Abdol-Hossein Farmanfarma

Abdol-Hossein Mirza Farman Farma
شاهزاده عبدالحسين ميرزا فرمانفرما

Abdol-Hossein Mirza Farman Farma
Prime Minister of Iran
In office
25 December 1915  1 March 1916
Monarch Ahmad Shah Qajar
Preceded by Mostowfi ol-Mamalek
Succeeded by Vosough od-Dowleh
Personal details
Born 1857
Died 1939
Tehran, Iran
Alma mater Austrian Military Academy in Tehran

Prince Abdol-Hossein Farman Farma (1857 – 1939) was one of the most prominent Qajar princes, and one of the most influential politicians of his time in Persia. He was born in Tehran to Prince Nosrat Dowleh Firouz in 1857, and died in November 1939 at the age of 82. He was the 16th grandson of the Qajar crown prince Abbas Mirza. He fathered 26 sons and 13 daughters by 8 wives. He lived to see four sons of his first wife die within his lifetime.[1]


Portrait of Prince Abdul Husayn Mirza (Farma Farmaian), One of 274 Vintage Photographs. Brooklyn Museum.

Prince Abdol Hossein was born to Prince Nosrat Dowleh Firouz in 1857 through his wife Hajieh Homa Khanoum. According to custom, Abdol Hossein was educated at home by private tutors, studying such traditional subjects as poetry, literature, mathematics, Arabic language, and religion, along with perhaps a smattering of modern science. Since 1878, he continued his education at the Austrian Military Academy in Tehran,[2] where he distinguished himself as a soldier and strategist. He also showed himself to be an enthusiastic builder of bridges and roads, with a very keen interest in new Western sciences and social improvements. By 1882, following his time in the academy, he reached the rank of colonel, and in 1884 joined his brother Abd al-Hamid Naser al-Dowleh, then governor of Kerman, to train the local army. The following year he was reassigned to Tabriz, the capital of Iranian Azarbaijan, to become a member of the court of the Crown Prince Mozzafar al-Din Mirza and to serve as his treasurer. He also became the Commander of the Qarasuran Corps (Gendarmerie and Security Administration of Tabriz), and reorganized the Shaqaqi regiment.[3] In 1886, Abdol Hossein Mirza's father died. In recognition of his distinguished military service, he is awarded the title of "Amir Tooman" in 1887. Shortly afterwards he married Princess Ezzat-Dowleh, daughter of the king and his first of many wives, in 1887.[4] Following the marriage, and out of respect for Ezzat-Dowleh and also due to her high social rank, he took no other wives for the next twenty years. During part of this time he served as Commander in Chief of the Army in Azarbaijan, Governor of Kerman (twice), Governor of Kurdistan, Governor of Fars (also twice), Governor of Kermanshah, and Governor of Azarbaijan. In his capacity as governor he founded one of Iran's first secular schools for girls.

After the accession to the throne of the weak Mozzafar-al-Din Shah, Farmanfarma was instrumental in bringing about the last grand vizier Atabak-e Azam's fall, on 23 November 1896. He was then appointed commander-in-chief of the army and minister of war, took over the government as a self-appointed premier, and "acted as the true sovereign". This led to a coalition against him, and to the nomination of Ali Khan Amin od-Dowleh as premier, in March 1897. The latter persuaded the shah to dismiss Farmanfarma, to appoint him gouverneur of Fars, and finally to send him into exile in 1898. He went to Egypt, and then to Baghdad in Ottoman Mesopotamia.[5] His wife Princess Ezzat-Dowleh (Mozafar din Shah's daughter), voluntarily fled with him into exile and stayed with him for five years. She was then able to convince the Shah to let Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farma return. Upon his return Abdol Hossein sent his sons to schools in Europe.

In 1906 the ascendance of her brother Mohammad Ali Shah to the throne plunged the country into civil war again as the new shah tried to crush the democratic movement. He continued his government service by holding the posts of Minister of Justice and War Minister. He also became the leader of a party of conservative moderates. In his role as Minister for Justice he introduced the Western custom of court trials into the Persian legal system.

In August 1907, Farman Farma was appointed governor general of Azerbaijan, and had to deal with an incursion of Kurdish and Ottoman expeditionary forces into Persian territory.[5] During his stay in Tabriz he married his second wife, Mah Bagum Khanum, the daughter of a Kurdish mountain chief, in order to seal a pact.[6]

In 1911 Farman Farma married his third wife, Massoumeh Khanum.[7] In 1912 the Majlis dispatched Farman Farma as commander-in-chief of an army to repel Abu'l Fath Mirza Salar al-Dawla, the third son of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar, who had laid a claim to the throne and had gathered forces in Kurdistan and Kermanshah. In this expedition Reza Khan, who would become later the Shah of Iran, served under Farman Farma's command. The expedition was eventually successful,[5] and Farman Farma returned to Tehran in 1915. With his arrival he brought his fourth wife, Batul Khanum. The marriage, like that of his Kurdish wife, was to seal a pact.[8]

Farman Farma was in Tehran for only one year, serving first as Minister of Interior. At the end of 1915 he became Prime Minister, but resigned a little more than two months later. The reason for this renunciation was his refusal to sign an agreement allowing Russia and Great Britain to supervise the military and financial affairs of Iran. He asserted then that « it is a shame for the grandson of Crown Prince Abbas Mirza [i.e., himself] to consent to the slavery of Iran by signing such a document ».[9] As a Prime Minister he established the Ministry of Health . Later, in 1924, he would create the Pasteur Institute of Iran[5] whose first action was to introduce a smallpox vaccine . In 1916, as hostile and near anarchic conditions in Fars prevailed, the British convinced the reluctant shah to appoint Farman Farma a second time as governor general of that province. He remained in that capacity for four years, working closely with the British consul-general and with his old friend Percy Sykes.[5]

Sir Percy Sykes next to Abdol-Hossein Farmanfarma in Kerman, 1902

On his arrival in Shiraz, the entire province was in total chaos. His first task was to prevent the spread of a famine. He carried this out by organising Iran's first agricultural cooperative. To ensure his acceptance by the people of Shiraz he took his fifth wife, Fatemeh Khanum, from one of the leading local families.[10] He also raised an all-Iranian regiment to restore security and order to the province with the help of British General Percy Sykes who referred to Farman Farma as "my friend" in his famous History of Persia.[11] Sykes referred to Farman Farma, who was well known as an Anglophile, as "one of the ablest men in Iran".

Reza Shah Pahlavi behind Ahmad Shah with Abdol-Hossein Farman Farma, 1918

In 1918 he was infected by the Great Influenza Epidemic that killed one-fifth of the population in Shiraz, but he just pulled through.[12] He completed his term as the governor of Shiraz in 1921 when he was replaced by his nephew Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. At about this time, he married his sixth wife, Khanum Akhtarzaman, which he divorced three or four years later.[13]

Just after the 1921 British-assisted coup of Reza Shah, his prime minister Zia'eddin Tabatabaee arrested and held in custody members of the political elites of all persuasions, partly to head off political opposition and partly to extort money. Thus, upon his return to Tehran Farman Farma was arrested with his two elder sons, Nosrat Dowleh the foreign minister, and Abbas Mirza Salar-Lashgar the general. This was much to the embarrassment of British officials who had given them earlier guarantees of their security .[5]

After his release, Farman Farma's family relations with the British, whom they saw as supporting the coup, became very strained. However, he offered several gestures of political support and personal friendship towards Reza Khan. Perhaps uncomfortable that he had once served under Farman Farma's command, and certainly resentful of his wealth, Reza Khan did not reciprocate, and even confiscated some of his property. He also arrested in 1929 Farman Farma's powerful son Nosrat-ed-Dowleh, at the time minister of finance, and finally ordered his assassination in 1937 while on house arrest.[5][14] Farman Farmaian had by that time retired from politics, and married in 1927 and 1937 his seventh and eighth wives, Hamdam Khanum Talai and Batoul Khanum Chizar Doost.[15]

He spent his final years under house arrest suffering from gout, arthritis, and insomnia. He died in 1939 and is buried in the Shrine of Shazdeh Abdol Azim.

Historical Anecdote

Interestingly, among the Cossacks accompanying Farman-Farma during the 1912 campaign to Kermanshah was an officer known as "Reza Maksim" because he was good at maneuvering a Maxim gun. This was none other than Reza Khan Mirpanj, who would become known as Sardar Sepah, and then as Reza Khan Pahlavi, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty.[16] Later Reza Khan, leader of the Cossacks brigade, became involved in a British operation and shortly afterwards in a British backed coup, to establish himself as the new Shah in 1921. The once friendly relationship between Farman-Farma and Reza Khan, who had once been his subordinate, became more tenuous as Reza rose in stature and power, first as minister of war and then as shah. Nevertheless, he continued to treat Farman-Farma respectfully until the end of his life.[17]

Name and Title

His full official name and title was Hazrat Aghdas Vala Shahzadeh Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farma. This translates approximately as "His Highness, Prince Abdol Hossein, the Eminent and Exalted One, the Greatest of All Commanders." When surnames became compulsory he took his last title as his family name, viz. Farman Farma, which literally translates as "giver of an order", and is roughly equivalent to "viceroy".[18]

The title "Farman Farma" did not originate with Prince Abdol-Hossein Mirza Farman Farma. It was first held by his grand-uncle Hossein Ali Mirza Farman Farma, a son of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar. Prince Abdol Hossein's father, Prince Firouz, would battle his own uncle, Prince Hossein Ali Farman Farma, in support his brother Prince Mohammad (later Mohammad Shah Qajar) and win the right to the succession for Prince Mohammad. Forty years later, Nasser-al-Din Shah, Firouz Mirza's nephew, would bestow the title Farman Farma on Prince Firouz in gratitude for his role in consolidating the succession to the Qajar (Kadjar) Throne. The title Farman Farma then passed on to his son Prince Abdol Hossein Mirza, during the reign of Nasser-ed-Din Shah. Nasser-ed-din Shah and Prince Abdol Hossein were cousins, but Nasser-ed-Din Shah was about thirty years his senior. Only Prince Abdol Hossein carried the title "Farman Farma", while most of his offspring carry the family name derived from the former title "Farman Farmaian" (lit. Those belonging to Farman Farma). His elder son Firouz Nosrat-ed-Dowleh III however chose the family name "Firouz", which is carried by his offspring.

Non-Persian honors

He was awarded the following honors outside of Persia:


Contrary to many Persian politicians and royal household members at the time and due to the uncertain political climate, Farmanfarma felt that his sons and daughters should obtain modern European educations as opposed to Classical Persian Educations. He ensured that they worked particularly hard towards this goal throughout their lives. As a consequence the vast majority of his sons and daughters, after having obtained first class educations, went on to work in senior and key roles throughout the Iranian government from the turn of the century through to the 1970s.

(Main source: "Shahzdeh's Tree, A Family Genealogy of Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farma", compiled by Mitra Farman Farmaian Jordan, 1997, Universal Printing, Washington).

Government Positions Held

See also

External links

Sources and References

  1. A chronology of the life of Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farma, p. 42-58; p. 66-67; in Shahzdeh's Tree. Two other sons and one daughter died in infancy.
  2. The Lion of Persia, p.14.
  3. The Lion of Persia, p. 15-17.
  4. Shahzdeh's Tree, p. 73
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Farmānfarmā, Abd-al-Ḥosayn Mīrzā, in Encyclopædia Iranica online
  6. Shahzdeh's Tree, p. 107
  7. Shahzdeh's Tree, p. 119
  8. Shahzdeh's Tree, p. 137
  9. Shahzdeh's Tree, p. 54
  10. Shahzdeh's Tree, p. 161
  11. Brigadier-General Sir Percy Sykes. A history of Persia, Vol. II. Macmillan 1921. See from Chapter LXXX onwards .
  12. Brigadier-General Sir Percy Sykes. A history of Persia, Vol. II. Macmillan 1921, page 515 .
  13. Shahzdeh's Tree, p. 177
  14. Shahzdeh's Tree for the date of 1937.
  15. Shahzdeh's Tree, p. 185 and 197
  16. The Lion of Persia, p. 120-121.
  17. The Lion of Persia, p.194.
  18. The Lion of Persia, p.1
  19. Shahzdeh's Tree, p. 52.
Political offices
Preceded by
Mostowfi ol-Mamalek
Prime Minister of Iran
Succeeded by
Vosough od-Dowleh
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