Persian child should feel that he can count upon the love of his mother
and find shelter and refuge in her arms. The young child must feel that
his mother, along with a few other people in his small world, care intensely about him and his welfare. He
must be sure that he can
always go to his mother and that he is never cut off
from her. - M. R. Pahlavi , Mission for My
The Shah, Mohammad
Reza Pahlavi, and his twin sister Ashraf were born
on October 26, 1919. His father, Reza Khan was a colonel of
the Persian Cossac Brigade.
With British blessing (and explicit guidance, it is said ), on the 21st February 1921, he overthrew
the central government,
becoming the new strong
man of Iran - initially
minister of war, eventually the first Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty.
Reza Khan was remembered by all who knew him as a formidable
and daunting figure, and his children were no exception:
Reza Shah ... could be one of the pleasantest
men in the world, yet he could
be one of the most frightening ... strong men often trembled
just to look at him. He had an almost devastating ability to assess
human nature. 
The same qualities that made him a formidable
soldier - piercing eyes that could wither a subordinate,
intolerance for error and imperfection, insistence
on strict military discipline - also made him an awesome
and frightening father. 
Mohammad Reza's mother, Taj-ol-Moluk,
was probably the only person to dare challenge Reza Khan's authority:
At a time when Iranian women were veiled
and "hidden", when they had virtually
no rights, when they were expected to
submit totally to male authority,
my mother wasn't afraid to argue with my father or to challenge
his decisions. 
She, herself, had been raised in a family
with military tradition (her father
was a famous Caucasian military officer). In 1922, Reza Khan,
then the most powerful man in Persia,
decided to take a second wife. Having several wives was not uncommon at that time
in Iran (in fact, over his entire life,
Reza Khan married five women, the Shahís mother being second;
he divorced from his first wife). When she learned
about this, Taj-ol-Moluk forced him to move into separate quarters, allowing
him to visit his children only infrequently:
a long time, she refused to see my father... In the face
of this unheard challenge to his authority, the Shah [Reza Khan]
would literally hide when he saw my mother come. 
According to Alamís diaries
, it appears that she never loved her husband:
The Queen Mother told us stories of her married life with
Reza Shah. On her wedding night, her husband, then a mere
brigadier was forced to ply her with brandy to calm her nerves.
Even as Queen, she said, she did her best to keep out of
his way. [Alamís diaries: Entry dated 8 October 1975]
How could I have been in love with him? Most of the time
I was far too cross. [The Queen Motherí words regarding her
love for Reza Khan according to Alamís diaries: Entry dated 17
Following the separation
between Taj-ol-Moulk and Reza Khan,
the Shah was brought up in an almost exclusively feminine environment
surrounded by his mother and his two sisters, Ashraf and Shams (who was born three years before him).
His motherís favorite child was Shams and, given her toughness, Zonis  speculates that she did not provide Mohammad Reza
with all the love that he needed although he became very attached
At the age of six, Mohammad Reza officially
became the Crown Prince and Reza Shah imposed a dramatic change
on him. He decided that the Crown Prince should live in an
entirely masculine environment (with the exception of a French
governess). He was abruptly separated from his mother and sisters
and sent to another palace. For him, Reza Shah established
a military elementary school. Probably as a result of this
major trauma, within eighteen months of his separation from
his mother, he contracted a number of life-threatening illnesses
(typhoid fever, whooping cough, diphtheria, malaria). At the
same time, he started having visions. He firmly believed that
there was a causal relationship between the visions and his
recovery (more on this in the next article).
At the age of twelve he was sent to Le Rosey secondary
school in Switzerland and stayed there five years. During these years,
his mother visited him
only once. He undoubtedly lived an unhappy and solitary life there:
At dinner HIM [His Imperial Majesty]
reminisced about his childhood. Apparently,
Dr. Nafici, his tutor, never allowed
him to go skiing or swimming when they were
He thinks as a result he may have
grown up with some sort of complex. [Alamís diaries: Entry
dated of 13 April 1974]
My friends were having fun, laughing and dancing while
I was sitting alone in my room...
I had a radio and gramophone to keep me company, but what fun were they compared with the festivities my
friends enjoyed. 
It seems that his closest friend in Switzerland was
Ernest Perron, the son of the school's
gardener. Perron was ten years older than Mohammad Reza. Upon his return
he insisted on bringing Perron with
him. It is truly amazing that despite his father's strong opposition,
Mohammad Reza managed to keep Perron at
the court. Although the Shah never mentions Perron in
his books, their friendship lasted for more than twenty years.
According to Sorayaís diaries (published
in Persian), the Shah consulted him on an almost daily basis. Perron left Iran in 1953, apparently following
American insistence on the removal of such a constant source
Reza Shah did not fully
trust his son and did not hide his concerns about the future of Iran after him:
My father said he wanted to improve the Government's administrative machinery to such
a degree that if he should die, the day-to-day process of administration
would operate almost automatically without the need of continuous supervision from the top. I was still rather young and perhaps not very mature, and
I took his remark as an insult. "What does he mean?" I
thought. "Does he think that if he were gone
I couldn't take over and continue his work?" Although
naturally I didn't say anything, his remark really
nettled me. 
Reza Shah abdicated
in August 1941 after the invasion of Iran by the British and the Soviets
who suspected him of Nazi sympathies. He was exiled to South Africa.
Mohammad Reza took the throne. Clearly worried about the preparedness
of the prince for his new responsibilities, Reza Shah told Ashraf before
I know you can be strong, but I want you always to be strong
for your brother. Stay close
to him and tell him to stand firm in the face of dangers of
any kind. 
Mohammad Reza himself
remembers his father's last message:
The very last
message I received from him in his exile was on a phonograph record. "My son," he said to me, "fear nothing." 
for the sky
Beginning in 1945,
the allied forces started evacuating Iran. The Soviets stayed on until
1946 when, reluctantly (pressured by an American ultimatum), they withdrew, abandoning
the two "autonomous republics" that they had established
in the North. In December 1946, after it became clear that the Soviets would not reinvade Iran to salvage
their protectorates, the Shah led his troops to "victory" in the Northern republics. Zonis 
believes that the fact that
he had acquired his authorization to fly only two months before the events, gave him the courage to exercise, quite
effectively, his leadership on this occasion.
Throughout his life,
flying, airplanes, and the air force played a significant role
in the Shahís psychic reinforcement (more on this in the next
article). The year 1948 is seen by Zonis 
as the year of consolidation of the link between his personal
strength and flying. Several relevant incidents occurred in
that year, including a plane
crash with the Shah at the controls. He survived the crash and this event enforced him
in his belief that he was protected by God. That same year, he decided to divorce Fawzia, his first wife chosen by Reza Shah.
I think that the major transformations
took place later, after the CIA-sponsored
coup which toppled Mossadegh in 1953.
The successful repression, thanks to Alam,
of Khomeiny's first uprising in 1963 constituted
the second major step of the process. Zonis 
reports the following conversation (the source, "a close friend of Alam",
is not named) between
the Shah and Alam about the 1963 riots:
shall we do?" the Shah asked.
"If you want to get tough," Alam responded, "get
tough. But if you take half measures, you will lose everything."
"Yes, but what shall
we do?" the Shah repeated.
worry," the Prime minister answered, "Iíll manage
"How?" asked the Shah.
"Iíll weigh the balls of your Majesty," Alam declared, "and see how heavy they are. Then I'll know how to deal
with the riots." 
In his introduction
to Alam's diaries , A. Alikhani, member
of the Economic Council under the Shah, sheds some light on the mechanism of
the consolidation process:
A secretive man by nature, the Shah could however be disarmingly
candid. Once during a meeting
of the Economic Council, he declared that he grabbed at each new success, each new burst of popular
approval, as an opportunity to consolidate his personal
In 1967, the Shah crowned himself as his father had
done before him:
He reasoned this way: "I represent the people of Iran.
Through my hands, it is they who crown me." 
As his grandiosity
grew, the Shahís interests became increasingly focused on the army (and the
air force in particular) and the foreign policy, while the
other aspects of government, deemed less important, was left
to subordinates. Reinforced by Nixon's
promise to sell any non-nuclear weapon to Iran and the explosion of the oil revenues
in the early 1970s, the Shah let the military build-up program take unreasonable proportions.
While the Shah daydreamed about the "Great Civilization" and
his propaganda apparatus relayed unquestioningly his implausible
visions, the Iranian people got increasingly cynical and resentful
and distanced themselves from the monarch and his regime.
The Shah's cancer
was apparently diagnosed in 1974. However, it seems that, initially,
his immediate entourage (including his personal doctor) reached
the tacit decision that the word "cancer" should
not be used before him: He was informed that he had "Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia".
Therefore, it can be safely speculated that the Shah was not
fully aware of the true nature or extent of his disease until
1977. At that time, his French doctors finally informed him
of the gravity of his situation and, according to Zonis , prescribed him the drug Prednisone. The drug is
believed to have powerfully debilitating effects. The simultaneity
of these events with the outset of the Iranian revolution is
As public unrest grew
and his psychic supports deserted him (more on the Shahís psychic
supports in the next article), in accordance with a lifelong pattern of flight in the face
of challenge (for instance, according to Princess Ashraf ,
he envisaged suicide, for himself and his twin sister, during the Soviet-British
invasion of Iran in 1941; during the 1953 CIA coup against Mossadegh, he insisted on leaving
the country with Soraya and awaiting
the result of the operation
in Rome), the Shah withdrew support from his own government--even criticizing the
regime publicly--and ordered the arrest of several of his most loyal servants and companions including ex-prime minister Amir-Abbas Hoveyda (see
for instance ). With the exception of Empress Farah, the Shah spent his last days in Iran in extreme
loneliness. Ambassador Sullivan  about a meeting
he had with the Shah in August 1978:
rather tense conversation seemed to be cathartic to the Shah...
It was clear that he had no one, with the possible
exception of the empress, with whom he could talk as he had just talked to me.
The Shah left Iran on January
16, 1979 leaving a weak government behind. He died on July 27, 1980 in Egypt.
His mother who had become senile was sent
to Princess Shams' house in
the U.S. She left the world unaware of the tragic end of
her son and even of the true gravity of the turmoil in Iran.
 Faced with the Bolshevik
threat, Great Britain felt
the need for a strong and centralized government in Iran.
 Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1961), "Mission for
My Country", McGraw-Hill.
 Ashraf Pahlavi (1980), "Faces in a
mirror: Memoirs from Exile", Prentice-Hall.
 Assadollah Alam (1991), "The Shah and I", St. Martin's Press.
 Mavin Zonis (1991), "Majestic Failure", The University of Chicago Press.
 Alam, as prime minister, ended the riot in a blood shed.
 Farah Pahlavi (1978), "My Thousand and One
Days: An Autobiography", W. H. Allen.
 Abbas Milani (2003), "The Persian
Sphinx: Amir Abbas Hoveyda and the Riddle of the Iranian Revolution", Mage
 William H. Sullivan (1981), "Mission to Iran", Norton.