Nazli Sabri

Birthday portrait of Nazli Sabri (unknown date and artist). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Johanna Strong

Nazli Sabri was born on June 25, 1894, in Alexandria, Egypt, to the Minister of Agriculture and Governor of Cairo Abdu’r-Rahim Pasha Sabri and Tawfika Khanum Sharif. She was well-educated in her childhood and spent two years at a French boarding school. Upon her return to Egypt, she was forcibly married to her cousin Khalil Sabri and the marriage ended in divorce 11 months later.

After an unsuccessful relationship with Saeed Zaghloul, she became engaged to Prince Fouad of Egypt on May 12, 1919, and the couple was married at Bustan Palace in Cairo later that month. She was 25 and he was 51. She was only allowed to move into a palace with her husband once she gave birth to Crown Prince Farouk, who was King of Egypt from the death of his father in 1936 until a military coup in 1952. The couple also had 4 daughters: Fawzia (who later became queen of Iran), Faiza, Faika, and Fathiya.

Photograph of Nazli with her children. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Shortly after Nazli and Fouad’s marriage, Fouad became king, making Nazli queen consort. Fouad relegated Nazli to an Ottoman-style isolated harem and she was only allowed out on specific, women-only occasions. Nazli strongly resented these restrictions and she reportedly attempted suicide. When Fouad died in 1936, she became Queen Mother to the new King Farouk, but he, too, resented her presence and influence in state affairs.

Nazli fled Egypt in 1946 and moved to California. There, she converted to Catholicism and took the name Mary Elizabeth, which strained her relationship with Farouk even further. He stripped her of her rights and titles in 1950.

Nazli died on May 29, 1978, in California and is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, Los Angeles County, California.

Photograph of Nazli’s tomb, Los Angeles. Image Credit: Mecra.

Recommended Reading

Bassil A. Mardelli, Middle East Perspectives: Personal Recollections (1947-1967) (Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse, 2010)

Raluca Elgyar, “Queen Nazli of Egypt – A Tragic Story”, History of Royal Women, 2018.

“Nazli Sabri”, World Heritage Encyclopedia.

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