decided not to kill the kadkhoda because he was a sayyed, a descendant of the prophet Muhammad. Instead, the monarch ordered that the man be handed to the father of the victim. The kadkhoda, who was trying to save his life, offered substantial `blood money' to the Shah, the prince regent, and the family of the victim. When the princes of the royal family heard the news, they gathered in front of the prison where the kadkhoda was held. The warden refused to open the jail, but the princes moved him out of the way, and forced their way in. There, they attacked the prisoner with knives and sticks, beating and kicking him while dragging his tortured body. Then with a large crowd watching, the princes poured petrol on the head of the kadkhoda and set him on fire. When he was informed of the melee, Kamran Mirza, who was responsible for security and order in the capital, panicked and fled the city.

According to E'temad os-Saltaneh, Naser od-Din Shah was outraged by the behaviour of the princes and decided to punish them. E'temad osSaltaneh, who interceded on their behalf, argued that there was nothing unusual about the incident. Searching for a justification, E'temad osSaltaneh told the angry monarch that violent mob lynchings were not unique to Iran, they were also a daily occurrence in the United States and that the princes had done to the kadkhoda only what he had done to Jalil Mirza.68 His final assessment of the incident was that although the murder of the kadkhoda was a savage act, it nevertheless showed the Iranian people's sense of honour.69 Ultimately, the government detained 11 of the Qajar princes. Court servants beat two of them, and three others, including two of the murdered prince's brothers, were banished to Qom while one was removed from all his posts.70 No one was tried or sent to prison for this heinous crime. Several months after the incident, E'temad os- Saltaneh wrote in his diary that Sasan Mirza Baha' od-Dowleh, the prince who was removed from all his posts, was appointed governor of Arak, although he had been condemned by the monarch as the principal instigator of the bloody melee.71

The Qajar government was exceedingly weak because it was riddled with infighting and internal factionalism. Starting in 1883-84, two factions began to exercise considerable power and influence over the Shah. The first was led by the young and ambitious minister Ali Asghar Khan Amin osSoltan, the son of Mirza Ebrahim Khan Amin os- Soltan, the Shah's former butler and court minister. The second faction centred on the Shah's third son, the prince regent, Kamran Mirza, who was also Minister of War and governor of Tehran. With the death of his father, Amin os-Soltan assumed a large number of governmental posts and placed his relatives, friends and dependants in many others. Through bribery and patronage, he also organized a network of informants who provided him with the latest news from the palace and the royal harem. In his diary, E'temad os-Saltaneh expressed his fear that what he uttered to the Shah would be immediately reported to Amin os-Soltan who had informants placed in every corner of the palace. Because Amin os-Soltan's rise to power was so fast he found enemies among some of the veterans in the court. His accumulation of power proceeded at a fast pace but it aroused the enmity of older courtiers and officials such as E'temad os-Saltaneh. For the ageing, frustrated and jealous E'temad os-Saltaneh, the young minister became the symbol of everything that was wrong with the country and the government.

Painfully aware of Amin os-Soltan's enormous power and his friendship with the British embassy in Tehran, E'temad os-Saltaneh moved to a closer alliance with the Russian legation. Even before the rise of Amin os-Soltan, E'temad os-Saltaneh believed that the government was dominated by partisans of Great Britain.72 After Amin os-Soltan emerged as the most powerful official in the court, E'temad os-Saltaneh felt that he had to be even more vigilant of the young minister's conduct lest it tilted too much to\wards the British. On the other hand, to demonstrate his loyalty to the Russian side, he wrote several works on the Romanov family and Russian history. His friendship with the Russians became so close that St. Petersburg sent him gifts and imperial decorations.73 In 1894, when Tsar Alexander III died, E'temad os-Saltaneh mourned the death of the Russian monarch. He wrote in his diary that the death of the Russian emperor had a great impact on him because during his reign he had received two major Russian imperial decorations, and on Naser od-Din Shah's last trip, the Russian monarch had expressed a great deal of kindness to him.74 Concerned with his image as a stooge of Tsarist Russia, however, E'temad os-Saltaneh wrote in his diary that he could never sacrifice the interests of his country because of his friendship with the Russians. He portrayed himself as an honourable patriot who could not accept the loss of even one-inch of his homeland to the Tsarist regime.75

According to E'temad os-Saltaneh, after the anti-tobacco uprising in 1891, Amin os-Soltan began to distance himself from the British and moved towards a closer relationship with the Russians, seeking their support and alliance. The result was a sudden improvement in E'temad os-Saltaneh's relationship with Amin os-Soltan. The two former enemies initiated a tactical rapprochement with encouragement from the Russian charge d'affaires who asked E'temad os-Saltaneh to change his attitude toward Amin os-Soltan.76 E'temad os-Saltaneh responded immediately. As proof of his friendship and as a token of his desire to cooperate with Amin os-Soltan he dedicated Sadr ot- Tavarikh, a biographical account of the prime ministers who had served the Qajar dynasty to the Chief Minister.77 In return the Chief Minister began to treat E'temad os-Saltaneh with greater respect. Despite all the niceties displayed by both men, however, the relationship never became a close friendship. An-tin os-Soltan continued to block E'temad os-Saltaneh's attempt to secure a better and more influential position within the government.

The tenuous truce between E'temad os-Saltaneh and Amin os-Soltan was based not only on the support and encouragement of the Russian embassy but also on the two men's deep hatred for Kamran Mirza, the Minister of War and governor of Tehran. Beginning in early 1880s, the young prince, the favourite son of the Shah, used his close relationship with his father to expand his power and influence at the court. At times he manufactured political crises and produced would- be subversives and assassins in order to impress his father and gain the monarch's confidence. Innocent men were thrown into the jails and tortured. Some were accused of being Babis plotting an assassination attempt on the Shah's life. Others were accused of receiving 'subversive' materials published abroad by antigovernment emigres.

Among those wrongly accused was Mirza Reza Kermani, the man who ultimately assassinated the Shah. A petty merchant, who had fallen in love with Sayyed Jamal od-Din Afghani and his revolutionary ideas, he was detained by Kamran Mirza in 1891. The agents of the prince forced him to sign a false confession, and then used the document to torture him. Before they tortured him, he tried to kill himself but failed. He went to prison and stayed there for over four years. During his long detention, his wife left him, his eight-year-old son was forced into servitude and his infant child was abandoned in the street. After he was released from prison, Mirza Reza travelled to Istanbul where he visited Afghani. He had originally decided to assassinate Kamran Mirza but he changed his mind after he returned to Iran in 1896.78

By the early 1890s, tensions within the government were still growing. The Qajar court was divided and without firm leadership. Indeed, the entire government was split by internecine strife between the supporters of Amin os-Soltan and the partisans of Kamran Mirza. According to E'temad osSaltaneh, on one occasion when Kamran Mirza informed the Shah of yet another anti-government conspiracy Amin os- Soltan protested openly in front of the Shah and threatened to resign.79 For his part, the Shah merely asked the two men to work together. The battle between the Prime Minister and the prince regent/ Minister of War allowed the monarch to play one against the other and at the same time maintain some control over both.

As for E'temad os-Saltaneh, he blamed the Shah for everything that went wrong. He claimed in his diary that the administrative system had disintegrated. Important posts within the inner court and the government were no longer held by competent, dedicated and loyal courtiers but by deceitful opportunists who had acquired their positions by bribery and flattery. Consequently, they viewed their new posts primarily as sources of personal power and profit. Problems caused by the Shah's lack of leadership and his total reliance on Amin os-Soltan and Kamran Mirza were accumulating.

E'temad os-Saltaneh felt nothing but scorn for both the Prime Minister, Amin os-Soltan, and Minister of War, Karan Mirza. He considered both men corrupt, unethical, and uneducated. According to E'temad os-Saltaneh, the prince owed his position to flattery and the emotional love of his father. At times the prince treated E'temad os- Saltaneh with rudeness and scorn.80 In 1881 he had convinced the Shah to dismiss E'temad os-Saltaneh as the superintendent of the royal palaces and Tehran's streets.81 At least on one occasion in 1890, he also tried to detain and interrogate his father's Minister of Publications.82

Amin os-Soltan on the other hand remained in power because he vacillated cleverly between the British and the Russians.83 He combined experience, loyalty and shrewd efficiency. By virtue of his office he ranked as the most powerful man at court. More importantly, the Chief Minister organized a racket that allowed him to sell governmental posts and at the same time provide the Shah with a sufficient amount of money.84 By the 1890s, the Iranian economy was in a shambles. The Iranian currency had been repeatedly devalued. The Shah needed money and he needed it fast. To those who could afford to purchase them, the Shah and Amin os-Soltan sold offices that carried with them titles, revenues, and privileges. Governmental posts were sold to candidates who could pay the highest price. With this source of revenue, it was to the advantage of the Shah and Amin os-Soltan for the official posts to change hands as often as possible. The intelligent and shrewd Prime Minister knew that his royal master needed money and at the same time suspected veteran and educated ministers who entertained personal ambitions and reformist ideas.

E'temad os-Saltaneh waged his own little war against both Amin osSoltan and Kamran Mirza. In private conversations with Karan Mirza, he encouraged the prince regent to take over the government and remove the Prime Minister. When he was alone with Amin os-Soltan, he did everything in his power to undermine the credibility of Kamran Mirza and present himself as a supporter of the Prime Minister. In public he flattered both men while in private he encouraged each to destroy the other. The strategy, however, failed miserably for neither Kamran Mirza nor Amin os-Soltan trusted him. The prince regent found his deceitful flattery too transparent and according to the diary complained to the Russian ambassador that E'temad os- Saltaneh was the man responsible for sabotaging his relationship with Amin os-Soltan.85 Amin os-Soltan on the other hand viewed E'temad os- Saltaneh as a deceitful man who entertained his own personal ambitions. In the end, E'temad os-Saltaneh had no alternative but to pin his hopes on the person of the Shah. His devotion to the Shah derived from his upbringing and a deep sense of loyalty. His father had been totally devoted to Naser od-Din Shah. He wrote in his diary that although he had not received the governmental posts he deserved, nevertheless he did not believe that anyone worried for the Shah as much as he did.86 He also claimed that he had inherited his unlimited love and devotion for the Shah from his father. But there was more to it than simply keeping up a family tradition. As long as E'temad os- Saltaneh did not have his own partisans within the court the person of Naser od-Din Shah was the only person who could protect him against arbitrary actions by either Kamran Mirza or Amin os-Soltan. Although he confided his misgivings in his diary and was not always happy with his master's decisions, he believed the Shah to be a kindhearted man of great wisdom.

In turn, the Shah relied on E'temad os-Saltaneh's unfailing loyalty and at times opened his heart to him. He spoke of his family history, emotional struggles, personal problems, dreams and sexual encounters. In one instance, the Shah confessed in front of E'temad os-Saltaneh that he loved his father, Mohammad Shah, very much and did not wish to see him die although his father was extremely `unfavourable to me'.87 On another occasion, the monarch informed E'temad os-Saltaneh and the court physician, Dr Tholozan, of the wives he had recently impregnated and they reassured him that it was not unusual for the monarch to have children, for he was still young.88 On another occasion, the Shah told E'temad osSaltaneh of a dream in which the two of them were engaged in sexual intercourse. E'temad os-Saltaneh told the Shah that the interpretation of the dream was that he should receive a better and a higher post. The Shah agreed.89

But this relationship was undermined as in the last years of his life, E'temad os-Saltaneh began to lose his confidence in the Shah. He blamed his royal master for a political environment in which corruption was rife and bribery and nepotism seemingly inevitable. More importantly, E'temad osSaltaneh could not accept the new reality which allow\ed young and uneducated opportunists to gain more power while he remained the newspaper reader of the Shah. Why should they get all the best posts in the government for themselves and their cronies while his income remained unchanged and his power diminished? In 1895, he crossed swords with the Shah over the publication of the government yearbook. The monarch ordered him to collect all the government yearbooks published by the ministry of press and publications because they contained references to historical events in France that could be construed as subversive and revolutionary.90 E'temad os-Saltaneh could not believe his ears. Until then he was the greatest proponent of censorship91 and he considered himself the best censor in town.92 The Shah's paranoia seemed absurd. Why should the monarch feel so threatened by a harmless historical account? Completely disillusioned with the man he had admired throughout his life, he gave up and submitted his resignation. His letter of resignation revealed the depth of his anger with the Shah and his government.93 But the Shah did not accept it and demanded that he return to his post immediately.94

For all his conservative views, E'temad os-Saltaneh knew that Iran was less than ever a true state, capable of dealing with the Russian and the British threat. Certainly the pursuit of pleasures was foremost in the mind of the Shah. Naser od-Din Shah loved horseback riding, hunting, eating, drinking, and sleeping with as many women as he could. He was also a restless nomad who followed a semi-tribal mode of existence, moving from place to place. He maintained his mobility even in winter, although less frequently and over shorter distances than during the spring and summer. The government was a mobile camp that moved frequently. Despite his many palaces, the Shah had a preference for living and dining out in nature. As E'temad osSaltaneh put it, `although there are one thousand palaces, the nature of his majesty is that of a tent dweller'.95 The Shah also travelled frequently to the various provinces of the country, taking a large number of his courtiers, servants, and members of his harem.

Although travelling was extremely slow and difficult, no obstacle could prevent the Shah from leaving his capital. Every year, with the arrival of spring, he left Tehran for several months. His frequent visits to the province of Mazandaran took nearly two months, while his trip to the holy city of Mashhad in 1867 took over six months. The seat of power and the royal court were on the back of the Shah's horse. Wherever he went, the court, the government, the court servants and the royal harem followed. On most days, E'temad os- Saltaneh accompanied the Shah, at times reading and translating the latest news from Europe on horseback. He clearly preferred reading newspapers in the comfort of a royal palace in Tehran to living in tents with no furnishings, where the rain slanted through the tents making the ground too cold or damp for sleeping. When rain or snow did not ruin his mood he had to worry about poisonous snakes, scorpions and tarantulas.96

Horse riding and hunting played a central role in the Shah's life. They allowed the Shah to escape the formalities of the royal court by pursuing large game such as deer, mountain sheep, bears and leopards. For the Shah, the pursuit of game was not merely a hobby but also a validation of masculinity and a source of personal greatness and pride. He often showed off his prey to the members of the government and his harem. They in turn used the opportunity to praise the Shah and sent him presents in cash or kind.97 It was important for the Shah to return from a day of hunting with a deer, a bear or a leopard. When the monarch returned empty handed, he was not only frustrated and sad, his mood could turn nasty if one of his officials returned with prey.98

Aside from weather constraints, there were two other problems that prevented the Shah from horses and hunting. The first was bleeding haemorrhoids and the second, frequent bouts of dizziness and vertigo.99 Despite assurances from court physicians, the blood from haemorrhoids troubled the Shah and made him extremely depressed. The court servants had been ordered to burn the royal underclothes at the sight of bloodstains.100 The causes of dizziness and vertigo to which E'temad os-Saltaneh referred frequently in his diary remained a mystery.101 Vertigo often struck when the Shah woke up or when he was eating his lunch. The monarch often panicked and retreated to a back room in his harem. The physicians suggested that he use leeches to regulate and purify his blood circulation, but E'temad os-Saltaneh diagnosed that too much horse riding, heavy drinking, physical exhaustion caused by unlimited sexual encounters and lack of sleep triggered the Shah's condition.102

Though he tried to manufacture a manly image of himself, in reality Naser od-Din Shah was neither fearless nor valiant. E'temad os-Saltaneh portrayed him as a timid man who was easily frightened by thunder and lightening. One stormy night, the Shah was so terrorized by the sound of thunder that he escaped the dinner table and sought refuge in a back room of his harem. To calm the Shah's intense anxiety, court servants brought a musician to play and relax the monarch.103 On another occasion, when the Shah was sitting in the palace garden, a young prince accidentally popped a balloon. The monarch was so frightened by the sound of the explosion that his digestive system was completely out of sync for the day.104

Naser od-Din Shah was a religious and pious monarch. He prayed regularly. He also visited the atabat the Shia shrine cities of Arab Iraq, in 1871. He was also fond of religious ceremonies commemorating the birthdays and the deaths of the Shia Imams. It was during his reign that the birthdays of the first Shia Imam, Ali ibn Abi Talib,105 the daughter of the prophet Muhammad, Fatimah, the third Shia Imam, Hossein ibn Ali, the eighth Shia Imam, Ali ibn Musa al- Ridha, and the twelfth Shia Imam, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Askari (al- Mahdi), were celebrated with fireworks.106

Aside from his prowess as a hunter, Naser od-Din Shah was also talented in the creative arts. He was an able poet and his portrait of E'temad osSaltaneh reflects his exceptional talent in drawing. Unfortunately the Shah had great difficulty learning languages. For many years, he tried to learn French with E'temad os-Saltaneh playing the role of the royal instructor.107 After 15 years of study, he received a failing grade from his teacher: `Again... [His majesty] studied. It has been fifteen years since I have been teaching and ten years before me, Mo'tamed ol-Molk and before him... And during the time that he was the Crown Prince.... there were others who had taught... because of the intensity of his work or the anxiety of his mind, he does not know any French.'108 The Shah took his revenge by asking E'temad os-Saltaneh the most difficult French words and when his minister confessed that he did not know the meaning of a word, the monarch was filled with the pleasure of revenge.109 Despite this mind game, the Shah frequently praised E'temad os-Saltaneh's knowledge of French. At least on one occasion, the monarch called him the Alexandre Dumas and the Victor Hugo of Iran.110

E'temad os-Saltaneh also criticized the Shah for wasting his time with childish and absurd hobbies. One was Naser od-Din Shah's obsession with finding precious stones.111 The Shah believed that if gold, silver or some other precious metal was discovered, then the country's financial problem would disappear. Many courtiers used this easy opportunity to get close to the Shah with claims that the newly discovered stones were precious.112 In every instance, these claims proved to be false.113

In order to enjoy himself and at the same time fill the royal treasury with money and presents, Naser od-Din Shah invited himself to the homes of his officials. In accordance with the established custom, the host organized a party in honour of the Shah and offered gifts in cash and kind (pishkesh). At times, after lunch, the Shah played chess. He also liked to watch his courtiers play cards or backgammon in front of him. The Shah also expected to receive gifts from his courtiers for sending them the prey he had hunted. Government officials also sent gifts to their royal master when a member of the royal family was given a name or when a prince was circumcized.114 To amuse himself, the Shah also organized ceremonies that involved the entire government. Every year during a day called ash pazan115 top government officials and prominent members of the court were invited to cut vegetables and cook a huge pot of food in front of the Shah. E'temad os-Saltaneh, who viewed himself as a man of learning, considered cooking below his status and tried to avoid the event. On at least one occasion, however, he was forced by the Shah and the Prime Minister to sit with the rest of the court and cut eggplants.116 Another ceremony involved the person of E'temad osSaltaneh. When the royal camp travelled to northern Iran, at the village of Siah Bisheh (pronounced Siabishe), the monarch hunted bears. When the Shah killed a bear, royal servants went to E'temad os- Saltaneh and took off his socks and put them on the paws of the dead animal.117 This was meant to be hilarious, but only served as a reminder to the short and heavy-set E'temad os-Saltaneh that he looked like a bear.

In the last 15 years of his life, one of the Shah's most important hobbies was spending time with his favourite page, a boy named Malijak (or Manijak). The unattractive and sickly looking Kurdish boy accompanied the Shah wherever he went. The boy's real name was Gholam Ali. Gholam Ali's father, Mirza Mohammad Khan (also known as the first Malijak), was a brother of Amin Aqdas, one of the Shah's most powerful wives. Naser odDin Shah, who m\istrusted and/or disliked his own sons, adopted Malijak as the child he would have loved to father. The boy came from humble origins. He spoke the language of a peasant boy, calling the monarch, shah jun (darling Shah).118 In return, the Shah called him mali jun (darling Mali).119 Because of the love and attention he received from the Shah, the courtiers scorned Malijak. The Shah's most powerful wife, Anis od-Dowleh, also hated the boy. Malijak was the nephew of Amin Aqdas, Anis od-Dowleh's principal rival in the royal harem. As E'temad os-Saltaneh wrote in his diary, it was a well-known fact that Amin Aqdas used the boy to influence the Shah. Naser od-Din Shah was aware of the hatred that Malijak aroused in Anis od-Dowleh and in his courtiers but did not care. To show his unlimited power and to humiliate those who ridiculed his relationship with the young boy, the monarch honoured Malijak with the royal title Aziz osSoltan (The King's Darling).120 He also appointed Malijak as an officer in the army.121 He also arranged for Malijak to marry one of his daughters.122 All those who despised the boy, including E'temad os-Saltaneh, had no other choice but to flatter the unattractive lad and treat him with the greatest deference. The etiquette-conscious E'temad os-Saltaneh expressed his horror at the rise of Malijak in his diary, stating that the dignity and prestige of the monarchy were seriously damaged as a result of the Shah's childish behaviour.123

When the Shah was not busy with Malijak, horse riding, hunting, and attending to the affairs of state, he spent his time in the royal harem, a collection of apartments attached to the palace. The size of the royal harem remained a mystery.124 In an 1886 entry to his diary E'temad os-Saltaneh claimed that the Shah had 81 children and grandchildren.125 He also quoted a harem insider sometime later that there were 700 women, maids and slave girls served and guarded by 750 male servants and 38 eunuchs.126

In the last 23 years of Naser od-din Shah's reign, two powerful women who enjoyed a great deal of influence over the Shah dominated the royal harem. 127 The first was Fatemeh, better known by her honorary title, Anis od-Dowleh. 128 She was born into a poor peasant family of Georgian origin in the village of Ammameh northeast of Tehran. Her aunt adopted Anis odDowleh after her parents separated, and when she and her husband moved to Tehran, the young Fatemeh found her way into the Shah's harem as a maid of Jeyran, Forugh os- Saltaneh, then the favourite wife of Naser odDin Shah. After the death of Jeyran in 1860, the Shah's infatuation increased for the bright young girl whom he finally married" as a sigheh or a temporary wife. When the Shah's mother Mahd-e Olya died in 1873, Anis od- Dowleh emerged as the most powerful woman in the royal harem.

Her rise to power and dominance in the royal harem came at a critical moment. In 1873, with a great deal of encouragement from his new Prime Minister, Mirza Hossein Khan Moshir od-Dowleh, Naser od- Din Shah decided to embark on his first journey to Europe. Anis od- Dowleh demanded that she accompany the monarch. Acting as Iran's queen, she travelled with the Shah and the royal party who numbered nearly one hundred men to St. Petersburg.130 Here, however, Moshir od- Dowleh asked the Shah to send Anis od-Dowleh back to Tehran. Some sources have suggested that the Prime Minister was concerned with the problem of shielding Anis od-Dowleh and her female servants from the sight of European men. He was also probably concerned about the European press coverage of veiled harem women accompanying the royal party. In a telegram to his uncle, Farhad Mirza Mo'tamed od-Dowleh, the Shah justified Anis od-Dowleh's return on the ground that she and her female servants had become extremely ill during the long trip to Russia.131

Whatever the reasons were, the Shah agreed reluctantly with his prime minister and persuaded his wife to return to Tehran. The decision, however, proved to be disastrous for the Prime Minister.132 Blaming Moshir od-Dowleh for her forced return, Anis od-Dowleh joined the opponents of the prime minister. When the Shah and the royal party returned to Iran, the monarch was handed a letter signed by 80 dignitaries who had demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister. A short time later, a telegram from Farhad Mirza, the Shah's uncle, informed the monarch that the opponents of the Prime Minister had sought refuge at the home of Anis od-Dowleh, insisting on Moshir od- Dowleh's dismissal. Neither the Shah nor his Prime Minister could quell the opposition, particularly when it was supported by as formidable a figure as Anis odDowleh. The rebellion of his dignitaries frightened the Shah and forced him to dismiss his Prime Minister. Anis od-Dowleh had proved that those who injured her pride paid a heavy price.

The dismissal of Moshir od-Dowleh only increased Anis od-Dowleh's power. Those who needed help and support at the court asked her to intercede on their behalf. Once, when E'temad os-Saltaneh feared detention at the hands of Kamran Mirza and his agents, he sought refuge at the house of Anis od-Dowleh, who immediately interceded with the Shah on his behalf. Her prestige and popularity were further enhanced by her reputation for honesty and directness towards her husband. As far as her knowledge and influence allowed she tried to keep the monarch in touch with reality. E'temad os-Saltaneh wrote of her in his diary as the only person who spoke to the Shah with honesty and frankness, even ridiculing the monarch for his greed and childish behaviour, such as his intense affection for the little boy Malijak.133 On one occasion she had reportedly told the Shah that his greed and desire for money were so intense that if someone paid him well, he would give her away.134 In 1891-92, during the popular protests against the tobacco concession


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