Naser al-Din Shah Qajar

Naser al-Din Shah Qajar
Shir & Khorshid1.svg    Naser al-Din Shah Qajar
Shahanshah of Iran
Nasir ad-Din Nadar.jpg
Reign 1848–1896
Full Name Nasser al-Din Shah
Born 16 July 1831(1831-07-16)
Birthplace Tabriz, Persia
Died 1 May 1896(1896-05-01) (aged 64)
Place of death Tehran, Persia
Predecessor Mohammad Shah Qajar
Successor Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar
Dynasty Qajar Dynasty
Religious beliefs Shia Islam

Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar [1] (July 16, 1831 – May 1, 1896) (Persian: ناصرالدین شاه قاجار Nāṣiru d-Dīn Shāh Qājār) was the King of Iran from September 17, 1848 to May 1, 1896 when he was assassinated. He was the son of Mohammad Shah Qajar and Malek Jahan Khanom, Mahd-e Olia and the third longest reigning monarch king in Iranian history after Shapur II of the Sassanid Dynasty and Tahmasp I of the Safavid Dynasty. He had sovereign power for close to 50 years and was also the first Persian monarch to ever write and publish his diaries.



He was in Tabriz when he heard of his father's death in 1848, and he ascended to the Peacock Throne with the help of Amir Kabir.

Though Naser al-Din had early reformist tendencies, he was dictatorial in his style of government. Unprovoked, he persecuted small numbers of Bábís and Bahá'ís, thinking they were heretics. Under his sanction, as many as two thousand Bábí's (often armed) including a few women and children, were brutally murdered. This persecution increased when a Bábí, seeking revenge for the death of the Bab, attempted to assassinate him in 1852.[2] This treatment continued under his Prime Minister Amir Kabir, who even ordered the execution of The Báb - regarded as a Manifestation of God to Bábí's and Bahá'ís, and to historians as the founder of the Bábí religion.

Unable to regain territory lost to Russia in the early 19th century, Nāṣer al-Dīn sought compensation by seizing Herāt, Afghanistan, in 1856. Great Britain regarded the move as a threat to British India and declared war on Iran, forcing the return of Herāt as well as Iranian recognition of the kingdom of Afghanistan. [3]

He was the first modern Iranian monarch to visit Europe in 1873 and then again in 1878 (when he saw a Royal Navy Fleet Review), and finally in 1889 and was reportedly amazed with the technology he saw there. During his visit to the United Kingdom in 1873, Naser al-Din Shah was appointed by Queen Victoria a Knight of the Order of the Garter, the highest English order of chivalry. He was the first Iranian monarch to be so honoured. His travel diary of his 1873 trip has been published in several languages as Persian, German, French and Dutch.

During his visit, Naser al-Din met with British Jewish leaders, including Sir Moses Montefiore. At that time, the Persian king suggested that the Jews buy land and establish a state for the Jewish people.[4]

In 1890 he met British Gerald Talbot and signed a contract with him giving him the ownership of Iranian Tobacco Industry, but he later was forced to cancel the contract after Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi issued a Fatwa that made farming, trading and consuming tobacco as Haram (forbidden). It even affected the Shah's personal life as his wives did not allow him to smoke.

This was not the end of his attempts to give advantages to Europe; he later gave the ownership of Iranian Customs incomes to Paul Julius Reuter.

Naser al-Din Shah in Golestan Palace.

Naser al-Din was effective in introducing several different western influences to Iran. He curbed the secular power of the clergy, introduced telegraph and postal services, built roads, opened the first school offering education along Western lines, and launched Iran's first newspaper. He was the first Iranian to be photographed and was a patron of photography who had himself photographed hundreds of times. His final prime minister was Ali Asghar Khan, who after the shah's assassination aided in securing the transfer of the throne to Mozaffar al-Din.

The Shah, on his European tour, in the Royal Albert Hall, London. Seated between the Princess of Wales and her sister, the Tsesarevna of Russia

In the later years of his rule, however, he steadfastly refused to deal with the growing pressures for reforms. He also granted a series of concessionary rights to foreigners in return for large payments that went into his own pockets. In 1872 popular pressure forced him to withdraw one concession involving permission to construct such complexes as railways and irrigation works throughout Iran. In 1890 he made an even greater error in granting a 50-year concession on the purchase, sale, and processing of all tobacco in the country, which led to a national boycott of tobacco and the withdrawal of the concession. This last incident is considered by many authorities to be the origin of modern Iranian nationalism.

Naser al-Din was assassinated by Mirza Reza Kermani, a follower of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, when he was visiting and praying in the shrine of Shah-Abdol-Azim. It is said that the revolver used to assassinate him was old and rusty, and had he worn a thicker overcoat, or been shot from a longer range, he would have survived the attempt on his life.[5] Shortly before his death he is reported to have said "I will rule you differently if I survive!" Naser al-Din Shah's assassin was prosecuted by the Defence Minister Nazm ol Doleh.

He was buried in the Shah-Abdol-Azim Cemetery, in Rayy near Tehran, where he was assassinated. His one-piece marble tombstone, bearing his full effigy, is now kept in the Golestan Palace Museum in Tehran and is renowned as a masterpiece of Qajar-era sculpture.

Artistic and literary interests

DThe Shah in a uniform studded with diamonds from the treasury of the Persian emperors. Often he wore the famous square Darya-ye Noor

Naser al-Din Shah was very interested in painting and photography. He was a talented painter, and even though he had not been trained, was an expert in pen and ink drawing. Several of his pen and ink drawings survive. He was one of the first photographers in Persia and was a patron of that art. He established a photography studio in Golestan Palace.[6]

Naser al-Din was also a poet. 200 couplets of his were recorded in the preface of Majma'ul Fusahā, a work by Reza-Qoli Khan Hedayat about poets of the Qajar period. He was interested in history and geography and had many books on these topics in his library. He also knew French and English, but was not fluent in either tongue.[7]

Hekāyāt Pir Va Javān ("The Tale of the Old and the Young") was attributed to him by many; it was one of the first Persian stories written in modern European style.[8]




  • Prince Soltan Mahmoud Mirza (1847–1849) Vali Ahad of Persia, 1849
  • Prince Soltan Moin al-Din Mirza (1849 – 6 November 1856) Vali Ahad of Persia, 1849–56
  • Prince Soltan Mass'oud Mirza Zell-e Soltan (5 January 1850–2 July 1918)
  • Prince Mohammad Qassem Mirza (1850 – 29 June 1858) Vali Ahad of Persia, 1856-8
  • Prince Soltan Hossein Mirza Jalal ed-Dowleh (1852–1868) [9]
  • Prince Mozaffar al-Din Shah (25 March 1853–7 January 1907)
  • Prince Kamran Mirza Nayeb es-Saltaneh (22 July 1856 – 1927)
  • Prince Nosrat al-Din Mirza Salar es-Saltaneh (2 May 1882 – 1954)
  • Prince Mohammad Reza Mirza Rokn es-Saltaneh (30 January 1884 – 8 July 1951)
  • Prince Hussein Ali Mirza Yamin ed-Dowleh (1890–1952)
  • Prince Ahmad Mirza Azd es-Saltaneh (1891–1939)


  • Princess Afsar ed-Dowleh
  • Princess Fakhr-ol-Moluk (1847 - 9 April 1878)
  • Princess Esmat ed-Dowleh (1855 – 3 September 1905)
  • Princess Zi'a es-Saltaneh (1856 - 11 April 1898) [10]
  • Princess Fakhr ed-Dowleh (1859–1891)
  • Princess Forugh ed-Dowleh (1862–1916)
  • Princess Eftekhar es-Saltaneh (1880–1941)
  • Princess Farah es-Saltaneh (1882 - 17 April 1899)
  • Princess Tadj es-Saltaneh (1883 – 25 January 1936)
  • Princess Ezz es-Saltaneh (1888–1982)[11]

Fictional depictions

  • Naser al-Din Shah is depicted in the movie Nassereddin Shah, Actor-e Cinema (Once Upon a Time, Cinema) 1992 written and directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
  • He is the main character of the short story De koning 2002 and the novel De koning 2011 and by the Persian–Dutch writer Kader Abdolah.


  1. ^ Nasser al-Din is pronounced as Nāser-ad'din, and less formally as Nāser-ed'din.
  2. ^ Abbas Amanat. Pivot of the universe: Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, p. 204-218.
  3. ^ Article from Encyclopædia Britannica [1]
  4. ^ World Jewish Congress
  5. ^ Mo'ayeri p.105
  6. ^ Tahmasbpoor, Mohammad-Reza (2008). Nāser-od-din, the Photographer King. Tehran: Nashr-e Tarikh-e Iran. ISBN 964-6082-16-5
  7. ^ Mo'ayeri p.30
  8. ^ Mansuri, Kurosh(2006). Hekāyāte Pir Va Javān. Tehran: Motale'at Tarikh. ISBN 964-6357-69-5
  9. ^ Children of Naser al-Din Shah
  10. ^ Zi'a es-Saltaneh married Seyed Zeyn-ol-Abedin Emam Jome'eh. Her daughter, Zia Ashraf Emami married Mohammad Mosaddegh
  11. ^ Mo'ayeri pp.16-17

See also


  • Amanat, Abbas (2004). Pivot of the universe. Tehran: Karnameh. ISBN 964-431-049-7. 
  • Clay, Catrine (2006). King, Kaiser, Tsar. London: John Murray. ISBN 13-978-0-7195-6536-7. 
  • Mo'ayeri, Dustali (1982). Some notes from private life of Nasser al-Din Shah. Tehran: Nashr-e Tarikh-e Iran. 

External links

Naser al-Din Shah Qajar
Born: July 16 1831 Died: May 1 1896
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mohammad Shah Qajar
Shah of Persia
Succeeded by
Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar

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