Fireworks popped and sizzled over the Nile River the night Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt married Crown Prince of Iran Mohammad Reza in a move that united the two countries. Fawzia was only 17 years old at the time of her marriage, but her status conferred the appearance of glamour and royalty.
Throughout her reign, her dazzling looks would draw comparisons to those of silver-screen stars like Judy Garland and Hedy Lamarr. Meanwhile, she was described by Egyptian courtier and writer Adel Sabit as being raised “in bucolic surroundings, mobbed by adoring servants, aunts, and ladies-in-waiting”.
Although she was tender of age and upbringing, Fawzia soon discovered that princesses must face social restrictions, which allowed her little freedom, but the press only saw the facade that granted her the title of “the most beautiful woman in the world”. In fact, so captivating was her appearance that Cecil Beaton once famously photographed her for Life magazine in 1942 and described her by saying, “She had sad and mournful eyes, pitch-black hair, a perfectly sculpted face, and soft, graceful hands bereft of the wrinkles of labor.”
Because so much international press was given to Fawzia’s ill-fated marriage to Reza, she became something of a celebrity and style icon. Fawzia – like her sisters Faiza, Faika, and Fathia – was a faithful couture client. They were all spotted in 1951 at a Jacques Fath couture show, where they scooped up the entire collection.
Ray Aghayan, an Oscar-winning costumier who dressed Barbara Streisand and Diana Ross, once claimed that Fawzia was his most difficult client. Coming from a family that was used to the finer things, Fawzia’s status as a fashion icon was a natural part of her identity. Her signature look involved finger-curled tresses, red lipstick, dresses nipped in at the waist, T-strap heels, and lavish furs and jewelry.
Although she was of royal blood, things were not easy for Fawzia, who enjoyed a glamorous, public life for a brief time before her marriage failed after only six years. She died in Egypt at the age of 91, in July 2013, having experienced both the royal life and devastating political setbacks. According to an architect by the name of Keyvan Khosrovani, who came to visit Fawzia in her villa in Alexandria during the late 1970s, she was a lonely Egyptian rose whose fame and status had faded due to political schemes beyond her control.
“Twice in my life, I lost the crown. Once I was the queen of Iran, and once I was the princess here. It’s all gone now. It doesn’t matter,” she mused openly in conversation with Khosrovani. Yet, decades after her ascent to global fame, she is still remembered by many for her timeless style and unyielding beauty.