The Queen! The Queen!

Queen Aliyah of Iraq

Now it’s time for “the” story, which makes me a bit nervous: where to start?  How to tell it well?  So I will let the travelers tell most of the story in their own words.

But I do need to give some background information, so that the details of these accounts are clear.  King Faisal I of Iraq was son to King Ghazi I and his wife, Queen Aliyah.  King Ghazi died in 1939 in a sports car accident that some people believe may have actually been an assassination.  King Ghazi’s son, Faisal I became king at the age of three, but, given his youth, his uncle, Prince Abdul Ilah (Queen Aliyah’s brother), served as regent until King Faisal came of age in 1953. (Trivia moment: Inspired by a photograph of the three-year-old King Faisal in a National Geographic article of 1941, Hergé created his fictional Prince Abdullah—the extremely spoiled, naughty, and engaging character who appeared in two Tintin books.  King Faisal’s cousin, Sharif Ali bin Hussein commented, “I have read Tintin since childhood, but I never made the connection with King Faisal.”) Since King Faisal was born on May 2, 1935, he would have been 14 years old when our travelers were in England.  At this time he was attending Harrow along with his first cousin, Prince Hussein, the future king of Jordan, with whom Faisal was a close friend.  The two princesses to whom Anisa refers are the sisters of Queen Aliyah, Princess Jalila and Princess Badia.

(sources: “Faisal II of Iraq” Wikipedia; The National, Aug 13, 2011 at; and “Kingdom of Iraq” at

King Faisal at age 5
(“King Faisal II of Iraq” July 25, 2012)

Here is the story as told by Anisa and Maria.  Anisa’s comments are in blue. Maria’s comments are in red and in italicsMaria and Anisa agree on almost everything, except that Anisa believes that the travelers took the train to Harrow while Maria remembers, instead, that they took a bus.

Given the epic nature of the subject of focus, I decided to start the narrative in medias res, but will skip the invocation to the muse.


Part One: Chance Encounter

Anisa: In 1949, one day, when I was walking, just by myself, trying to cross the street as I was going through Hyde Park corner–suddenly a small car stopped, and I realized they had noticed me, and they stopped just behind Hyde Park corner, at the side of the park.  I suddenly looked—the queen! The queen was driving.  Next to her, the nurse who took care of the king.  She had cared for him since he was a baby, and behind them the two princesses–the one who had gotten married, and next to her,  her other sister, who was not yet married.

Tala: Princess Badia?

Anisa: Princess Jalila and Badia.


(“Iraq.IR Photo Gallery:  July 25, 2012)

 At this time, in ’49, the king  was older and he was studying at Harrow’s–Harrow School, and they had bought or rented a house near there–outside London.  So suddenly when I went there, I said “Hello, your majesty.”

She said, “Oh, Anisa” I heard that you were in London.”  Iraqi friends had told them, “Anisa has come”.  Well, Iraq was a small community; everybody knew each other.

I said “Yes, your majesty, I am here with friends of mine.  I’d like to see you, but I have my friends.”

She said, “Come and bring them with you.”

I said, “all right.”

The queen turned to her sisters and she asked, “What do we have on such and such a day?”  They said “nothing,” and she said “Come on such… a certain day” I don’t know, Monday or Tuesday.

 I said “Thank you very much”.

I told Mrs. de Zaldo, everybody.

Terry: my grandmother loved that story. She would say, “And, we found out that Anisa bumped into the queen of Iraq.”

 Anisa: Yes, and Mrs. de Zaldo kept saying, “Oh, the Queen of Iraq.”

Maria: One day, Anisa comes and says, “Oh Mrs. De Zaldo, I was walking through Hyde Park, and all of a sudden the car stops, and the Queen of Iraq comes out and says, “Anisa, you’re here in London and didn’t call me?” 

Anisa explained that she was with other people, and the Queen said, “Oh bring them over.”

And before we left for the visit, mother had all of us practice our curtsies over and over.  

Part Two: Back Story

Anisa: All my childhood I knew our royal family.  When King Faisal came to Iraq in 1921, he wanted to get used to the Iraqi families.  My parents, my aunts, all of them, used to visit the family, the royal family.  And actually, I used to go with them, whenever any of my aunts used to visit the royal family.  They used to receive people; they were very simple people, very casual.  There were not all of those ceremonies, nothing.  Actually, at that time the king had died some time ago in 1930….

Tala: 30…  39?

Anisa: ’39, I think it was.  His son was four years old, the king.  There is a picture among my pictures here that they made when he was one-year old, before his father had died.  They had a party, from every family one child was invited.  They invited us to his birthday party, and I remember going to the palace, and seeing the queen. I loved Aliya, and there is a picture of myself, my cousins, other people we knew from the whole group who knew each other.

So, in 1946, I used to see them on certain occasions.  I used to know the queen and her sisters, and her brother became the regent there.  In 1946, the year in which I first came to England—at that time, it was just when the war was over, and they wanted to come to England.  One of the princesses had gotten engaged, and on the first opportunity after the war they came to England to do all the shopping necessary for the wedding—everything. The Iraqi English society made parties for them, and I used to attend them.  I saw the queen, her sisters, everyone, and other English people who had worked in Iraq before, people who were still in touch. I met them in 1946.  And I said good-bye to them; I went to America, and they went to Paris, later on to Iraq.  They had the wedding of the princess, while I was away.


Part Three: The Journey

Anisa: So we learned how to take the train, how to go, how to walk there.  We walked from the station to the house.

 Maria: We had to go to Haines Point (near Harrow).  The king of Iraq and the son of the King of Jordan (Hussein) were at Harrow.  The queen mother (a widow), leased a house near there. We got on the bus; everything was fine.   We got to Haines, and we showed the address to someone and asked how to get there.

 Anisa: Suddenly, on my way, I told Mrs. de Zaldo, “We should purchase something.”

Carmen: “Oh, why didn’t you tell us before?”

Maria bought new, white shoes to see the queen, but

Maria: los zapatos me estaban lastimando los pies” (The shoes were killing my feet).  And we had to walk from the bus stop.  I just couldn’t take it any more, and there was brook right by the road. “Que delicioso río!” (What a delicious brook!”)  It was a long walk and such a hot day.  And I said “I can’t stand it any more.  I’m going to put my feet in the water”

 Joan: “Maria, don’t do that; your feet are going to swell up like anything, and you won’t be able to put  your shoes back on.  You won’t be able to put your shoes back on!”

 Maria: Sure enough, she was right.  How I got to the house, I don’t know; it was pure torture to get to that place. Joan never let me forget the incident.  Joan was like a mother.

 All the way there Abuelita kept saying:  “Ay que jardines!  Ay que jardines.”  (Oh, what beautiful gardens!)  She loved English gardens—their lushness, the roses; they were so well kept up.

 Then we had to find out which one of the houses was where the Queen of Iraq was living. 

 Then mother said:  “Look at that house. This is not an Englishman’s house.  The English are crazy about their gardens.  Look, there are no roses, and it’s all weeds”. 

 Right away guards came out and said something that sounded to me like, “Hwaa, hwaa, hwaa” I don’t know what they said, but Anisa talked to them, and we went in.

 Anisa: Anyway, we walked in.  It was a nice, simple house.  The garden, everything.


Part Three: The Visit.

 Anisa: The queen came, and her sister Badia came to sit with us.  So we talked—about America, about the king and his school.

 Maria: The queen received us in a small room…. Two of her daughters were there.  One of them asked “There are still gangsters in Chicago?”

  Joan: “Oh, yes, and in the spring they bring out the bodies from the water.”

 Maria: And I stupidly said “Joan why in the spring?” 

 Joan: “You have to wait for the ice to melt, and then you can take out all the bodies.”

 Anisa: ”Joan do you realize that they know my family and they will tell my family about this visit, and now my father will never let me go to Chicago?”

 Anisa: Joan and Maria talked about certain things, about how Bedia Jamil was always getting someplace without any kind of chaperone; in Iraq she always went with a chaperone.

 Anisa: Mrs. de Zaldo said, “This is not diplomatic.  Telling the queen about breaking the law in college or something—talking about Bedia like this. Why did you tell this story? It is as if you are lawless souls, breaking the law.”

 Maria: And the whole time Mami (Carmen) tried not to turn her back on the queen; Mami almost knocked something down trying not to turn her back.

Anisa: Anyway, the queen was really very nice.  I told her, “it is very strange” I said, “your majesty.  When I came here, visiting some of the shops, I saw that they are selling the Iraqi dates.  I was surprised”.

 So, when were leaving, the queen told the matron who was taking care of the house to give us Iraqi—very special.

 Maria: As we left, the servants gave us the most delicious dates stuffed with almonds.

 Y entonces despues we had to walk back y catch the bus back to London, with my feet still hurting.  Gas was still rationed, so they couldn’t offer us a drive in their car.









  1. Sadoun Omari says:

    Terry, the young king was Feisal the II not I, his grandfather was the I, king Ghazi’s father.

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