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Nasser al-Din Shah

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Title: Nasser al-Din Shah  
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Subject: Iran, 1896, Regicide, Mohammad Mosaddegh, History of modern literature, Shah-Abdol-Azim shrine, Bahá'í timeline, History of the Bahá'í Faith, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Núrayn-i-Nayyirayn
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Nasser al-Din Shah

Naser al-Din Shah Qajar
Shahanshah of Persia
Reign 1848–1896
Full name Nasser al-Din Shah
Born (1831-07-16)16 July 1831
Birthplace Tabriz, Iran
Died 1 May 1896(1896-05-01) (aged 64)
Place of death Tehran, Iran
Predecessor Mohammad Shah Qajar
Successor Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar
Dynasty Qajar dynasty
Father Mohammad Shah Qajar
Mother Malek Jahan Khanom, Mahd-e Olia
Religious beliefs Shia Islam
Not to be confused with Naseeruddin Shah.

Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar[1] (16 July 1831 – 1 May 1896) (Persian: ناصرالدین شاه قاجار‎ Nāser-ud-Din Shāh Qājār) was the King of Iran from 17 September 1848 to 1 May 1896 when he was assassinated. He was the son of Mohammad Shah Qajar and Malek Jahān Khānom and the third longest reigning monarch king in Iranian history after Shapur II of the Sassanid dynasty and Tahmasp I of the Safavid Dynasty. He had sovereign power for close to 50 years and was also the first Persian monarch to ever write and publish his diaries.


Diplomacy and wars

Naser al-Din was in Tabriz when he heard of his father's death in 1848, and he ascended to the Peacock Throne with the help of Amir Kabir.

Naser al-Din had early reformist tendencies, but was dictatorial in his style of government. With his sanction, some Babis were killed after an attempt on his life.[2] This treatment continued under his prime minister Amir Kabir, who even ordered the execution of the Báb – regarded as a manifestation of God to Bábí's and Bahá'ís, and to historians as the founder of the Bábí religion.

Unable to regain territory lost to Russia in the early 19th century, Naser al-Din sought compensation by seizing Herāt, Afghanistan, in 1856. Great Britain regarded the move as a threat to British India and declared war on Iran, forcing the return of Herāt as well as Iranian recognition of the kingdom of Afghanistan.[3]

Naser al-Din was the first modern Iranian monarch to visit Europe in 1873 and then again in 1878 (when he saw a Royal Navy Fleet Review), and finally in 1889 and was reportedly amazed with the technology he saw there. During his visit to the United Kingdom in 1873, Naser al-Din Shah was appointed by Queen Victoria a Knight of the Order of the Garter, the highest English order of chivalry. He was the first Iranian monarch to be so honoured. His travel diary of his 1873 trip has been published in several languages as Persian, German, French, and Dutch.

In 1890 Naser al-Din met British Major Gerald F. Talbot and signed a contract with him giving him the ownership of the Iranian tobacco industry, but he later was forced to cancel the contract after Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi issued a fatwa that made farming, trading, and consuming tobacco haram (forbidden). It even affected the Shah's personal life as his wives did not allow him to smoke.

This was not the end of Naser al-Din's attempts to give concessions to Europeans; he later gave the ownership of Iranian customs incomes to Paul Julius Reuter.


Naser al-Din was effective in introducing several different western influences to Iran. He curbed the secular power of the clergy, introduced telegraph and postal services, built roads, opened the first school offering education along Western lines, and launched Iran's first newspaper. He was the first Iranian to be photographed and was a patron of photography who had himself photographed hundreds of times. His final prime minister was Ali Asghar Khan, who after the shah's assassination aided in securing the transfer of the throne to Mozaffar al-Din.

In 1852 Naser al-Din dismissed and executed Amir Kabir, the famous Iranian reformer. With him, many believe, died the prospect of an independent Iran led by meritocracy rather than nepotism.

In the later years of his rule, however, Naser al-Din steadfastly refused to deal with the growing pressures for reforms. He also granted a series of concessionary rights to foreigners in return for large payments that went into his own pockets. In 1872 popular pressure forced him to withdraw one concession involving permission to construct such complexes as railways and irrigation works throughout Iran. In 1890 he made an even greater error in granting a 50-year concession on the purchase, sale, and processing of all tobacco in the country, which led to a national boycott of tobacco and the withdrawal of the concession. This last incident is considered by many authorities to be the origin of modern Iranian nationalism.


Naser al-Din was assassinated by Mirza Reza Kermani, a follower of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, when he was visiting and praying in the shrine of Shah-Abdol-Azim. It is said that the revolver used to assassinate him was old and rusty, and had he worn a thicker overcoat, or been shot from a longer range, he would have survived the attempt on his life.[4] Shortly before his death he is reported to have said "I will rule you differently if I survive!" Naser al-Din Shah's assassin was prosecuted by the Defence Minister Nazm ol Doleh.

Naser al-Din was buried in the Shah-Abdol-Azim Cemetery, in Rayy near Tehran, where he was assassinated. His one-piece marble tombstone, bearing his full effigy, is now kept in the Golestan Palace Museum in Tehran and is renowned as a masterpiece of Qajar-era sculpture.

Artistic and literary interests

Naser al-Din Shah was very interested in painting and photography. He was a talented painter, and even though he had not been trained, was an expert in pen and ink drawing. Several of his pen and ink drawings survive. He was one of the first photographers in Persia and was a patron of that art. He established a photography studio in Golestan Palace.[5]

Naser al-Din was also a poet. 200 couplets of his were recorded in the preface of Majma'ul Fusahā, a work by Reza-Qoli Khan Hedayat about poets of the Qajar period. He was interested in history and geography and had many books on these topics in his library. He also knew French and English, but was not fluent in either tongue.[6]

Hekāyāt Pir Va Javān ("The Tale of the Old and the Young") was attributed to him by many; it was one of the first Persian stories written in modern European style.[7]





  • Princess Afsar ed-Dowleh
  • Princess Fakhr-ol-Moluk (1847 – 9 April 1878)
  • Princess Esmat ed-Dowleh (1855 – 3 September 1905)
  • Princess Zi'a es-Saltaneh (1856 – 11 April 1898) [9]
  • Princess Fakhr ed-Dowleh (1859–1891)
  • Princess Forugh ed-Dowleh (1862–1916)
  • Princess Eftekhar es-Saltaneh (1880–1941)
  • Princess Farah es-Saltaneh (1882 – 17 April 1899)
  • Princess Tadj es-Saltaneh (1883 – 25 January 1936)
  • Princess Ezz es-Saltaneh (1888–1982)[10]

Fictional depictions

  • Naser al-Din Shah is depicted in the movie Nassereddin Shah, Actor-e Cinema (Once Upon a Time, Cinema) 1992 written and directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
  • He was the inspiration for the main character of the short story De koning 2002 and the novel De koning 2011 by the Persian–Dutch writer Kader Abdolah.


See also


External links

  • Nasser-al-Din Shah's Portrait
  • Nasseredin Shah and his 84 wives
  • His visit to England(select from list)
  • Side view of Nasser-al-Din Shah's marble tombstone
  • Coins, banknotes and medals of Qajar period
  • Window on an Era: A Qajar Royal Album. Selected photographs from a private album of Nasser al-Din Shah, with an introduction by
  • Mohammad-Reza Tahmasbpoor, History of Iranian Photography: Early Photography in Iran, Iranian Artists' site,
  • History of Iranian Photography. Postcards in Qajar Period, photographs provided by Bahman Jalali, Iranian Artists' site, .
  • History of Iranian Photography. Women as Photography Model: Qajar Period, photographs provided by Bahman Jalali, Iranian Artists' site, .
  • Sir James William Redhouse, The Diary of H.M. the Shah of Persia during His Tour through Europe in A.D. 1873, A Verbatim Translation (John Murray, London, 1874), University of Toronto).
  • Sir Albert Houtum Schidler and Baron Louis de Norman, A Diary Kept by His Majesty the Shah of Persia during His Journey to Europe in 1878, in English (Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1879), (Digitized by Google).
  • Photos of qajar kings
Naser al-Din Shah Qajar
Born: July 16 1831 Died: May 1 1896
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mohammad Shah Qajar
Shah of Persia
Succeeded by
Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar

Template:Persian Constitutional Revolution Persions Template:Iranian photographers

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