Egypt: How King Farouk I was Overthrown

King Farouk I in military uniform

Farouk was the only son of King Fuad. A scandal surrounded his birth in that it was rumoured he was the result of an adulterous liaison between Fuad and an Italian kitchen maid. King Fuad’s wife Nazi Sabri had given birth to four daughters so Farouk was taken under her wing to give legitimacy to the heir to the throne. However, this rumour may be unfounded and have been spread by the enemies of the monarchy.

King Farouk I

Farouk came to power very early in life. King Fuad died when Farouk was only sixteen years old. Farouk was in England being educated at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich. His ascendancy to the throne was welcomed by the majority of Egyptians. He began his reign by making an address to the nation on radio in which he promised to work towards improving the lot of his subjects.

The land Farouk inherited was governed by a very corrupt parliament. He took steps to remove the prime minister and his government. Deep in the heart of Egyptian politics at this time lurked the British. Even before the outbreak of World War II a large detachment of British and Commonwealth troops were stationed in Egypt to guard the Suez Canal.

Prior to the War Farouk had acquired a very extravagant life-style. He would embark on massive shopping sprees in Europe’s major cities. He also had a love of motor cars and acquired models bearing most of the top marques of the day. In a country where a very high percentage of the population was living below subsistence level he soon lost the respect of the masses.

When hostilities began and the very ill-prepared Italians threatened to invade Egypt the British became less and less sure as to where Farouk’s loyalties lay. He had a large number of Italian staff in his many palaces and was favourably disposed towards that nation. In addition he is regarded as having been pro- German. As a consequence he was placed under house arrest and was unable to make any significant or independent decisions during the war years.

The Free Officers Movement

In the years immediately following the War, Farouk’s popularity took a further dip. The Egyptian government remained very corrupt. The fall of much of Palestine to the Jews when the 1948 Arab- Israeli War was lost was seen as Farouk’s failure. The fact that a British presence remained on Egyptian soil was a further cause for disquiet.

This unease was most prevalent within Farouk’s army. Foremost amongst those dissidents was Colonel Gamal Nasser. He had gathered a group of young like-minded officers whose ambition it was to depose the King and rid the country of all the corruption in power. At the time Nasser felt they needed a respected figurehead. To that end he persuaded General Muhammad Naguib to be their leader. The group adopted the title of ‘The Free Officers Movement’.

The Coup detat

In 1952 a bloodless coup took place. King Farouk, having been forced to abdicate, bade farewell to Egypt and departed on the Royal Yacht for Italy. Later he took up residence in Monaco where he died in 1965 aged only 45. Naguib became Egypt’s first president.