The Empress

Iran’s former empress
A royal comeback?
Aug 22nd 2012, 19:41 by The Economist online | TEHRAN

She married the shah, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, after his previous wife turned out to be barren. She gave him the heir he craved, tolerated his philandering and became a model of the stylish, tirelessly charitable Middle Eastern consort. The 1979 revolution in Iran sent the couple into exile, where the shah died a year later; since then, his widow has been vilified by the Islamic Republic as an accomplice in tyranny. But now, in her 75th year, Farah Diba may be starting a comeback.

On July 26th, a popular London-based TV satellite station called Man o To (Me and You), best-known for adapting Western formats to Iranian audiences, broadcast a long documentary based on conversations with the former empress. “From Tehran to Cairo”, as the programme is called, tells the story of the royal couple, from their flight until the shah’s death from cancer in the Egyptian capital, where Egypt’s then president, Anwar Sadat, was the only leader to behave generously to an old ally. The day after the broadcast, the chatter in Tehran was of little else.

From the rumble of approaching revolution to the royal flight and a humiliating odyssey in search of a refuge, the programme made for affecting television. Far from the immoral hedonist of caricature, the empress came across as a loyal patriot and spouse. “Such dignity!” was the reaction of one tearful viewer. “It shows how much she loves the country and how much she’s been maligned!”

The programme had some pointed messages. It claimed that the shah did not, as his detractors have it, spirit untold billions out of the country. The empress puts the amount that reached her and her children after his death at a relatively modest $50m. The shah of his widow’s depiction was a devoted servant of his people. And her references to her son as Crown Prince Reza, now resident in America, reminded viewers of a possible alternative to Iran’s current rulers.

To judge by responses on the internet, she struck a chord. One young woman confessed regretfully that she had played the role of “Evil Queen Farah” in a school play. Another, a student at the women’s university that the empress founded (her name since expunged), paid tribute to her promotion of Persian culture. There was pathos, too, since the ex-queen has lost two of her four children to suicide in the past 11 years.

Would Iranians welcome back the monarchy they booted out 33 years ago? Many inside the country regret what has taken its place, but the empress unsurprisingly failed to acknowledge the corruption and despotism that marked the shah’s rule. The vision she put forward, of a tolerant Iran standing high in the world’s esteem, still seems distant indeed.

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History


Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355


'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.