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CHAMBERLAIN TO THE SHAH OF IRAN
Cryptic autograph Note in Persian with an identification in another hand
saying "I have a big envy from my name that I cannot explain this strange feeling. Wish I could conceal myself in the heart of my sweetheart ...", 1 side 8vo., on monogrammed paper, no place, no date
NASER-AL-DIN (1831-1896, Shah of Persia, 4th Ruler of the Qajar Dynasty, ascended the Peacock Throne in 1848 at the age of eighteen and ruled as Shah-in-Shah until he was assassinated). Following his succession of his father Mohammed Shah, Naser-al-Din initially followed a policy of reform but became increasingly conservative. Although he curbed the power of the clergy in secular affairs, introduced telegraph and postal services, opened the first school offering education along Western lines, opened the first railway and launched Persia's first newspaper, later in his reign he steadfastly refused to deal with mounting pressure for more far-reaching reform.
He was also the titular head of a considerable part of the Muslim world. The majority of his subjects were Shiite Muslims who looked to him as the legitimate successor and Vice-Regent of the Prophet. Demanding implicit obedience, it was on account of his religious position that the Shah was able to exercise despotic power as a temporal ruler.
His taxation was severe and arbitrary and he amassed a vast personal fortune, and an enormous collection of historic diamonds. Nevertheless, he still ran up a huge national debt, partly as a result of his expensive foreign tours.
He paid his first visit to Europe in 1873, and there are many anecdotes recounting his autocratic and 'Oriental' ways. It is said that he offered to purchase a certain court beauty whose charms he admired. There is the tale of his astonishment on finding a picture of an ass priced at five hundred times the value of the animal itself. On another occasion, when he was travelling by rail, he was shown the communication cord for stopping the train; he immediately made use of it, since he wished the train to remain stationary while he took a nap – it was only with the greatest difficulty that he was made to understand that this couldn't be allowed, even for the 'King of Kings'.
I have a big envy from my name that I cannot explain this strange feeling,
Wish I could conceal myself in the heart of my sweetheart
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