Shah Mohammad Reza was born into scandal and uprising—and his life somehow only got more dramatic from there. Though he was “The King of Kings,” in Iran, his inner life was anything but exquisite. From the bitter tragedies of his marriages to the utter disaster of his reign, Mohammad Reza more than earned the title “The Playboy Shah.”
Shah Mohammad Reza Facts
1. He Was Born Under A Good Sign
Mohammad Reza came into the world on October 26, 1919. Though he actually had a twin sister, Ashraf, his father Reza Khan was far more delighted in the prospect of a boy to carry on the manly family line. He quickly anointed him his favorite son, and dubbed him a “bird of good omen.” Guess what? This prediction would not come true.
2. He Wasn’t Born To Rule
Although his birth was supposedly auspicious, it was missing one thing: The future Shah wasn’t even a prince. Papa Khan only became the ruler of Iran in 1925, and even then, only after a coup d’état. As a result, the newly minted Iranian royal family were very insecure about their power…and this had big consequences for little Mohammad.
3. His Father Was Terrifying
The old Shah was not winning Father of the Year any time soon; Mohammad Reza once called him “one of the most frightening men” he knew, and he demanded nothing less than perfection from his subjects. A military man through and through, the Shah liked to “discipline” disobedient subordinates by giving them kicks to the groin.
It was only a matter of time before his notorious habits turned toward his son.
4. His Family Punished Him
Bizarrely, Reza Khan thought that if fathers showed affection of any kind toward their sons, this would lead the heirs to have—wait for it—homosexual tendencies later in life. And well, he couldn’t have that. To “help” Mohammad, then, the Shah often refused to even touch him. Thanks, Dad. But that wasn’t even the worst part.
5. His Childhood Was Miserable
Reza Khan not only refused to show any love toward his eldest boy, he also insisted on addressing him in the Persian formal “sir” rather than the informal “you.” Like, all the time. Obviously, poor Mohammad had to do the same back, and act like this was super helpful in turning him into a great man. Heck yes this backfired—big time.
6. He Didn’t Look The Part
Instead of becoming the macho commando his father wanted him to be, Mohammad Reza came out much more tragic. Surprise surprise, his mega dysfunctional upbringing turned him into a hugely nervous adolescent, and people noted how twitchy the Crown Prince looked in his uniform next to his father. And that was just the outside.
7. He Had A Strange Obsession
Mohammad Reza also had bizarre obsessions as he grew older, including a strange fixation on height. His larger-than-life father had been a healthy 6’4” tall, and the shorter prince was desperate to gain inches any way he could. He wore elevator shoes, boasted constantly about the height of mountains in Iran, and even had a thing for tall women.
Then again, as we’ll see, he had a thing for all women…
8. He Was A Momma’s Boy
To be honest, Mohammad’s female trouble started very early. With his unloving father breathing down his neck, the Crown Prince turned more and more to his mother, Tadj ol-Molouk. But where Reza Khan was withholding, Tadj was possessive, jealous, and also superstitiously certain her son was destined for great things. Let me tell you, this became a worst-case scenario.
9. He Was A Spoiled Brat
You’d think a mother’s love would help Mohammad Reza become well adjusted …but, uh, no. Since Iranian culture revered boys, his mother and his sisters just spoiled him rotten, with his twin sister Ashraf even claiming that “the center of my existence was, and is, Mohammad Reza.” The prince started getting a big ego to go with his bottomless insecurities—until the day it all came crashing down.
10. He Made A Fool Of Himself
When he was 11, Mohammad Reza went to a fancy Swiss boarding school, and he wasted no time embarrassing himself. One day, he approached a group of students sitting on a bench and demanded they all stand at attention when he walked past. Instead of obeying him, the boys beat him up, which is almost understandable. It was a hard lesson, but that didn’t mean the prince stayed out of trouble, oh no.
11. He Lost His Virginity In A Scandalous Way
Mohammad Reza’s first exposure to Europe also became his first exposure to womanizing. In 1935, when he was still just 15 or 16 years old, the Crown Prince lost his virginity—and his romance was scandalous. Rather than taking up with a girl his own age, the teenager took one of the boarding school’s maids to the bedroom.
12. His Parents Forced Him To Marry
By the time Mohammad Reza returned to Iran in 1936, he was an eligible bachelor, and his parents had big plans for him and their dynasty. Soon after, they picked his bride: Princess Fawzia of Egypt, the daughter of an established, powerful royal line who could help legitimize their own monarchy. Everyone had high hopes…and it all ended in heartbreak.
13. His Bride Was Legendary
Honestly, Mohammad Reza should have been overjoyed with his future bride, at least physically: Princess Fawzia was one of the great beauties of the world. Photographer Cecil Beaton described her as an “Asian Venus,” and other admirers compared her to Western Hollywood stars like Vivien Leigh and Hedy Lamarr. But Mohammad Reza soon found out that beauty isn’t everything.
14. His “Proposal” Was Depressing
In many ways, the teenage royals were doomed from the start. As a purely political match, most of their “courtship” was just their respective relatives drawing out the marriage contract with each other. In fact, the Crown Prince was so uninvolved in his own love story, he read about his engagement in the paper like everybody else. Yep, that’s a very bad omen.
15. He Had A Fairy-Tale Ceremony
On March 15, 1939, Fawzia and Mohammad Reza married in a lavish ceremony at Abdeen Palace in Cairo, and then had a second full-blown ceremony once Fawzia arrived in Iran to settle into her new life. Things had happened so fast, they had only seen each other once before their marriage. Even worse, Mohammad Reza made a very bad second impression…
16. He Two-Timed His Wife
Not long after the wedding, the prince dealt Fawzia a heartbreaking betrayal. Mohammad Reza had recently been on a tear with the ladies, and he didn’t stop just because he was a newly married man. Instead, many people saw him driving around town in fancy cars with his tacky mistresses, barely hiding his indiscretions. But if Fawzia thought that was all she’d have to deal with, she’d be very wrong.
17. His Mother Had A Jealousy Problem
Mohammad Reza’s possessive mother Tadj ol-Molouk did not react well to the new woman in her son’s life, and his sisters weren’t much better, either. In fact, his entire family basically saw poor Princess Fawzia as a rival for his affections, and alternated between humiliating her and freezing her out. One day, it even came to a violent climax.
18. He Was A Bad Husband
Fawzia grew more and more unhappy in her gilded cage, and one day, she even got into a physical altercation with one of Mohammad’s sisters. Indecorously enough, the fight ended with the Iranian princess smashing a vase over the newcomer’s head. To add insult to injury, Mohammad always sided with his family during these spats.
19. He Did His “Duty”
Although his marriage was crumbling before his eyes, the Crown Prince still knew he had a duty to perform. In 1940, Fawzia became pregnant with their child, giving birth to a little girl named Princess Shahnaz in October. It wasn’t the boy Mohammad Reza had likely been hoping for, but he wasn’t going to get much else; Shahnaz would be their only child together.
20. He Was A Deeply Unhappy Man
As it turned out, even with his gallivants around town, Mohammad Reza was just as miserable in his marriage as his wife. One day, he made a chilling revelation. In his memoirs, Reza confessed that the “only happy light” during his entire union was the birth of his daughter. Ouch. Soon enough, though, he had much bigger problems.
21. He Kicked His Father Off The Throne
In 1941, Reza Khan got ousted from power, and Mohammad Reza took over as the Shah of Iran. If the young man didn’t have daddy issues before, he certainly did now. Timid, unprepared, and probably guilt-ridden, the new Shah spent the early days of his reign writing romantic poetry instead of, you know, actually ruling. And then the heat really turned up.
22. His Wife Left Him
In the midst of all this chaos, Mohammad Reza’s personal life started truly falling apart. His wife, the new Queen Fawzia of Iran, fled back to her home in Egypt in 1945, abandoning her husband and quickly obtaining an Egyptian divorce before officially ending things in 1948. The Shah’s response to this betrayal was…not great.
23. He Had A Brutal Split
Even though Mohammad Reza hadn’t treated his royal wife with much respect, his sister later claimed that the divorce was all Fawzia’s doing. She said that the Shah frequently begged her to come back and wanted to work it out with her, at least to put a brave face on for the people. Yet CIA documents reveal a more scandalous story.
24. He Had A Bedroom Secret
The American government was keeping a very close eye on the Middle East at this time, including, apparently, Mohammad Reza’s bedroom life. According to declassified documents, the real reason Fawzia left Iran was a lot uglier than the official story. These files claim that the marriage dissolved after Fawzia wouldn’t stop degrading the Shah for his impotence.
Yikes. No wonder the Shah got a brutal revenge.
25. He Made A Cruel Demand
When he finally accepted that Fawzia was gone for good, Mohammad Reza really took the gloves off. He didn’t ask for much after the breakup, but one of his biggest conditions was also his cruelest: Fawzia had to give up custody of their five-year-old daughter Shahnaz, and his ex-wife could expect rigid visitation times with her only child. Harsh, and not fair. But karma came for him.
26. He Almost Lost His Life
In 1949, just a handful of months after his divorce went through, Mohammad Reza had a terrifying brush with death. On February 4, the Shah attended a routine ceremony honoring the founding of Tehran University—and then chaos erupted. An assassin let loose five bullets at close range, and one of the shots hit Reza in the face. For a moment, the Earth stood still.
27. He Hid His Injury In Plain Sight
The Shah’s men rushed him to the hospital, where doctors frantically treated an injury to his cheek. Although he came out alright, the ruler spent a hefty amount of time recovering and got a nasty scar across his face. Always a little vain, Mohammad Reza insisted on growing out a mustache for a year just to hide all traces of his attack.
28. He Slept With Famous Women
During this time, the Shah developed a new lust for life—and women. He adored European nightclubs, and he began to specialize in starlets, carrying on rumored affairs with the likes of Hollywood actresses Gene Tierney and Yvonne De Carlo. But the Shah was about to be tied down again, and this time would be even more heartbreaking than the first.
29. He Had A Wife Search
In the 1950s, Mohammad Reza was very ready to get himself another Queen of Iran who could give him a “proper” male heir. The woman he picked would soon become infamous. Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiary was a half Iranian, half German beauty and socialite, and the Shah was intent on making her his bride. Their origin story, though, wasn’t so romantic.
30. He Online Dated Before Its Time
According to lore, Mohammad Reza was first introduced to Soraya in a pretty creepy way. One of her ambitious relatives showed the Shah her portrait as a kind of “hot or not” calling card. The ruler obviously liked what he saw—indeed, many found Soraya more beautiful even than Princess Fawzia—because he quickly arranged a meeting. It was the beginning of a legend.
31. He Fell In Love At First Sight
As soon as they met in person, the Shah and Soraya fell into passionate love at first sight. When Soraya first laid eyes on the ruler in his sharp uniform, she described him as “magnificent.” Of course, it probably helped that she was still a naïve teenager and the Shah was a full-grown 32 years old. It all snowballed from there—and very fast.
32. He Made A Rash Decision
The couple was so in love, Mohammad Reza didn’t even wait a week to declare it to the world. He proposed and made their engagement official the very next day after their first meeting, gifting his bride-to-be with a massive diamond wedding ring to prove his affection. Yet just as soon as it began, his love story started unraveling.
33. His Wedding Had A Bad Omen
The wedding was set for the fast-approaching date of December 27, 1950—until a horrific event occurred. As if the entire universe were saying, “This is a bad idea, guys,” the Shah’s fiancée fell violently ill with typhoid on the very eve of the wedding. And when he heard, Mohammad Reza presented his love with a huge flex.
34. He Gave His Bride A Bizarre Gift
The Shah might have been impatient and disappointed about his delayed nuptials, but he also knew how to keep his fiancée happy—at least for now, anyway. While Soraya recovered in her bed, delirious, Mohammad Reza came to visit her every day, and left a jewel on her pillow each time he left. Too bad this behavior didn’t keep up.
35. He Rushed To The Altar
Our boy wasn’t willing to wait forever, though, and he re-set the wedding date to a “generous” six weeks later. This was a horrible plan: Soraya was still terrifyingly ill when the day came around, and she barely had the strength to walk down the aisle. Minutes before the ceremony, the Shah had to cut the train of her expensive dress just to get her to the altar.
Once more, I’m sure this is gonna turn out great.
36. His Wife Had A Notorious Temper
As it happened, the court didn’t have to wait long for the Shah’s fairy tale marriage to start coming apart at the seams. Soraya was still just a moody 18-year-old, after all, and she liked to throw tantrums when she didn’t get her way. At a public dinner one night, she even picked up a priceless vase and smashed it against the wall. But behind bedroom doors, it was even worse.
37. He Had Big Problems In The Bedroom
The Shah was a passionate man whose desires drove his every move, and his new Queen took advantage of that whenever she could. After yet another fight, she banned the Shah from their marriage bed for weeks on end, forcing him to sleep outside her door on a cot. And when someone politely objected to this state of affairs? Well…
38. He Received A Brutal Insult
After seeing the royal couple’s obvious bedroom rift, one courtier worked up the courage and delicately suggested to Soraya that His Majesty come back to her bed. Soraya’s response was incredibly cruel. The vengeful queen pointed at a corner of her bedchamber and snapped, “He can put his bed over there!” Granted, there might have been a reason for all this stormy weather…
39. He Was A Cold Fish
Stiff and shy even with his closest friends, Mohammad Reza was often formal and aloof, even to the wife he was madly in love with. When they were in private and alone together, he reportedly often insisted on still addressing her with the formal Persian “you,” just like daddy taught him. And things were going to get a lot icier.
40. His Sister Embarrassed Him
Unfortunately, the Shah couldn’t even present a manly image to his citizens or his own family at this time, let alone his new wife. When Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh rose to power and started majorly cramping his rule, the green Shah froze with indecision and even fled into exile briefly, leading his twin sister Princess Ashraf to denounce his manhood publicly. Ouch.
41. He Got Heartbreaking News
Desperate to prove his macho identity, the Shah started to obsess once more about getting a male heir—but this is exactly where more trouble set in. After three years of marriage, the royal couple had still never announced a pregnancy. The reason was utterly heartbreaking. Soon enough, doctors informed them that Queen Soraya was utterly infertile. So if you thought things were bad before, well, strap in.
42. His Wife Resented Him
During the worst parts of their relationship, the Shah and Soraya went back and forth at being horrible to each other. But at one dinner party, their dysfunction turned completely chilling. When the Shah said lightly to his guests that the queen was exactly his type of woman, Soraya cruelly drawled, “Well, I cannot say the same for His Majesty.”
43. He Suffered A Violent Tragedy
By 1954, Soraya and the Shah were careening toward a breakdown, but still trying to hold on to the scraps of their love. That October, they met certain ruin. On the 26th of the month, the Shah’s only full brother perished in a plane crash. It was never more important for the Shah to have an heir…and it was never more scandalous.
44. He Made An Indecent Proposal
One day, the now-frenzied Shah sat down and told Soraya his “brilliant” solution: He could simply take a second wife. This…did not go how he wanted it. Soraya was furious, and rejected his plan point-blank. More than that, she instead demanded that he change the constitution and abdicate for one of his half-brothers so they could live in peace. This? Also crashed and burned.
45. He Lied To His Wife
Mohammad Reza didn’t want to give up his crown, but he didn’t want to give up the love of his life, either. Instead, he told a cruel lie. He told Soraya he’d consider the constitutional change, but that “the Council of the Wise Men” would have to approve it first. Thing is, there was no such council, and all he did was delay his misery.
All in all, it was a total circus show. And just as the Shah’s personal life took a nosedive, so did his reign.
46. His Ego Went Out Of Control
Throughout his horrific second marriage, the Shah was also turning into a horrific man. In a matter of years, the once-cowardly ruler transformed into an egomaniac. He started to compare himself to Cyrus the Great, demanding the title “King of Kings,” and became bent on creating Iran as a “Great Civilization” in his image. And that wasn’t all…
47. His Courtiers Gave Him Bizarre Compliments
Mohammad Reza stocked his court chock-full of sycophants, and then forced them to flatter him whenever he needed a pick-me-up. His favorites had to regularly assure him that he was one of the greatest leaders in the world, with some even bizarrely claiming that all of America wanted him as their leader.
In other words, the train wreck was in full swing, and it wasn’t stopping.
48. He Had An Infamous Divorce
In 1958, the Shah’s marriage broke down completely. On March 14, he and Queen Soraya announced to the world that they were divorcing. The Shah’s reaction was gut-wrenching. When he spoke to the Iranian people during the announcement, the ruler wept openly. A British Ambassador even admitted that Soraya was the Shah’s “only true love.”
Still, as we’ll get to later, it wasn’t over for those crazy kids…it was just on pause.
49. The Vatican Shut Him Down
They say the best way to get over a woman is to get under another one, and darned if the Shah didn’t try his best—and fail miserably. Immediately after his divorce from Soraya, he started trying to marry the Italian Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy. No less an authority than the Vatican itself said, “That’s a no from me” and vetoed his proposal. Don’t worry, though, Mohammad Reza rebounded quickly.
50. He Finally Got His Heir
In 1959, just a year after his infamous split, Mohammad Reza married for the third and final time, this time to Farah Diba, the daughter of a high-ranking Iranian official. Barely in her 20s, Farah was young…and apparently very fertile. She got pregnant right away—and in 1960, she gave birth to a son at last, Crown Prince Reza.
But just because the Shah finally had an heir doesn’t mean this marriage wasn’t also a nightmare.
51. He Had A Type
Instead of slowing down his philandering this time around, Mohammad Reza just turned it up to the next level. He had his own personal “ambassador” who would procure him women, usually tall European girls, though the Shah would settle for “local product” in a pinch. And if you think that’s gross, well, just wait for what’s coming.
52. He Had A Disturbing Addiction
These indiscretions devastated Queen Farah, though she tried her best to turn a blind eye. Besides, the Shah had a disturbing explanation for his actions. He claimed he needed bed women several times a day, or else he was in danger of falling into a deep depression. Since he was Shah, everyone had to follow his rules.
53. He Wasn’t What He Seemed
Mohammad Reza was a huge Francophile, and he tried to capture the modern French sense of elegance in his country as a whole as well as in his private court. This sophistication, however, was a big front: Though Queen Farah tried to get him to engage in more serious art, the Shah was really a sucker for Hollywood action films and light comedies.
54. He Had A Brush With Death
In April 1965, the Shah’s biggest crisis hit. On the 10th of the month, a deranged soldier set about to destroy the ruler, and even shot up the Marble Palace, slaying two guards as he made a rampage toward Mohammad Reza’s private quarters. The Shah’s men stopped the intruder just in time, but it was the second attempt on his life, and it was a harbinger of things to come.
55. He Threw A Tantrum At Queen Elizabeth II
At one point, Mohammad Reza traveled to England, where Queen Elizabeth II invited him for dinner. It couldn’t have gone worse. When he arrived, he took huge offense because the dinner wasn’t in his honor. The Shah pitched a fit, refused to go, and eventually got his own personal big boy banquet with the Queen.
56. He Became King Of The World
In the 1970s, the already immensely arrogant Mohammad Reza got a new boost to his ego when Iran became a world leader in oil production. Suddenly, the Shah’s beloved Western world was licking his boot-heels. As the ruler once smirkingly put it, “Everyday they a beat a track to our door begging for favors…We have only to answer, and they will fulfill our wishes.”
Does this sound like pride before the fall to you? Yeah, it is.
57. He Got A Terrifying Diagnosis
Mohammad Reza now had the world in his hands, just like he always wanted—but it would soon get ripped away with a vengeance. In 1974, doctors diagnosed the Shah with leukemia, and his whole reality crumbled. The King of Kings was facing his greatest enemy, and it was inside himself. His reaction proved just how out of touch he was.
58. He Told His People An Enormous Lie
Instead of being open about his diagnosis, Mohammad Reza made it the best-kept secret in Iran and simply told people he had a cold. This was a stupid idea. By the late 1970s, the Shah’s health had worsened so much that he could no longer appear in public without arousing suspicion, so he retreated to a resort by the Caspian Sea for intensive, clandestine treatment. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.
59. His Country Betrayed Him
See, while the Shah of Iran was desperately fighting for life, his country was desperately fighting him. Mohammad Reza had made a slew of political enemies during his time, particularly the powerful religious figure Ayatollah Khomeini, and protests were now sweeping Iran, demanding that the Shah step down. And then there was another complication…
60. He Had A Bitter Downfall
While the Shah was receiving his cancer treatment, he was on the medication prednisone, which can impair thinking and decision-making. So while the revolution raged around him, Mohammad Reza was often unreachable, staring listlessly into the middle distance on his sickbed, and hardly anyone even knew. But not for long.
61. He Denied His Wife Her Biggest Wish
During this time, Queen Farah often begged her husband to let her take over ruling Iran while he got some much-needed rest. Ever the macho man, the Shah violently refused the (super reasonable) idea. He said that he thought it was emasculating and he didn’t want Farah to become a “Joan of Arc.” Instead, he just made things worse for himself.
62. He Staged A Publicity Stunt
In his infamous decline, the Shah was so far gone, he tried to hoodwink his own people in a desperate way. In order to get Iranian citizens off the scent of the Shah’s ill health, the royal family released photos of the ruler and Queen Farah “frolicking” on the beach as proof that all was well. Except when people looked closer, their blood ran cold.
63. He Falsified Evidence
Anyone with a sharp eye could see that the royal palace had doctored these vacation photos. In fact, someone had fully airbrushed out the two aides who had to hold the Shah up as he walked along the sand, because he didn’t have the strength to stand himself. It was a PR disaster, and it only raised the alarm bells even more. The end was coming, and in more ways than one.
64. He Fled Iran
By 1979, the cries for revolution had grown so loud in Iran, Mohammad Reza was forced to flee the country, and boarded a plane alongside Queen Farah that January. If the Shah had any hope of returning to his native land, those were soon dashed: On February 11th, Iran officially dissolved the monarchy, and he was the Shah no more.
But this was just the first chapter in his ignominious end.
65. He Lost His Home
For the next desperate months—he had precious few left—the ailing Shah globe-trotted around the world, seeking both asylum and treatment for his rapidly deteriorating body. At this point, he could no longer walk, and he was so fearful of another assassination attempt that he forced his bodyguards to transport him in a wheelchair under cover of night whenever he had to travel. But the worst was yet to come.
66. He Overheard A Bitter Insult
Some of the very last moments of the Shah’s life were more befitting of a pauper than a king. While he was staying in an American hospital after his exile from Iran, a group of protestors gathered outside the building and started chanting “Death to the Shah!” Sadly, it was a chorus that the ailing Mohammad Reza very much heard.
67. He Was Unbelievably Vain
At the height of his authoritarian rule, Mohammad Reza’s vanity knew no bounds. One day, one of his yes-men courtiers even suggested in a memo that he apply for a Nobel Peace Prize to commemorate all his good work. In the margins of the document, the Shah wrote, “If they beg us, we might accept.” Now that is a healthy sense of self-confidence.
68. He Had A Strange Fixation
The Shah was a bizarre, idiosyncratic man, but one of his weirdest obsessions was with the French leader Charles de Gaulle. Mohammad Reza considered de Gaulle his “ego ideal,” especially since the Frenchman was a lanky 6’5” tall, and we know the Shah loved a tall drink of water. And it didn’t end there. He especially liked when his lackeys referred to him as “Iran’s de Gaulle.”
69. He Had An Unsettling Delusion
In his later years, Mohammad Reza’s garden-variety royal ego problem turned into full-blown eccentricity. Eventually, he started claiming that many of his successes were due to his “mystical power.” He also claimed that he received messages from God himself, and that he had been a conduit for these missives since he was five years old. Ok then…
70. He Had A Disturbing Belief
For all his womanizing ways, the Shah didn’t actually have a whole lot of faith in women. Even his own contemporaries got uncomfortable over the ways the ruler constantly objectified and degraded the “fairer” gender. During one infamous interview, he even announced, “women count only if they’re beautiful and graceful and know how to stay feminine.”
71. He Lived In Luxury
To say that the Shah lived decadently would be the understatement of the century. At the height of his powers, the high-rolling ruler had an extensive collection of mind-bogglingly expensive cars, with one lucky guest estimating he had 25 custom-made automobiles, including a Rolls Royce and a Mercedes. It’s a good life if you can get it.
72. He Was A Flyboy
The Shah was a boy obsessed with his toys. Besides his massive car collection, he also adored airplanes. The ruler also put his money where his mouth was, literally: His Iranian Air Force got way more funding than any of the other armed forces in Iran.
73. He Made A Scandalous Friend
Although the Shah’s mistresses got him into the most trouble, he did have an even more scandalous relationship. While at school, he met Ernest Perron, an openly gay man who introduced him to the racy world of French literature. When the young prince returned to Iran, he shocked everyone by taking Perron with him—and it got the rumor mill working overtime.
74. He Had A Forbidden Relationship
The young royal quickly installed Perron as one of his closest advisors, a position Perron held for decades to come. The prince’s brutal, homophobic father was not happy at this turn of events, and even threatened to beat Perron bloody with a riding whip, though Mohammad Reza convinced him not to. Still, for years afterward, unsubstantiated rumors persisted that the prince and Perron were actually illicit lovers.
75. He Made A Powerful Enemy
In late December of 1979, Mohammad Reza was in Panama under the “hospitality” of dictator General Omar Torrijos, who hated him and was only hosting him under duress. The General made him feel this in the most brutal ways, even assigning him a bodyguard who had been ordered to constantly insult the former Shah.
There was just one shining light left now—and it came from a surprising source.
76. He Received A Tragic Letter
During his stay in Panama, Mohammad Reza received a letter one day from his long lost love, Soraya. Its contents were tragic. Soraya had heard about his cancer, and had written him a letter confessing that she still loved him. She also swore that if he would have her, she wanted to see him one last time before he passed. All that Reza had to do was reply.
77. He Made A Vulnerable Confession
Soraya and her Shah truly were fairy tale lovers, because his response back had Cinderella beat. Mohammad Reza confessed that he, too, had never stopped loving her, and that he was desperate to say goodbye to her in person. Sadly, this never happened, and the reason why is even more lovelorn than you think.
78. He Was A Star-Crossed Lover
Though the Shah wanted to see Soraya, he could never do it in the presence of his ex-Queen Farah, who was still very much his current wife. Instead, he begged Soraya to wait until they could meet, secretly and alone, in Cairo. He even enlisted the help of Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat to get him to the city. But then fate intervened.
79. He Missed His Chance
The Shah was so set on his reunion with Soraya, he actually flew to Cairo when he was at the very threshold of death’s door. By this time, he was weaker than he had ever been—or ever would be. On July 27, 1980, before ever seeing Soraya again, he slipped into a coma and passed. Reportedly, his last words were heartbreaking.
80. He Never Forgot His Country
When Mohammad Reza lay dying, his final thoughts landed on his lost country. As he lost control of his faculties, he repeated “Iran is Iran” over and over until the words lost all meaning. Yet he performed his most touching tribute in secret. A nationalist to the end, he kept a bag of Iranian soil underneath his hospital bed.