“My Only Goal in Life is to honor the glory of my people and my land. I only have one wish and that is to preserve the independence and territorial integrity of my country and lead my people towards progress”
— Mohamed Reza Shah Pahlavi taking Oath as King of Iran, October 26th, 1967
Forty Years ago this month Iran was the focus of world medias, not as a hostile nation, seeking to wipe out a neighboring country from the surface of the planet, nor was it suspected of being a nest for international terrorism, but as the setting for a glittering event that would mark the destiny of a nation and make televised history.
If Stanley Kubrick’s chilling comedy Dr. Strangelove had already warned the world on the dangers of Nuclear Proliferation, the term Axis of Evil was yet to be invented by a clumsy war mongering US President and no one questioned the reality of the Holocaust as is the case by an equally foolish Iranian dictator. Man was to walk on the Moon in hardly two years time, but world news was mostly dominated by the atrocities of the Vietnam War and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In contrast, nothing seemed more refreshing as seeing an entire nation about to celebrate the Coronation of its King and Queen in one of the most glittering events of the 20th century. Truly, an Island of Stability, at the time in one of the most troubled regions of the planet, Iran, once known as Persia, A Land of a Thousand and One Nights, was coming to life and mesmerizing world viewers in front of their black & white TV screens.
On October 26th, 1967 Mohamed Reza Shah Pahlavi was to Crown himself and his wife Empress Farah (Diba) as respectively the Shah and Shahbanou of Iran. It was also the very first time in 2500 years that a Persian Queen was to be crowned and certainly a unique event to this day in any Muslim country. And for that purpose, it was necessary to order a new crown. The honor fell on the famous Parisian jewellers Van Cleef & Arpels, who created the most awesome crown, along with new parures to be worn by the sisters of the Shah at the Coronation.
Also specially ordered for the event was the Coronation Coach, made in Vienna by Josef Klicmann. The carriage was sent by plane to Tehran in pieces and was built there. In blue and gold, it was a replica of the Austrian Imperial Carriage used by the Habsburgs. This was one of the only harshly criticized expenses of the Coronation, since the Imperial Couple already had a carriage, which had been used by the Shah’s father in 1926, however it would be used again by the Crown Prince during the procession.
The result was, nevertheless, marvelous and popular. A gilded crown, a replica of the Pahlavi Crown, topped the carriage and in the door the coat of arms of the Imperial Family was also in gold. It was decided that the Coronation ceremony would be held in the magnificent Grand Hall of the Golestan Palace, the dramatically stunning former home of the Qajar Dynasty. This magnificent hall was dominated by the Sun Throne, also known as the Peacock Throne, but before it was intended, ever since being built, as a museum room. This remarkably long hall, 150 meters long, was one of those specially refurbished for the occasion.
The fact that the Grand Hall could only take around 500 guests, made that in the gardens of the Golestan special tribunes were built to accommodate around 5000 other guests. The actual coronation ceremony began as the corteges entered the stunning Grand Hall of the Golestan Palace. All the eyes were fixed on the entrance of the room. The first cortege brought smiles to all the faces and tears to many eyes. Surrounded by four saluting officer with their swords unshielded, HIH The Crown Prince Cyrus-Reza of Iran entered the Grand Hall with a dignity many adults could not aspire to.
Three minutes later, the Shahbanou, followed by 6 maids of honor who took care of the fantastic train of her impressive dress, had entered the Grand Hall of the Golestan Palace. Like her son had done, the Empress went to her chair, on what would be the right of her husband and remained standing, waiting for her husband’s entrance. Her maids of honor placed her dress’ train and took their places behind the throne, standing.
Finally the Shah also entered the Grand Hall, preceded by three generals, senior military officers of each of the three branches of the Armed Forces: the Imperial Navy, the Air Force and the Ground Forces. He was walking towards a ceremony that he had delayed for over a quarter of a century and as he walked towards the Naderi Throne he surely did so confident that his work would make Iran a modern country. He reached the bejeweled throne and turned back to the entrance of the room, standing.
The Empress curtsied when the Shah arrived at the throne. Three Officers were to carry the Koran, the Imperial Crown’s of the Shah and Shahbanou. The sight of those magnificent jewels, which would take an essential part in the ceremonial, sparkled the amazement among the large hundreds of guests. The Shah climbed on to the Naderi Throne and remained motionless for about ten seconds, looking straight down the room. Everyone remained standing. His Imperial Majesty then bowed at right and at left, acknowledging the homage of the guests and inviting everyone to seat.
Religion Oblige, spiritual leader of the country, known as the Imam Jomeh, read some verses of the Koran, then the Coronation ritual immediately began as the Shah, dressed himself in full regalia, of Cloak and Sword one at each time.
Like Napoleon, the Shah would crown himself. The Shah, with swift movements, took the crown and placed it on his head. Moments later he Crown’s the Empress, presents his son as heir and takes Oath to Respect the Constitution. Immediately, one hundred and one canon blasts sounded through Tehran, marking the coronation of the sovereign, cheers were heard throughout the country and as the people took to the streets streets of the capital and prayers were said in the Mosques, a squadron of the Imperial Iranian Airforce was to release 17705 bouquets of narcissi flowers, the exact number of which corresponded to the days in the life of the 48 year old new King.
If retrospectively History has not failed to note the Shah’s controversial reign, October 26th, 1967 was nevertheless to be remembered by most Iranians as a glittering testimony that Iran had entered a new Era. Little could anyone suspect, at the time, that hardly a decade later, the downfall of the 50 year Old Pahlavi Dynasty would also mark the end of a 25 century Old Institution that undeniably shaped the Persian Civilization and greatly helped define our national identity.