Queen Farida was supposed to live a Cinderella fairy tale. When King Farouk of Egypt pulled her from obscure upper-class comfort into the glitter and jewels of a royal existence, people thought she was the luckiest girl in the world. Fate, however, had other plans—and within a few short years, her tragic story was on everyone’s lips.
1. She Had A Special Connection
The woman who would become Queen Farida of Egypt was born Safinaz Zulficar, the daughter of Youssef Zulficar, a high-powered judge, and his wife Zainab Sa’id. From the beginning, she had friends in high places.
Farida’s mother was lady-in-waiting to Queen Nazli Sabri, the current consort of Egypt. It wasn’t long before those connections changed Farida’s life completely.
2. A Royal Had A Crush On Her
In 1937, Farida was 15 years old, and Egypt had just gotten a new king in Nazli Sabri’s teenage son Farouk. Farida and her family were still getting used to this turn of events when another whopper hit them: One day, Farida was with her mother at the palace, and all of a sudden Farouk’s eye fell right on her.
Things happened very fast from there.
3. The Queen All But Kidnapped Her
The young king was so taken with Farida, he came up with a privileged plan: He had his mother ring up Farida’s parents.
The dowager then informed them that their girl was going on a family vacation with Farouk and his sisters to St Moritz. When Farida’s mother and father balked at the idea of pulling her out of school, Nazli Sabri snapped that it was “a royal command”. The tensions only rose from there.
4. She Got A Royal Proposal
This trip undoubtedly altered the course of Farida’s life. In the weeks that followed, Farouk couldn’t stop thinking about her, and soon the 17-year-old went to Farida and floated a sly marriage proposal, albeit couched in hypotheticals. But even then, Farida wasn’t someone to rush into things.
She told Farouk she needed more time and had to ask her father what he thought about the idea. Only, her father surprised her.
5. Her Father Gave Her An Ominous Warning
When Farida informed her father of Farouk’s potential marriage proposal, his answer was immediate and disheartening. In no uncertain terms, Youssef Zulficar insisted that marrying Farouk was a terrible idea, if only because “even though he loves you, marriage to a king will be a difficult matter”.
As it turned out, he was right to worry—for more reasons than just this.
6. Her Suitor Was An Idiot
Whether or not Farida’s father knew the whole truth about Farouk, the teenage King of Egypt wasn’t exactly the catch of the century, royal title or not. He was notoriously lazy and spoiled about his studies, once failing his entrance exams to Eton partly because he spent his evening partying on the town instead of studying, and partly because he assumed someone would simply give him the answers on the day of any test.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
7. Farouk Thought She Was Sloppy Seconds
As it happened, Farouk may not have been as in love with Farida as his proposal would have her believe. Really, she was something of a rebound. The young king had actually developed an enormous crush on another lady-in-waiting’s daughter before Farida, only for the shy girl to turn him down in no uncertain terms.
His attention turned to Farida just weeks after this rejection, and it seemed to everyone around him she was merely a replacement. Still, the truth always outs, and Farouk was about to show his true colors.
8. Her Father Refused Her
Eventually, Farouk apparently grew serious enough about Farida to officially ask for her hand, which in Egypt during those days meant he also had to ask for her father Youssef’s permission. The answer stunned him.
Youssef was still holding his ground, and refused to allow the wedding to go ahead, this time citing Farida’s extremely young age. Obviously, Farida’s father had alarm bells going off in his head about Farouk. He was about to be proven very right.
9. Her King Abducted Her Father
After turning down the King of Egypt’s marriage proposal, Youssef decided to go on vacation in Beirut. Farouk took this moment to show the judge exactly who he was messing with: A spoiled, powerful man-baby who couldn’t hear the word “no”.
As Youssef boarded the ship to Beirut, the authorities bore down on him, detaining him under patently false pretenses, as per Farouk’s orders. Then the nightmare really began.
10. She Was Living In A Dark Fairy Tale
After arresting the man he wanted to be his future father-in-law, Farouk met up with him at Montaza Palace and gave him an ultimatum: Farida’s father could either accept the big-deal title of “Pasha” in exchange for giving up his daughter, or he could experience a lifetime of pain if he continued refusing her hand.
It was too much for Youssef to turn down, and he gave into Farouk’s demands at last. Not that Farida saw this side of Farouk, not yet. Instead, his next act was the grandest of gestures.
11. She Fell Head Over Heels
Now that Farouk had what he wanted from Farida’s father, all that was left was to get it from the girl herself. He came up with a brilliant plan.
At Farida’s 16th birthday party, Farouk showed up in his Alfa Romeo and officially proposed to her. He also sweetened the entire deal by providing her with a $50,000 dowry and an enormous diamond ring worth the same amount. Then he gave her his most personal gift.
12. He Paid Her To Be His Royal Bride
Farouk didn’t stop at showering Farida with jewels and money. This was also when he changed her name from Safinaz, a Persian name, to “Farida,” which means “the only one” in Egypt’s more common tongue of Arabic. Besides that, Farouk believed that names that started with F were lucky. Farida quickly found out this was not the case at all.
13. Her Big Day Was Fatal
With all the I’s dotted and the fathers bribed, Farouk officially announced his engagement to Farida. The outpouring of public excitement was overwhelming—and it led right to an ominous tragedy.
After the royal family declared the wedding would take place, the enthusiastic crowd outside the palace rioted, fatally crushing 22 people and injuring many more. In the end, this public disaster foretold the private disaster Farida was about to face.
14. Her Fiancé Was Domineering
At first, Farida was overjoyed at the thought of marrying her king. Yet as the date of her royal wedding drew closer, she began to notice disturbing signs. While Farida was naturally sweet and even yielding, this somehow wasn’t enough for Farouk.
He would grow furious if anyone, even his fiancée, questioned anything about how he did things, and got into frequent one-sided arguments with her. If only that were all—but this was only the beginning.
15. She Was Heading Toward A Horrific Union
In getting to know Farouk better, Farida also realized he had a particularly bizarre and destructive obsession. He loved Mussolini’s Italy and all the domineering machismo that entailed. When he became king, he dismissed all the palace’s older servants and replaced them with an Italian phalanx.
More than that, he often took advice about macho living from these men, including one servant’s suggestion that he beat his wife on their honeymoon to ensure a lifetime of obedience from her. Needless to say, this alarmed Farida. It was only going to get worse.
16. She Took A Stand
On the very eve of her wedding to Farouk, Farida got a cruel awakening. Trying to put her foot down about his behavior, she insisted calmly that she wouldn’t be his doormat, and that she liked Farouk the man, not Farouk the king. Her words fell on deaf ears: Farouk, insulted at her defiance, simply stormed out of the room, leaving Farida sobbing by herself.
The young girl thought about pulling out then and there, but realized she couldn’t for the sake of her family’s good name. Instead, she got one step closer to her sad fate.
17. She Had A Fairy Tale Wedding
The day of Farouk and Farida’s wedding dawned, and it couldn’t have looked more perfect. Lights hung from practically every building in Cairo and flowed down the Nile to celebrate the royal couple. Farida also wore a custom, House of Worth wedding dress that Farouk had brought over from Paris.
Soon after, the king and his new queen made a controversial statement.
18. She Was A Modern Queen
Farida was now Queen of Egypt, and with that came a set of responsibilities and, most especially, rules of etiquette. Before now, Muslim tradition dictated that queens wear veils when they were out in public—though they were rarely supposed to be in public at all.
Within days of becoming queen, however, Farouk shocked his citizens by showing up to all manner of events with Farida—unveiled—on his arm. It was a clear indication that theirs was not to be a traditional reign. At least at first glance.
19. Her Husband Made A Selfish Decision
Farouk may have looked modern to his people, but behind palace doors, he was the same old Farouk. In fact, shortly after his marriage, he betrothed his sister Princess Fawzia—one of Farida’s only potential allies in the Egyptian court—to Mohammad Reza, the Crown Prince of Iran, without much of a care for what either party wanted.
As we’ll see, Farida and Fawzia’s futures would become tragically intertwined, but for now, she had a very acute problem of her own to deal with.
20. She Needed To Have A Boy
Very shortly after her nuptials, Farida found herself pregnant, and by the fall of 1938, she was ready to go into labor at any moment. At first, the news looked good. The doctors and court soothsayers swore she would have a boy, and these predictions overjoyed Farouk, who wanted nothing more than a male heir to confirm his vigor and virility.
He was so excited, he even doted on Farida a little instead of brushing her aside, for once. Which made the next turn of events particularly heartbreaking.
21. Her Husband Blamed Her
On November 17, 1958, Farida got devastating news. Well, devastating for her husband anyway. Instead of birthing a son, she had a little girl she named Princess Ferial. Farouk’s response was nothing short of chilling.
He considered Farida’s failure to give him a son a personal attack and railed against the unreliability of women. Once more, he took it even further.
22. She Hated Her Mother-In-Law
Throughout all this, Farouk’s mother Nazli Sabri was no help at all to Farida. Actually, she was less than any help. Farida’s mother-in-law had always been controlling and unsympathetic to anyone but her son, but she was especially icy to Farida in this time of need.
After all, Nazli herself had once been under the same expectations to give Egypt an heir, and her own husband had threatened to confine her to the palace walls if she didn’t do her “duty”. Before long, even the sweet-tempered Farida couldn’t take Nazli’s constant judgment, and the two developed a very public feud.
Still, Farida kept trying to please her family, not that it did her any good.
23. She Tried Again
A couple years later, Farida was pregnant again, and this time Farouk was sure he was going to get his son. Doubly wrong: Farida gave birth to yet another daughter, a girl they named Fawzia, likely after his sister. Only, that was as far as Farouk’s sentimentality about the little princess went.
He was now terrified that everyone in the kingdom thought he lacked masculinity, since he clearly couldn’t make an heir to the throne. At a loss for what to do, Farouk went to desperate measures.
24. Her Husband Grew Desperate
Everyone in the kingdom wanted to give Farouk and Farida an easy answer to their problems, even though the issue of birthing a son was quite obviously a matter of chance. Still, this didn’t stop them from providing Farouk with some bizarre diagnoses and cures, including saying that he should eat particular foods. Unfortunately, this had disturbing consequences.
Around this time, Farouk developed unhealthy eating habits, even reportedly consuming 600 oysters a week to up his libido. As for Farida? Well, she found herself in bigger trouble.
25. She May Have Strayed
Farouk wasn’t just ignoring the effort Farida put into being his queen, he was downright dismissing her simply because she was giving him girls, not boys. It was no secret Farida was dissatisfied with this state of affairs, and this led to a disturbing rumor.
Farouk began to suspect Farida was having an affair with the nobleman Wahid Yussri. But there was another side to the story.
26. Her Husband Fell In Love With Another Woman
Surprise, surprise—it wasn’t Farida who was flouting her vows, but Farouk himself. In fact, he’d been obsessed with Princess Fatima Toussan ever since he’d met the—very married—noblewoman at a party. While Fatima’s feelings about him seemed lukewarm at best, Farouk still took the opportunity to tell her that he liked her name, because “if I were to marry you, I wouldn’t have to give you a new name as I did with Farida”.
The next day, Farouk confessed to one of his aides that he was in love. From that point on, he began plotting Farida’s royal demise in earnest.
27. Her Husband Controlled Her
Farouk became so desperate to get Princess Fatima, he turned Farida’s life into a living nightmare. Crucially, Farouk didn’t feel he could divorce Farida; she was incredibly popular with the people, and he…was not. So instead, he did things like cut her off from any kind of allowance.
If she wanted money, she had to ask her household manager, a man she hated, for funds. Ah, if only he had quit there.
28. She Suffered Through Horrific Treatment
Farouk always had an appetite for women, and he had kept a string of mistresses since tying the knot. Now, however, he rubbed them right in Farida’s face, occasionally even waking her up from bed to describe his latest conquest.
As he once sneered, “She told me I was so wonderful that had she not known I was the King, she would have paid me, instead”. But that’s just what he got up to behind closed doors. He also took his grievances public.
29. He Shamed His Wife
At this point in the royal marriage, private snubs simply weren’t enough for Farouk. He also liked bringing his mistresses out with him to official functions so he could publicly snub Farida in front of her peers. At one point, he sat his mistress next to the Prime Minister of Egypt at a dinner, to the great offense of everyone there.
Is it any wonder that Farida might have been driven to treason?
30. She May Have Had Another Affair
Almost exactly at the time that Farouk was pulling these stunts, Farida just about had enough—and it’s quite possible that she snapped. In the midst of all this, she may have truly started having an affair with Simon Elwes, a British painter who was at court. When word got to Farouk that the artist and his queen were getting cozy, chaos broke loose.
31. Her Lover Had To Escape Court
Showing a complete lack of self-awareness that was typical for him, Farouk became enraged at the thought of Farida seeking comfort in another man’s arms. This, despite the fact that he was hardly faithful. He began gunning for Elwes, who had to escape from the entire country just to feel safe again.
All the palace was atwitter with the latest gossip about their queen…and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
32. The Court Thought She Had A Love Child
Just as the rumors began about Farida shacking up with Simon Elwes, the Queen of Egypt also realized she was pregnant. Soon, Farouk’s enemies and rivals at court were whispering that the baby wasn’t his—and that even if he had a son now, the boy’s legitimacy would be suspect from the very beginning. It escalated from there.
33. Her Husband Escalated His Tactics
Eventually, Farida gave birth—and once more it was a girl, Fadia. Her husband took terrifying action. Besides screaming to whoever he could that Farida was certainly unfaithful, he soon began taunting her with mortal threats.
Now when he woke her up in the morning to describe his carousing, he added musings about sprinkling her food with untraceable poisons so he could be rid of her. The consequences were unfathomable.
34. She Grew Paranoid
Farida had suffered through so much since her “fairy tale” wedding, and she crumpled under the pressure. She began refusing to eat, possibly terrified that Farouk had made good on his promise to off her. She would also only drink bottled water to assure her safety from her own husband—and even then, only when someone opened it in front of her.
With nothing else to do, Farida finally broke down.
35. Her Husband Threatened Her
Beside herself with fear and anguish, Farida went to her husband and all but begged him for a divorce, saying she would grant it in almost whatever manner he wanted. Farouk’s reply was utterly bone-chilling.
More concerned with tormenting his wife than getting what he also wanted, he only sneered sinisterly at her, “It is customary for the wife of a King to leave the palace only in a coffin”. Then again, she was still more popular than him, and he still didn’t feel his reputation would survive. His reluctance didn’t last long.
36. She Ran Away From Her King
From the mid-1940s onward, Farida drew further and further away from Farouk, living in a separate residence from him alongside her three daughters. She did this to limit the damage Farouk could do to her, while still retaining a “married” public image for Egypt. Until one day, everything changed.
After Farouk won a key political victory, one of his first statements to his advisors was “I can now divorce Farida”. And whatever Farouk wanted, Farouk got.
37. She Lost Her Wedding Gift
Farida and Farouk’s divorce happened swiftly from there, but Farouk managed to get a few choice swipes in at his ex-wife. Although he gifted her with farmland as a part of the separation deal, he kept a palace that he had first given her as a wedding gift, completely negating the “nice” gesture. However, he had more cruel tricks up his sleeve.
38. She Got A Double Insult
Farida’s divorce paperwork went through on November 17, 1948, but the date came with a nasty surprise. The very same day, Farida’s sister-in-law Princess Fawzia also divorced her husband, Shah Mohammad Reza of Iran. In fact, both Farouk and Mohammad had done this by design, hoping to avoid too much media attention on either divorce.
Little did Farouk know, enormous and public karma was coming for him anyway.
39. Karma Got Her Husband
Farida had suffered in silence the entire length of her marriage, trying to keep whatever scraps of dignity she could while married to someone who might have been a genuine psychopath. This made what happened next all the sweeter.
In the wake of the divorce, Farouk fully expected his long-time obsession Princess Fatima—who was now recently widowed—to accept his hand in marriage. So when he heard that she had actually remarried another man, he couldn't believe it. There were other delights for the newly-free Farida, too.
40. She Won The Breakup
Farouk may have thought the timing was right to divorce Farida, but the next months quickly proved him wrong. Loyal admirers of Farida even once booed and hissed at Farouk while he was in the Cairo Cinema. Yet for all that the public was on her side, Farida also went through enormous losses.
41. She Lost Her Children
Although Farida stayed with and cared for her youngest daughter Fadia after the divorce, her two eldest Ferial and Fawzia stayed with their father. Tragically, Farida didn’t see them for nearly 10 years. More than that, the former Queen of Egypt had to watch exactly how Farouk moved on with his life. It wasn’t pretty.
42. She Got A Replacement Queen
Just three years after their divorce, Farouk married Narriman Sadek, a commoner the people soon called the “Cinderella of the Nile”. As if that cutesy name weren’t enough, Narriman was also only 18 when she married Farouk, a full 13 years younger than her king. It had to have been difficult for Farida to watch her replacement take the throne…but it wasn’t going to get any easier.
43. Her Successor Did What She Couldn’t
Of course, everyone assumed that Farouk had chosen Narriman because she was young and fertile. That way, she’d have many chances to provide him with the male heir he so desperately wanted. Unfortunately for Farida, it came all too easily to the girl: Narriman gave birth to a son, Fuad, shortly after becoming queen.
Now this must have been nearly impossible to bear—but Farida didn’t have to bear it for long.
44. Egypt Exiled Her Ex
The same year that Farouk got himself a son at last, Farida got the best possible revenge. She sat back and watched as her ex-husband’s whole world went to pieces around him. See, Farouk was still unpopular, and Farida’s absence did nothing to help the situation.
In the summer of 1952, the Egyptian government finally forced him to abdicate and then sent him into exile. But the hits kept on coming.
45. Her Kingdom Fell Apart
Farida’s counterpart Queen Narriman learned very quickly—far more quickly than Farida had—that Farouk was not the man for her, or the man for anyone, really. While in exile, she decided she had quite enough of his philandering, especially since he wasn’t even a king anymore.
Narriman returned to Egypt and her middle-class existence soon after Farouk’s exile, officially divorcing him in 1954. But here’s where the story turns truly tragic.
46. Her Ex Met A Brutal End
For the next handful of years, Farida still watched from the sidelines as Farouk destroyed his life from the inside out, focusing more on women, gambling, and excessive spending than anything else. In 1965, it all caught up with him.
He collapsed after eating a late dinner of oysters and lamb, and doctors pronounced him dead soon after at the age of 45. But there is another story to that day—one that connects to Farida herself.
47. He Got What Was Coming
Despite his sudden and untimely end, no one ever ordered an autopsy on the former King of Egypt’s body. There may have been a sinister reason for this. Some claim that Egyptian Intelligence poisoned Farouk and then covered it up.
True or not, it certainly would have been a fitting end for a man who once threatened to do the same to Farida. Still, his former wife only repaid him with a consummately classy act.
48. She Was The Bigger Woman
Farouk’s funeral was a sparse affair, but—of all people—Farida was one of the attendees, along with her three daughters. In fact, she brought a memorial wreath with her that was so gigantic, they couldn’t fit it into the chapel doors. It was much more than Farouk ever deserved, but life isn’t always fair…as Farida’s own end proves.
49. She Lived Her Best Life
Farida outlived Farouk by quite a few years, and for a good long while it was a golden existence. She never married again, but instead took up painting, even staging exhibitions across Europe and the United States. But in the 1980s, when she was still in her early 60s, she began experiencing a host of health issues—and got a terrifying diagnosis.
50. Her End Was Swift
By 1988, it was clear that the 67-year-old Farida was suffering from leukemia and didn’t have long to live. That September, she had to go into the hospital, and by October, she was in a coma. On October 16, 1988, the former Queen of Egypt passed in Cairo, the city she once used to rule over.