Maher discussed a great many subjects but the one of most interest
was when he came to talk of the health of King Fuad. Begging me
to treat the matter as of the greatest secrecy he said that he had received
a visit at 10 p.m. last night from Dr. Grossi who was attending
the King. Dr. Grossi had said that he must explain the situation
to him as Prime Minister.
Fuad had for some time had an infection of his gums necessitating the
removal of various teeth. This painful process had been going on for some
weeks; unfortunately the King's heart would not stand the strain
of an anaesthetic with the result that each extraction caused him intense
pain and physical shock. Unfortunately the infection of the gums was not
improving despite this extraction of teeth and the King was undoubtedly
losing strength. So worried was Dr. Grossi about this that he had
on his own telegraphed to another doctor [Frugoni] in Italy to come
and assist. All this, said Aly Maher, was not known even to the
people at the Palace, and in telling it to me he must once more ask that
I would observe the greatest reticence and secrecy.
Prime Minister had asked Dr. Grossi whether there was any immediate
danger; the doctor had replied that so far as he could foresee there was
not but in a question of weakness of the heart no one could possibly foretell.
I thanked Aly Maher for informing me. I did not want to jump ahead
of events but such questions as the Regency would have to be considered
not, I hastened to add, during the King's lifetime but if anything
untoward should occur. Aly Maher indicated that he fully realised
this and promised to keep me informed.
April 27th (Cairo)
o'clock came Aly Maher with a very bad bulletin of King Fuad's
health. There seems no doubt that he is slowly sinking. I asked how long
this was likely to last and Aly Maher said he thought about three
days at the outside. Aly Maher told me that he had seen Nahhas
and discussed the situation with him, making it clear that he thought the
right thing to do was to leave the Regency question to be handled
by the new Parliament. To this Nahas had agreed but had insisted that under
the Constitution the present Government could not remain in office longer
than ten days after the King's death.
Maher had objected that the new Parliament could not meet so quickly
seeing that the Senatorial elections did not take place until the middle
of May. To this Nahhas had replied that in that case the old Parliament
of 1929 should be reconvoked. And when A.M. had pointed out the impracticability
of this Nahhas had finally proposed that the new Chamber of Deputies
should meet forthwith and that the 1930 Senate should be assembled so that
there should be a Parliament of sorts to deal with the Regency question.
Maher had said that he would not object to this if it could be legally
shown to be under the Constitution of 1923, a matter which he must
submit to Bedawi. If it was legal, then he would act accordingly
regardless of the minority parties; if it was not legal he would still
be ready to adopt it if the leaders of all parties were ready to accept
it; but if the minority parties would not accept it then he would not adopt
it regardless of what Nahhas might say. I opined that this was all in order.
My only doubt was whether he should not forthwith consult the members of
the United Front. It was a fortunate coincidence that at this time such
a body should exist containing as it did representatives of all political
parties in Egypt. It seemed to me a heavensent dispensation of providence.
Maher said that he would certainly consult the United Front the moment
King Fuad died but to do so before that seemed to him impossible owing
to the publicity which it would entail. I tried to shake him but he evidently
did not wish to act as suggested so I thought it better to leave it alone
save that I impressed upon him that he would do well at least to let Mohamed
Mahmoud and Sidky know in advance that he would consult them
when the moment came. Aly Maher told me that he had in fact already
been in touch with Mohamed Mahmoud who was behaving himself pretty
well - but he was significantly silent about Sidky. On the whole I thought
it better not to press the matter further; but actually I think he is making
a mistake in not consulting the United front ....
o'clock came Prince Mohamed Aly to stake out his claim to the
Regency. He was as usual long-winded and boresome and was clearly angling
for a promise that I would support his candidature. I was carefully non-committal,
explaining to him that his suspicions of dirty work on the Tuesday,
April 28th (Cairo)
10.15. Prime Minister's
weekly visit. He told me he had been sent for early this morning to go
and see King Fuad; that he had arrived at 8.30 at Koubbeh
and had been immediately received. King Fuad was not in bed but
lying on a "chaise longue". With his other people the King has recently
been communicating in writing owing to his difficulty in speaking (his
mouth is all to bits). But with Aly Maher he did not do this. The
Minister said that he had been able to hear what the King said
though naturally H.M. spoke with considerable difficulty. The first point
he had alluded to was the question of Prince Farouk; during the
night, at the urgent insistence of the Queen, a telephone message
had been sent to Hassanein that Farouk should return immediately.
On hearing of this King Fuad told Aly Maher that the instructions
should be countermanded and it was only when Aly Maher pressed the
point that King Fuad whispered that. he would accept his advice
and let the order stand. King Fuad had next asked to be shown some
of the recent bulletins about his state of health; this had thrown Professor
Frugoni into a pretty pother, but finally he had selected the least
alarmist and shown it whereupon the King said that it was far too
alarmist in tone. Next King Fuad has said that he was quite prepared
to sign any Decrees, etc. that were ready and Aly Maher had said
that some would be submitted to him during the course of the morning.
King had next spoken of a lunch party which was being organised for
the Ministers on Monday next. This must on no account be postponed. Altogether
Maher was obviously amazed at the clearness of the King's mind
and seemed to think that the general condition was v much more encouraging;
unfortunately the "Employment of Foreigners" law had not been passed
by the Council of Ministers and so had not been ready for signature by
the King this morning - a thing which Aly Maher would much have
preferred - so that he could not be charged later with having signed something
that might be twisted into a favour to the British however wrongly; he
therefore proposed to get the law adopted by the Council of Ministers this
afternoon and have it signed by King Fuad tomorrow morning.
some general talk on developments to date and he told me that he had sent
me Bedawi's note of the constitutional position saying that the
compromise arranged with Nahhas - i.e. the immediate assembly of
the Chamber of Deputies after the elections and calling back the
of 1930 in order that the question of the Regency might be dealt
with by Parliament -was in order and as the result
would follow that procedure. I told him I thought he was acting very wisely.
only doubt which still lingered in my mind was whether he would not do
better to take the other leaders besides Nahhas into his confidence;
I gathered that he would consider doing something of the kind. I told
Aly Maher that naturally all sorts of suggestions of intrigue were
afloat and all sorts of ulterior motives were being attributed to him;
I had been at pains to dissipate these, explaining whenever the opportunity
occurred that I was convinced that His Excellency was determined to act
strictly constitution- ally. This I think pleased Aly Maher.
12 noon. Keown-Boyd.
Nothing special. I told him that at my talk with the Prime Minister
this morning I had put in a word in connection with the proposed new arrangements
(financial and otherwise) for the improvement of the conditions of service
in the Police Force. Aly Maher had promised to send K.B.
the text of the actual budget proposals before they were passed by the
Cabinet; K.B. would thus be able to see that all was in order, and
if it was not to point out the particular directions in which the proposals
required amendment. I told this to K.B. who said that he was entirely
middle of lunch I was summoned out to see Smart on urgent business. A telephone
message had just come through - at
1.30 - from Aly Maher
to say that at 1.20 pm King Fuad had died. I thought it better
to say nothing when I went back to join the party but passed the word to
Jack not to dally unduly and as soon as we had gone back to the drawing
room I explained what had happened and the party dispersed.
into a frock coat and at 3 p.m. down to Koubbeh where I was
received by Zulficar Pasha, the Grand Chamberlain, to whom I conveyed
suitable expressions of regret. Poor old Zulficar is completely
broken up. As I said to him, all the world knew that he was one of the
most loyal of old servants of the late King.
I drove straight to the office of the Prime Minister. Here I
found the place in a complete turmoil: all the Cabinet Ministers running
about like scared chickens and evidently not knowing what to do.
Maher was still down at the Palace so for the first few minutes
I sat and talked with all the members of the Cabinet to whom I made a formal
little speech explaining the regret of the British Government and of myself
at Egypt's loss. They all seemed considerably moved. Almost immediately
I was joined by Aly Maher when the other Cabinet Ministers left
so I sat and had a little talk with him on the same lines: he was genuinely
attached to him. And so back to the Residency to send off various telegrams,
etc.We were going to have had a dinner party tonight including Sidky
Pasha, but naturally that has all had to be postponed .... Again no
golf this afternoon owing to the double mourning - for King Fuad
and our own Court Mourning which of course still goes on.
course of the evening I got an almost hysterical and panicky letter from
Pasha saying that he could not hold himself responsible for any troubles
at King Fuad's funeral tomorrow and that he did not think it possible
that the thing would go through smoothly - a typical and fatuous letter
which he really had no business to send to me. However, such is
Pasha (hard-bitten Briton in charge of Cairo police). The man
is a bundle of nerves and, as we all know, on top of that is a first-class
advertiser. I suppose he wants to call attention to the outstanding merits
of himself if so be there is any mix-up tomorrow?
on top of this letter I received tonight 3 or 4 distinctly alarmist. Reports
regarding the activities of the "Green-Shirts" (Young Egypt) so
alarming in fact that I there and then sent for Smart to see Aly
Maher and to warn him of the information which I had got; to say that
it would be lamentable if on the occasion of the funeral tomorrow there
was anything in the nature of a shemozzle and that it was really deplorable
that political organisations with subversive tendencies such as "Young
should be even contemplating profiting by the present political uncertainty.
Smart duly saw Aly Maher who protested that he knew nothing
of any such machinations on the part of "Young Egypt" and there
and then rang up Hassan Rifaat, the Under-Secretary of the Ministry
of the Interior to ask if there were any reports in.
thereupon gave Aly Maher down the telephone the sense of the
same reports which had moved me to send Smart down to see him. The trouble
is that as regards "Young Egypt" & their leader (Ahmed Hussein),'
Aly Maher, I very much fear, is not playing straight. I don't quite
follow what his motive is, but I suppose he wants to have some element
with him in case it should so develop that the students &c. come out
again on the streets. Very mistaken I have certainly noticed that when
I have ever had to allude to Ahmed Hussein (1), Aly Maher
had always rather stood up for him; and in tonight's reports there is one
saying that the Prime Minister had been trying to draw on the secret
funds of the Ministry of the Interior to give them to Ahmed Hussein
- an attempt which I gather from the same source has in fact failed.
revolutionary Gamal `Abd al-Nasser (x) as a "Green-Shirt" member.
Anyway it is probably just
as well that this representation should have been made to Aly Maher.
Even if there was any truth in the idea of troubles tomorrow it is quite
wholesome that he should know that we are on to any intrigues that he had
afoot with "Young Egypt".
Husayn (1911-82). Founder and leader of the nationalist Young Egypt Society
1933 (reformed as a political party in 1936), which organised the para-military
youth movement known as the Green Shirts. See J.PJankowski, Egypt's Young
Rebels, Stanford 1975.
April 30th (Cairo)
Fuad's funeral. We all left the Residency at 9.30 and then to
the side entrance at Abdin Palace. We were shown up through the
hall into a room at the top of the stairs where the rest of the foreign
diplomats were assembled. Immediately opposite to us in another room were
the Princes of the Royal House.Down in the hall on either side were
the delegation of British officers - Naval, Army and Air Force.
After a few minutes interval we saw the coffin carried out and down the
stairs by a large posse of Egyptian sailors. We fell into our places;
Aly Maher & Prince Mohammed Aly, representing
immediately behind the coffin; then the Princes; the specially appointed
envoys (including myself and various others); and then the rest of the
diplomats. And so down the grand staircase and out through the hall where
we saw the coffin being placed on the gun-carriage.
sharp the procession started and encircled the big Palace courtyard. Over
this had been erected an enormous marquee through the middle of which we
emerged towards the main Palace gates. This was a most ingenuous device,
for all the foreign bodies - ex-Ministers, public bodies, foreigners, etc.
- were arranged in sections inside the big marquee and as the procession
came through they fell in section by section into the procession behind.
This device worked excessively well. And so we emerged into the main street
and walked slowly for a couple of hours till we reached the Rifai Mosque,
where the King was to be interred. The streets were absolutely packed
and it was rather jarring to hear the crowds all shouting and even indulging
in cat-calls. Sedki Pasha, the Turk, who was walking on my right,
was much shocked by this saying it was entirely contrary to all traditional
Moslem sentiment. Even in modern Turkey such a thing would never have happened.
say it struck a very jarring note. This shouting went on during the whole
time of the procession and reached its climax when we got down into the
poorer quarters of Mohammed Aly Street. Here the number of women
on all the balconies etc. was extraordinary and many of these worked themselves
up into a sort of hysterical paroxysm (I thought entirely faked but the
rest told me that that was not so and that when they begin to shriek and
wail they get beside themselves. The din was appalling.) And so up the
final slope leading to the Rifai Mosque. Just as we were getting
to the top there was a perfectly disgusting incident. I heard a noise of
struggling on my right with frenzied grunts and on looking round saw a
wad of oxen and buffaloes in process of having their throats cut right
on the edge of the street, the blood gushing out quite close `to us and
the wretched animals struggling in their death agonies. Perfectly disgusting.
It still gives me quite a turn when I think about it.
we turned left to the door of the mosque where the coffin was removed from
the gun carriage and borne inside the portals by the same sailors. The
rest of us fell out and entered another large marquee erected facing the
mosque door. Here we sat and drank glasses of deliciously cool water and
some of us smoked a cigarette. Prince Mohammed Aly came over and
sat with me and once more improved the shining hour by pressing his claims
to the Regency. I was guarded but at the same time left him in no doubt
that I thought his claims to the nomination were likely to be realised.
signal Prince Mohammed Aly and Aly Maher took leave of us
and we all filed out back to our cars and so home. The long two hours march
in heavy uniform had naturally been fatiguing but, all things considered,
it might have been very much worse. The only damage so far as I personally
was concerned was a slightly blistered foot; but how some of the poor old
boys, such as Zulficar, stuck it out I really do not know. Actually
he did only march about half the way and then was taken out by the police
through the crowd and motored on to the mosque where he joined up with
the rest of us.
crowds on the streets today were most remarkable and there were far more
signs of genuine grief than one would ever have anticipated. Paradoxically
enough King Fuad had succeeded in staging something of a come-back
these last few months: how far due to his own initiative, how far due to
the skill of Aly Maher I am not sure: personally I think mainly
the latter; for it was Aly Maher who forced the King to take
the line he did over the United Front; and it was Aly Maher
who forced the King to bury the hatchet as regards his personal animosities
with individual political leaders; and finally it was Aly Maher
who made the King publish a patriotic manifesto to his people a
few months back. Anyway, to whomever the credit is due there is no doubt
that King Fuad's loss is universally recognised by the Egyptian people
as a very serious one. I share that view completely.
always felt that, slippery customer though he was, he was an immense factor
in the situation here and that we could always in the last resort get him
to act in any particular line that we wished. He was in fact a sort of
final screen behind us and Egyptian political parties. Now he has gone
we find ourselves left face to face with the various warring elements and
I am afraid, indeed I am sure, we are going to find our task a great deal
more difficult; in short we may look forward to a particularly difficult
and trying time henceforth - not made the easier either by having a young
immature King on our hands. I frankly don't know quite how that problem
is going to be handled. But sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof;
and I don't doubt that if we plug consistently ahead things will clear
as is their usual habit.
new naval Commander-in Chief, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, came up
for the procession today, having stayed with us last night for the purpose.
After lunch I sat in the garden with him the whole afternoon and we discussed
every sort of question. He strikes me as a sound man though he certainly
has not got the presence of his predecessor. But then no one has!
6.30 pm came Aly Maher, to discuss Regency and constitutional
questions. He tells me that the party leaders are all meeting him on Sunday
night and that their intention is to disregard the late King's
nominees for the Regency and to elect men of their own choice. If
therefore I wished to ensure that men acceptable to us were elected I had
no time to lose, and he suggested that I should see the various party leaders
and sound them. He also suggested that I should do well to communicate
with the Queen and see what she felt. As regards the constitutional
position, despite the fact that under the 1923 Constitution he felt
that he and the present Government were legally entitled to carry on until
the present elections and the election of the Senate had been duly
carried out, he had come to the conclusion that what really mattered was
to act on lines nationally acceptable. Accordingly he would be quite ready
to depart from the strict legal forms so long-as he had it in writing from
the heads of the political parties that they were fully in agreement. I
told him that I thought that this was very wise.
he had left I had over Kelly and Smart and said that I felt
that the position was now so critical and the issues so important that
I must waive any idea of non-intervention and that I ought to see Nahhas,
Mohammed Mahmoud, and Sidky first thing tomorrow and have a
frank talk to them about the Regency. It would be so prejudicial to harmonious
relations with England that I must warn them to do nothing silly. They
agreed and I sent off Smart to arrange times for the three leaders
to call upon me tomorrow morning ....