CAIRO: Rawia Rashed, the author of “Nazli, Malika Fi El Manfa, (Nazli, A Queen in Exile), says it was only by chance that she came to devote 10 years of her life to studying the life of King Farouk’s mother.
“Because I live between Cairo and Los Angeles, I happened to be passing by a palace that was offered for sale. I was told by a friend of mine that it had once belonged to queen Nazli, Rashed told Daily News Egypt.
“Of course the palace, located in Beverly Hills, wasn’t put up for sale by any of the royal family members; it was sold several times. Once I went inside and looked around, I was intrigued by the subject [Nazli] and decided to focus on the queen’s life in exile, a part [of her life] that many of us might not be familiar with.
Rashed spent 10 years collecting documents and information from American archives and public libraries, producing a work that challenges others who have taken up the tough task of dabbling in the life of the most controversial queen in Egypt’s modern history.
The book reveals a number of secrets known only to a few until now, which may be the reason it is receiving rave reviews in the Arabic press as it circulates in Diwan, Al Ahram and Madbuli bookshops.
The information in the book – about her ancestors, her upbringing and her life in the US – offers a lot more than what people had known about the late queen from historians and from last Ramadan’s TV serial “King Farouk.
Digging deep into her life in exile, the author recounts the story of the queen who had to leave for the US suffocated as she was by the intricacies and conspiracies of royal life.
Nazli’s great grandfather was Joseph Sáve, one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s military commanders and one of the authors of the historic “Description de l’Égypte (Description of Egypt), the first voluminous reference on the country.
She was married to an Egyptian aristocrat before she wed King Fouad. She was also almost engaged to Saeid Zaghloul, nephew of nationlist leader Saad Zaghloul, before both men were exiled following the 1919 revolution.
Safia Zaghloul, wife of the popular leader, became her godmother after the death of her biological mother Tawfika Hanem.
Nazli converted to Christianity and changed her name to Mary-Elizabeth after she settled in Los Angeles. After losing all her fortune, she eventually moved to a small room in Westwood, the poorest district in LA.
Even though she was disowned by her son Farouk and stripped of all her titles, Nazli did attend his funeral in Rome.
“I didn’t actually try to justify her behavior, but I just left it up to readers to draw [their own] conclusions, said Rashed. “Not many are familiar with the fact that Nazli was different from the girls of her time. She was educated, cultured and emancipated going by the fact that when her mother died, she was sent along with her sister to study at a boarding school in France. She always followed revealing French fashion and stood against the threadbare traditions that isolated women.
“Her marriage to King Fouad, who first saw her at an opera show, was a blow to her life. She couldn’t turn down his proposal and overnight she had to be sent to the ‘harem’ and succumb to a kind of backward lifestyle that wasn’t in line with her original upbringing.
The book sets out to answer a lot of questions about the late queen, but some parts of her life were untapped. It didn’t say whether the repression and complexity of palace life were the reason behind the her fleeing to the US. Rashed also didn’t explain the effect of her youngest daughter Fathiya’s murder by her son-in-law Riyad Ghali.
Still, the story is not devoid of tribulations, sufferings and regrets that are bound to raise the bar for all.