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Idris of Libya: a forgotten king

From Wikipedia
King of Libya

Reign 24 December 1951 1 September 1969
Spouse Fatima el-Sharif
Full name
Muhammad Idris bin Muhammad al-Mahdi as-Senussi
House Senussi
Father Muhammad al-Mahdi as-Senussi
Mother Aisha bint Muqarrib al-Barasa
Born 12 March 1889
Al-Jaghbub, Ottoman Cyrenaica
Died 25 May 1983 (aged 94)
Cairo, Egypt
Burial Jannat al-Baqi, Medina, Saudi Arabia
Religion Islam
Idris, GBE (Arabic: ), also known as King Idris I of Libya (born El Sayyid Prince
Muhammad Idris bin Muhammad al-Mahdi as-Senussi; 12 March 1889 25 May 1983),
the first and only king of Libya, reigning from 1951 to 1969, and the Chief of theSenussi Muslim
order. While in Turkey for medical treatment, Idris was deposed in a 1969 coup d'etat by army
officers led byMuammar Gaddafi.
1 Early life
2 World War II
3 King of Libya
4 Overthrow and exile
5 Libyan civil war
6 Family
7 Honours
8 Ancestry
9 References
10 External links
Early life
Born at Al-Jaghbub, the headquarters of the Senussi movement, on 12 March 1889, the son
of Sayyid Muhammad al-Mahdi bin Sayyid Muhammad al-Senussi and his third wife Aisha bint
Muqarrib al-Barasa,
Idris was a grandson of Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi, the
founder of the Senussi Muslim Sufi order and the Senussi tribe in North Africa. His lineage is
considered to be descended from the Prophet Mohammed.
[citation needed]
He became Chief of the
Senussi order in 1916 following the abdication of his cousin Sayyid Ahmed Sharif es Senussi.
He was recognized by the British under the new title Emir of the territory of Cyrenaica, a
position also confirmed by the Italians in 1920. He was also installed as Emir of Tripolitania on
28 July 1922.
Idris spent the early part of his career attempting to negotiate independence for Cyrenaica.
1922, following the Italian military campaigns against Libya, he went into exile. Egypt then
served as his base in a guerrilla war against the colonial Italian authorities.

World War II

During World War II, Idris supported the United Kingdom in the hope of ridding his country
once and for all from Italian occupation and brought the Senussi tribe and
theCyrenaican nationalists to fight alongside the Allies against the Axis. The Senussi tribesmen
provided the British 8th Army in North Africa with vital intelligence
[citation needed]
on German and
Italian troop movements. With the defeat of the German and Italian forces led by Erwin
Rommel, and with the help of the British Military Administration of Cyrenaica he was finally able
to return to his capital, Benghazi, as Emir of Cyrenaica and form an official government. In
1946 King Idris was honoured and awarded the British Order of Grand Cross of the British
Empire for his support in the defeat of German and Italian forces in North Africa during World
War II.
King of Libya

King Idris with then-U.S. vice-president Richard Nixon (March 1957). He sought cordial relations with the West.

King Idris meeting president Nasser of Egypt

King Idris I on the cover of the Libyan Al Iza'a magazine, 15 August 1965
With the help of the British Military Administration of Cyrenaica and the backing of London,
Idris as-Senussi was rewarded for the help the Senussi tribe provided in ridding Libya of the
Italian and German occupation. Backed by the British, he proclaimed an independent Emirate
of Cyrenaica in 1949. He was also invited to become Emir of Tripolitania, another of the three
traditional regions that now constitute modern Libya (the third being Fezzan).
By accepting he
began the process of uniting Libya under a single monarchy. A constitution was enacted in
1949 and adopted in October 1951. A National Congress elected Idris as King of Libya, and as
Idris I he proclaimed the independence of the United Kingdom of Libya as a sovereign state on
24 December 1951.
From Benghazi, Idris led the team negotiating over independence with the United Kingdom and
the United Nations under UN special adviser to Libya Dutch born Adrian Pelt, which was
achieved on 24 December 1951 with the proclamation of the federal United Libyan Kingdom
with Idris as king. In 1963 the constitution was revised and the state became a unitary state as
the Kingdom of Libya. Earl Mountbatten was a very close friend of King Idris and used to visit
him in Libya often and stay at the Royal Palace. Both King Idris and Earl Mountbatten used to
go together on excursion trips into the Sahara desert which Earl Mountbatten enjoyed.
Idris had the same principles that formed part of his Sufi heritage namely peaceful co-
existence, tolerance and a live and let live philosophy of life that was also held by the likes
of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
In 1955, failing to have produced a male heir, he convinced Fatima, his wife for 20 years, to let
him marry a second wife, Aliya Abdel Lamloun, daughter of a wealthy Bedouin chief. The
second marriage took place on 5 June 1955. Ironically both wives then became pregnant, and
both bore him a son.

To the chagrin of Arab nationalists at home and supporters of Pan-Arabism in neighbouring
states, Idris maintained close ties with the United Kingdom and the United States, even after
the former intervened against Egypt during the 1956 Suez Crisis.
[citation needed]
Another threat to his
kingdom was his failure to produce a surviving male heir to succeed to the throne. In 1956,
Idris designated his brother's son, Prince Hasan as-Senussi, as the Black Prince or crown
The economy prospered from its oil fields and the presence of the United States Air
Force's Wheelus Air Base near Tripoli, but the king's health began to falter and the crown
prince assumed a greater role in the government and from time to time acted as regent. On 4
August 1969, Idris signed an Instrument of Abdication in favour of Crown Prince Hasan as-
Senussi, to take effect on 2 September that year.
[citation needed]

Overthrow and exile
On 1 September 1969, while Idris was in Turkey for medical treatment, he was deposed in
a coup d'tat by a group of Libyan army officers under the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi.
The monarchy was abolished and a republic proclaimed.
The coup pre-empted Idris'
abdication and the succession of his heir the following day. From Turkey, he and the queen
travelled to Kamena Vourla, Greece, by ship and went into exile in Egypt. After the coup of
1969, Idris was placed on trial in absentia in the Libyan People's Court and sentenced to death
in November 1971.
Idris died at the Sultan Palace in Dokki, Cairo in 1983, aged 94. He was buried at Jannat al-
Baqi, Medina, Saudi Arabia.

A young Benghazian carrying King Idris's photo during the 2011 revolution
Libyan civil war
Although the king died in exile and most Libyans were born after his reign, during the Libyan
civil war, many demonstrators opposing Colonel Gaddafi carried portraits of the king, especially
in the traditional Sanussi stronghold of Cyrenaica. The tricolour flag used during the era of the
monarchy was frequently used as a symbol of the revolution and was re-adopted by
the National Transitional Council as the official flag of Libya.

Idris married five times:
1. At Kufra, 1896/1897, his cousin, Sayyida Aisha binti Sayyid Muhammad as-Sharif al-
Sanussi (1873 Jaghbub 1905 or 1907 Kufra), eldest daughter of Sayyid Muhammad
as-Sharif bin Sayyid Muhammad al-Sanussi, by his fourth wife, Fatima, daughter of
'Umar bin Muhammad al-Ashhab, of Fezzan, by whom he had one son who died in
2. At Kufra, 1907 (divorced 1922), his cousin, Sakina, daughter of Muhammad as-Sharif,
by whom he had one son and one daughter, both of whom died in infancy;
3. At Kufra, 1911 (divorced 1915), Nafisa, daughter of Ahmad Abu al-Qasim al-Isawi, by
whom he had one son who died in infancy;
4. At Siwa, Egypt, 1931, his cousin, Sayyida Fatima al-Shi'fa binti Sayyid Ahmad as-
Sharif al-Sanussi, Fatima el-Sharif (1911 Kufra 3 October 2009, Cairo, buried in
Jannat al-Baqi, Medina, Saudi Arabia), fifth daughter of Field Marshal H.H. Sayyid
Ahmad as-Sharif Pasha bin Sayyid Muhammad as-Sharif al-Sanussi, 3rd Grand
Sanussi, by his second wife, Khadija, daughter of Ahmad al-Rifi, by whom he had one
son who died in infancy;
5. At the Libyan Embassy, Cairo, 6 June 1955 (divorced 20 May 1958),
Aliya Khanum Effendi (1913 Guney, Egypt), daughter of Abdul-Qadir Lamlun Asadi
For two short periods (19111922 and 19551958) Idris kept two wives, marrying his fifth wife
with a view to providing a direct heir.
Idris fathered five sons and one daughter, none of whom survived childhood. He and Queen
Fatima adopted a daughter, Suleima, an Algerian orphan, who survived them.

Royal Standard of the King of Libya
King Idris was Grand Master of the following Libyan Orders:

Order of Idris I
High Order of Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ali al-Senussi
Order of Independence
Al-Senussi National Service Star
Al-Senussi Army Liberation Medal
He was a recipient of the following foreign honors:
Imperial Order of the House of Osman 1st class (Turkey) (1918)
Nobility (Nishan-i-Majidieh) 2nd class (Turkey) (1918)
Collar of the Order of al-Hussein bin Ali (Jordan)
Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (1954 KBE in 1946) (United
Collar of the Order of Muhammad (Morocco)
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Nile (Egypt)
Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour (France)
Grand Cordon of the Order of Independence (Tunisia)
Grand Cordon of the National Order of the Cedar (Lebanon)
Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Italy)
Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer (Greece)
1. Jump up^ "Royal Ark". Royalark.net. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
2. Jump up^ Royal Ark. Royalark.net. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
3. Jump up^ Vandewalle, Dirk (2006). A history of modern Libya. Cambridge University
Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-521-85048-3.
4. Jump up^ Oliver, Roland; Atmore, Anthony (2005). Africa since 1800. Cambridge
University Press. p. 236.
5. Jump up^ Diller, Daniel; Moore, John (1995). The Middle East. Congressional Quarterly.
p. 308.
6. Jump up^ Daily Mirror 23 September 1955
7. Jump up^ Bloodless coup in Libya. BBC News On This Day. 1 September 1969.
8. Jump up^ "The liberated east: Building a new Libya". The Economist. 24 February 2011.
Retrieved 26 February 2011.
9. Jump up^ "Libya: Senussi Dynasty Orders and Decorations". royalark.com. Retrieved 12
June 2011.
10. Jump up^ Royal Ark

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