In a showcase of the National Archives of Iraq, a set of drawings on yellowish paper offers a window into the spirit of the last monarch of the country, King Faisal II.
For decades, all 143 images have been kept in the archives, with only a handful accessible to researchers and visitors curious about the so-called boy-king of Iraq, who ascended to the throne at the age of three. years.
The National had the chance to film the collection and archives of the Royal Family for the first time.
The images highlight a tumultuous period in modern Iraqi history, including the life – and gruesome death – of the king.
Born in 1935, Faisal II became the youngest reigning monarch in the world when he ascended to the throne as a child after the mysterious death of his father King Ghazi in a car crash in April 1939.
For nearly 20 years, the young king ruled Iraq during a time of extreme turmoil, including World War II.
But the king’s life was cut short when he was shot on July 14, 1958 in a coup organized by a group of army officers to establish the first Iraqi Republic.
The drawings reveal that King Faisal’s youth was dominated by the context of war in the 1940s.
Most of the drawings, in pencil or pencil, depict fierce battles in the open field, at sea and in cities.
One shows an aircraft dropping bombs on a cannon, with two soldiers responding with anti-aircraft fire.
The fighting in Iraq seems to have captured the imagination of the young king.
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In 1941, British forces invaded Iraq to overthrow the pro-Axis government, which overthrew King Faisal II’s uncle, Regent Abd Al Ilah.
In an image the king drew as a child, fires erupt from the windows of a two-story building as three tanks carrying British flags pass.
The subject of the drawings was the result of the period that the king lived, said director of the Iraqi National Library and Archives Alaa Abu Al Hassan Al Alak. The National.
“There was World War II and the presence of British troops at airports and bases across the country,” Al Alak said.
But some designs depict more peaceful subjects, including landscapes, birds, buildings, as well as maps of Europe and North Africa.
During the war, the king traveled to Britain to live with his mother at Grove House in Berkshire before returning to Baghdad to continue his education at the royal palace.
As a teenager, he studied at Harrow School in England with his first cousin and close friend, the future King Hussein of Jordan.
King Faisal II’s unusual education in Iraq and Britain gave him a unique perspective on life, Al Alak said.
âHe lived his life as a king and as a boy at the same time and it allowed him to think differently,â he said.
The royal family archives include photographs, letters, films and maps of the kingdom and Rihab Palace that survived the 2003 US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. During the invasion and subsequent unrest, 40% of archive assets were destroyed or stolen, Al Alak said.
As the youngest ruler in the world, Faisal II was famous during his lifetime.
Belgian cartoonist HergÃ© based one of the characters in The Adventures of Tintin on Faisal II – the spoiled and mischievous prince Abdullah of Khemed.
The fall of the pro-Axis government created a power vacuum, paving the way for the infamous Farhud, or pogrom, against the country’s Jewish community.
Hundreds of Jews were killed and their property looted or destroyed, marking the start of their emigration from the country.
By the time of King Faisal II’s 18th birthday in 1953, when the regency ended, the rise of communism, popular unrest and pan-Arab nationalism had begun to threaten the monarchies in the region.
The overthrow of the pro-British Egyptian monarchy a year earlier had already undermined Faisal II’s claim to power.
The inexperienced king relied heavily on the advice of Crown Prince Abd Al Ilah and Prime Minister Al Said, both seen as closely linked to Britain.
Before dawn on July 14, 1958, army officers who opposed the monarchy, led by Brigadier Abdul-Karim Qassim and Colonel Abdul-Salam Arif, marched on Baghdad and attacked the royal palace.
“I heard an explosion around 6-6:30 a.m. and jumped out of bed,” recalled King Faisal II’s aunt, Princess Badiya bint Ali – the last surviving Iraqi princess – in a 2012 interview with Al Sharqiya television. She died last year in London at the age of 100.
âI took a look at Rihab Palace and saw smoke coming out of it,â she said.
King Faisal II, she said, offered to send guards to protect her, but she refused.
Once inside the palace, the officers ordered the king, his uncle and other family members to enter the garden, where they were all executed.
King Faisal II, then 23, had planned to marry his fiancee Princess Fadila Ibrahim Sultan the next day.
She recalled how a member of the royal household rushed to her house a few hours later, covered in blood and shouted, âThey killed them, they killed the king and his family.
âI started to cry and scream,â she said. âWhen the English children’s nanny asked me what was wrong, I said, they killed my family. “