Iran was ruled by a constitutional monarchy prior to 1979 and progressed by huge leaps and bounds in the seventies and was labeled by the West as an outstanding economic performer with record earnings and revenues. But those halcyon days are now gone. One of the world’s longest-lasting monarchies, the Iranian monarchy went through many transformations over the centuries, from the days of Persia to the creation of what is now modern day Iran. Shah: also known by his people as
Shahanshah (King of Kings), ascended the throne on September 1941–1979. At the time of the golden jubilee of the Pahlavi dynasty he had ruled for thirty-five years, thus more than doubling the period during which his father directed Iran’s policies as head of state.
Basically, The Shah’s reign displayed the same two trends as were characteristic of his father’s period, nationalism and modernization. There were other similarities as well: the new King faced at the beginning foreign occupation and interference, he was challenged by tribal rebellion and unrest, and was beset by an upsurge of provincial separatism and communism. He also had to wage a struggle for economic independence from British dominance of the oil sector. And, like his father, he searched for a friendly third force that would counterbalance both the Soviet and the British influence.
During World War II, Britain and the USSR were concerned by Reza Shah’s friendly relations with Germany. In 1941 the two countries invaded and occupied large areas of Iran. They forced Reza Shah to abdicate, and in the absence of a viable alternative, permitted The Shah to assume the throne. The new shah’s reign began against a backdrop of social and political disarray, economic problems. Despite his vow to act as a constitutional monarch who would defer to the power of the parliamentary government, The Shah increasingly involved himself in governmental affairs and opposed or thwarted strong prime ministers. He continued the reform policies of his father.
The Imperial Family of Iran was, for various reasons, a major focus of international attention in the 20th century. From a political point of view, the Shah of Iran was a man devoted to his people, determined to get his country into the 21st century as a leading nation of the world, where it would be as good to live as in any European country, in the words of the Shah himself. From a diplomatic point of view, His Imperial Majesty was one of those heads of state every other wanted to meet and he was definitely a friend of the West, with a special relationship with the United States of America.
At the coronation ceremony in 1967, Shah spoke to his people:
I thank God who has given me the possibility of accomplish, for my people and my country, all the services that my power enabled to accomplish for them. I equally ask God that, in the future, I may continue to serve my people as I have done until this moment. The only purpose of my life is the honour and the glory of my people and of my country. I have one single hope: to maintain the independence and sovereignty of Iran and make the Iranian people progress. To accomplish this purpose, I will be ready, if it was necessary to offer my life. In this moment, as I place the crown of the oldest Empire of the World in my head and when for the first time in History The Shahbanou of Iran also receives the crown, I feel even closer to my noble people, so caring of their national traditions, and I vow that this people be always protected by the divine grace. The God Almighty allow me to give the next generations a cheerful country and a prosperous society and that my son, the Crown Prince, may remain under the divine protection in the accomplishment of the important role that he will carry on his shoulders.
Beset by advanced cancer, the Imperial Majesty Reza Pahlavi Aryamehr left Iran in January 1979 to begin a life in exile. He died in Cairo, Egypt, on July 27th, 1980 at the age of 60. On his last interview he said:
My advisers built a wall between myself and my people. I didn’t realize what was happening. When I woke up, I had lost my people. Rest in Peace (1919–1979)