Memoirs of Prince Hamid Kadjar is the third of a number of life histories to
published by the Iranian Oral History Project. The project was launched in the
autumn of 1981 at Harvard’s Center for Middle East Studies. It provides
scholars endeavoring to study the contemporary political history of Iran with
primary source material, consisting of personal accounts of 132 individuals
who played major roles in important political events and decisions in Iran from
the 1920’s to the 1970’s; or witnessed these events and decisions
from close range.
Prince Hamid Kadjar was the grandson of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar (reigned 1907-9),
nephew of Ahmad Shah (reigned 1909-25), and son of Crown Prince Mohammad Hassan
Mirza (1909-25) and Mohtaram al-Saltaneh Razzaghi, the second of five wives
married to the Crown Prince. He was born in Tabriz on April 23, 1918. Shortly
after his birth, he was moved to Tehran where he lived with his parents in the
Golestan Palace. In 1921 or 1922, when Prince Hamid was about four years old,
he was sent to live with his grandparents in Constantinople. They had moved
there from Odessa as a consequence of the Russian Revolution. Within a year,
the royal family left for San Remo, Italy, where the deposed Mohammad Ali Shah
died in April 1924. Once again the royal family moved. This time to Paris.
In October 1925, the Iranian Majles (parliament) deposed the Qajars after 140
years of rule. Onthe same day, Prince Hamid's father, who was holding fort in
Tehran during Ahmad Shah's extended stay in Europe, was expelled from the country.
He headed for Paris and joined the rest of his family. Shortly thereafter, Hamid
Kadjar, then seven years old, was sent to England to live and study under the
guardianship of a prominent English family, who had befriended Mohammad Ali
Shah during his exile years in Odessa, Ukraine. After completion his primary
and secondary studies, Prince Hamid entered a merchant marine academy in Kent,
where he earned scholastic and nautical degrees in 1936. He then joined the
Royal Mail Steam Packet Company as an indentured cadet. Three years later, he
returned to London and was employed by Mobil Oil Company.
In the summer of 1941, around the time of the abdication of Reza Shah, the
British Foreign Office considered the restoration of the Qajars by placing Prince
Hamid on the Iranian throne. Many factors, among them Hamid's unfamiliarity
with the Persian language and concern over Soviet reaction to placing a British
protege on the throne, dissuaded them from this course of action.
In 1942, as the Second World War engulfed Europe, Prince Hamid volunteered
for the Royal Navy and was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant To avoid possible
embarrassment with the Iranian government, he was asked to adopt a pseudonym.
On the strength of his boyhood reading of the Bulldog Drummond thrillers, he
called himself David Drummond. He served through the war attaining the rank
of Lieutenant-ant Commander.
Once the war ended in Europe, Prince Hamid was able to go to Paris and meet
with his family. During this visit, he developed a relationship with his cousin,
Mahindokht Malak-Mansour, daughter of his aunt Khadijeh and a grand daughter
of Mohammad Ali Shah. In order to remain with Mahindokht in Paris, Prince Hamid
resigned his commission from the Royal Navy. Prince Hamid and Princess Mahindokht
were married in 1945 or 1946. The marriage produced two children: a son, Mohammad
Hassan (b. 1949) and a daughter, Nassrindokht (b. 1951).
A few years later, Prince Hamid returned to London and Mobil Oil, where he
worked until 1957. In that year, he traveled to Iran for the first time since
leaving as a child, and joined the Iranian Oil Consortium. Soon after his return
to Iran, Prince Hamid and Princess Mahindokht divorced. In 1960, Prince Hamid
married Soudabeh Afshar. While in Iran, Prince Hamid worked for the Consortium
in the southern oil fields, in Tehran, and finally in London from 1971 to 1979,
when he retired.
Prince Hamid lived his years of retirement with his wife in London. After a
brief illness, he died on May 5, 1988 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery in
In an obituary, the Times of London (May 9, 1988) said, “Though very
much a Persian in appearance, Prince Hamid had a bluff and breezy British quarterdeck
manner, combined with a shrewd insight into both British and Iranian affairs.
He excelled as a raconteur and had a wide circle of British friends.”
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Schooling in England
- Service in the Royal Mail: 1936-39
- Employment at Mobil Oil Company: 1939-42
- Officer in the Royal Navy
- Ahmad Shah and His Dethronement
- Discussion on the Restoration of the Qajars
- On Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza
- Political Culture of the Court
- Character of Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza
- Abdication of Reza Shah & Restoration of Qajars
- Coup of 1925
- Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza In Exile
- Life in England
- Return to Iran: 1957
- Interrogation by the SAVAK
- On Ghavam al-Saltaneh
- The Iranian Character
- More on Ghavam al-Saltaneh
- On Mozaffar Firouz
- On the Pahlavis
- On Princess Ashraf
Habib Ladjevardi has been the director of the Iranian Oral History Project
at Harvard University since 1981. Born in Tehran, he grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y.,
and was educated at the Yale Engineering School and the Harvard Business School.
Dr. Ladjevardi returned to Iran in 1963 and began work as personnel manager
in his family's business. Subsequently he was responsible for founding the Iran
Center for Management Studies in Tehran, where he taught until 1976. He also
served on a number of boards and councils in the private and public sectors.
Dr. Ladjevardi received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 1981.