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Soraya Bakhtiari, 69; Married to Ex-Shah of Iran From 1951 to '58

October 26, 2001|From Times Wire Services

PARIS — Princess Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari, the second wife of the former Shah of Iran, has died, a former Iranian official close to the family said Thursday. She was 69.

She died in her Paris apartment, said an ex-minister of the shah, A.M. Madjidi. The cause and day of death were unclear.

The princess was born June 22, 1932, to a German mother and a father who was a member of Iran's powerful Bakhtiari family.

She married Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi on Feb. 12, 1951, following his divorce from Egyptian Princess Fawzia, sister of King Farouk.

Celebrated for her beauty, Soraya also was famed for keeping a pet seal in a fountain at the Iranian Imperial Court.

In 1958, the shah divorced Soraya after they failed to have children. Though she lost the title of empress, the shah conferred on her the title of "royal princess" at the time of the divorce.

Pahlavi later married a French-educated architecture student, Farah, who became empress, bearing four children during their two-decade marriage.

The shah died of cancer in 1980 after being swept from the throne by the Islamic revolution that installed the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the country's supreme leader.

Soraya never remarried. In the 1960s, she was a close companion to Italian film director Franco Indovina. He died in a plane crash in 1972.

The story of her divorce inspired French songwriter Francoise Mallet-Jorris to write "Je Veux Pleurer Comme Soraya" (I Want to Cry Like Soraya). The ex-empress published an autobiography in 1991, "Le Palais des Solitudes" (The Palace of Solitudes).

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