Three Kings in Baghdad
by Gerald De Gaury
This is the tragic story of the short-lived Iraqi monarchy. The first king of Iraq, Faisal I, was installed by the British in 1921. Faisal, who had led the Arab Revolt and fought alongside T.E. Lawrence, was a major player in the politics of the Middle East. He was also, most importantly, pro-British and thus ‘suitable’ to lead an independent Iraq. His son and successor, Ghazi, a strong pan-Arab nationalist, felt very differently. He supported the first military coup in the Arab world and was said to hold German sympathies. Ghazi’s suspicious death in a car accident left his son, also named Faisal, King at the age of four. So Iraq was ruled by his uncle, Abdulillah, as regent until the boy came of age. Iraq’s artificially-imposed monarchy came to an abrupt and bloody end in July 1958 when Faisal II and Abdulillah, along with the Prime Minister, Nuri al Said, and many members of Faisal’s family, were gunned down and the country was declared a republic. “Three Kings in Baghdad” is a unique and timely account of this portentous moment in Iraq’s history.
‘De Gaury writes as an eye witness as well as a historian, desiring to evoke the characters of the three kings as much as the political record. Three Kings in Baghdad is a memorial, not only to the Iraqi Royal Family but also to the British movement in the Middle East. Even before the catastrophe of the US-led invasion of 2003, many Iraqis considered the years of the monarchy as a golden age.’ Philip Mansel, in his Preface to ‘Three Kings in Baghdad’ ‘Three Kings in Baghdad challenges the generally negative view of Iraq’s kings and their links with Britain. Though not a memoir, it is permeated by de Gaury’s memories and observations. The result is a superbly sharp picture. He casts a brilliant light on a forgotten corner of Britain’s vast realm of imperial influence in the twentieth century.’ Alan de Lacy Rush, in his Introduction to ‘Three Kings in Baghdad’ ‘Gerald de Gaury knows and loves his desert world and has written this honest record of a journey with the sense of its fugitive quality in time. The trifles of a desert court, the ritual of nomad life, the details of an embassy will soon be forgotten. Gerald de Gaury sees them with an experienced and loving eye, and, like a collector of butterflies, nets the remote moments for the pleasure of those who will never see them flickering in their own bright air.’ Freya Stark, in her Foreword to ‘Arabia Phoenix’
About the Author
Gerald de Gaury, 1897-1984, was one of the great British travellers in Arabia and an expert on the Middle East. He joined the British army at the outbreak of World War I and served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front for which he was awarded the Military Cross. After the war he became British Political Agent in Kuwait and was later special emissary to King Ibn Saud and special Charge d’Affaires with the Regent of Iraq. In addition to being a soldier and a diplomat, he wrote a biography on Alexander Kinglake, a modern history of Israel and several travel books on the Middle East – now classics – including ‘Arabia Phoenix’, ‘Arabian Journey’ and ‘Rulers of Mecca’.