Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Farouk II, King of Egypt (1920–1965)

King of Egypt from 1936 until 1952, when he was ousted by a military coup. Born on 11 February 1920 in Cairo, Faruq Al-Awwal (Farouk) was the son and successor of King Ahmad Fuad I. Farouk was just sixteen years old when his father died and he ascended the throne, although a regency council ruled for him until July 1937. As king, Farouk continued his father's policy of opposing the popular Wafd Party and was usually successful in keeping it from power.

During World War II Farouk, who was anti-British, sought to keep Egypt neutral. Nevertheless, Britain pressured him to honor Egypt's 1936 treaty obligations to lend it wartime support and to dismiss profascist sympathizers from the government and army officer corps. In 1942 the British forced him to accept as prime minister Mustafa an-Nahhas Pasha, a Wafd Party leader sympathetic to their interests. In October 1944 an-Nahhas helped to negotiate the Alexandria Protocol as a step toward the creation of an Arab league of states. Farouk, seeking to head the movement himself, promptly dismissed an-Nahhas.

Farouk's reign and reputation were seriously compromised by defeat in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Revelations of rampant corruption in the palace and in the Egyptian bureaucracy also discredited him with the Egyptian military. Farouk's position was further damaged by his reputation as an inveterate womanizer and playboy who amassed fantastic wealth but was never quite satisfied with what he had. He owned hundreds of thousands of acres of land, dozens of palaces, and hundreds of automobiles. He was known as a hard-driving gambler and a man of the nightclub circuit, and his apparent kleptomania earned him the nickname "The Thief of Cairo." These excesses would be a major catalyst to his downfall.

In 1952 Farouk sponsored unpopular candidates for minister of defense and other key positions. On 23 July 1952 the clandestine Free Officers organization, led by General Muhammad Nagib and Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, forced Farouk to abdicate and sent him into exile in Monaco. His infant son was immediately proclaimed King Fuad II, but the monarchy was formally abolished in 1953 when Egypt was declared a republic.

In exile Farouk continued to lead the high life. His love of food and drink rendered him dangerously obese, and by the time he collapsed after a heavy meal on 3 March 1965, he weighed almost 300 pounds. He died on 18 March 1965 in Rome.

Andrew J. Waskey


Further Reading
Stadiem, William. Too Rich: The High Life and Tragic Death of King Farouk. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1991.
 

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