"If it is death you desire, go to Gilan" (to end up like Hakimi)
Foreword: The search for facts about Mirza Mahmoud the Grand Hakim-el-Molk turned out to be very interesting indeed, not because of his achievements or the interesting story of his demise or as some had thought, murder in the hands of the prime minister Mirza Ali Asghar Khan Amin-ol-Sultan Atabak e Azam, but because of the chance discovery of the inside story of his role in the Qajar court in the memoirs of Moayer al-Mamalek whose family were probably one of the oldest noble families in Iran. The book is called The Nobles Of The Nasserie Period. This chance discovery I owe to Ali Moayerie's love for his friend of forty years or more Ezzatalllah Kheradmand. He sent Ezzat the books recording his family archives as they were published in Iran which are now left to me. Not only does this book give the best insider view and helps overcome the inadequacy of the standard historical texts but it has crystallised for me at least, the drama of Persian politics of that time.
Hamid, January 2001, London.
Mirza Mahmoud Khan's Role In The Qajar Court
Mirza Mahmoud's father Mirza Ali Naghi Hakim Bashi went up to Tabriz with Mozzafar-e-Din Mirza whom as a child had just been appointed Nasser-e-Din Shah's Crown Prince and Governor of
Azerbaijan, Mirza Mahmoud's brother Mirza Abolhassan Hakim Bashi followed their father as Mozzafar-e-Din Shah's doctor. Mirza Mahmoud is the first ancestor who is recorded with the title Hakim-el-Molk in the Persian Court but it does not necessarily mean he was the first one as the research for this site is still in progress. He was a senior influential member of the Court in late 19th century.
He held the posts of Lord Chamberlain and Secretary of State for the Imperial Court during the Nasserie and Mozzafarie periods. We know form Sir Dennis Wright's history of The Persians Amongst The British that he accompanied Nasser-e-Din Shah on a state visit to England in 1873 as the Shah's Lord Chamberlain. The Shah gave him permission to arrange tuition for his son in Britain (11) and the contract specifying its terms exists in the Windsor Archives today. Sir Dennis Wright was a prominent British diplomat and the British Ambassador to Iran in 1970's.
Thirty eight days after the assassination of Nasser-e-Din Shah in 1896, the Crown Prince Mozzafar-e-Din Mirza who was already an old man because of his father's long reign arrived in Teheran from Tabriz to take up the throne. He was accompanied by Mirza Mahmoud Khan Hakim-el-Molk, Seyyed Bahrainie -his astrologer or guru, Amir Bahador Hossein Pasha Khan - Minister of War, and Basir-ol-Saltaneh (1 & 17). Mozzafar-e-Din Shah was a feeble but good natured king. He showed his good nature when in August 1906 in order to avoid bloodshed against the wishes of most of the Qajar princes he granted the people of Iran the right to have a constitution. This act overturned thousands years of autocratic rule in Iran. It came as such a tremendous surprise to the leaders for constitutional movement that on hearing the news they refused to believe it until such time that they actually saw the royal order. As it has been mentioned in the brief history of the Hakimis on this site, Mirza Mahmoud and his nephew Ibrahim - who later took over his title and became one of the leaders of the constitutional movement - were actively working for democracy within the Court. Mirza Mahmoud Khan was part of Mozzafar-e-Din Shah's entourage on two state visits to Europe in 1900 and 1902. Some photos of the visits are available on the right. He held a number of ministerial posts but he was mainly known as Minister of Court
and it was in this role that in 1900 he was honoured by the Shah and given the title Grand Vazir.
Assassination Attempt Foiled By Minister Of Court
Mozzafar-e-Din Shah's European tour of 1900 is quite interesting as his state visit to France coincided with the Paris Exhibition of 1900. During his stay in France, the Shah was invited by the French Foreign Secretary to visit the magnificent Versailles Palace.
At this time the anarchist movement in Europe had mounted a violent campaign of terror. Only days before the attempt on Shah's life the King Humbert of Italy was assassinated by an anarchist. On Thursday August 1st, 1900 as the Shah started the journey from his Hotel to Versailles, a young French anarchist tried to assassinate the Shah by jumping on the open carriage carrying the Shah, the prime minister, Mirza Mahmound Khan and a French General assigned to attend to the Shah. Mirza Mahmoud Khan foiled the attempt by deflecting the weapon and disarming the assassin by squeezing the gun out of his hand. A fascinating account of the incident is given by Mozzafar-e-Din Shah himself in his travel diaries, the relevant excerpts are provided here (19).
The weekly Keyhan in London issue 844 of February 21, 2001 published an article giving the account of the above incident published in a French magazine of the time. The author Atta Ayeti included excerpts of articles about the state visit and the assassination attempt that appeared in the French media. The sketch of the incident by a French painter form the French magazine Illustrated Life is shown above. But the versions by the Shah and the Police Officer in charge of protecting him are more accurate (19). The Shah later forgave the assassin and did not press charges.
As a close advisor to Mozzafar-e-Din Shah, Mirza Mahmoud influenced appointment of prime ministers (15) and even the selection of Mozzafar-e-Din Shah's son Mohammad Ali Mirza as the Crown Prince in 1895/6 (14). Little did he know how his help to reappoint Mirza Ali Asghar Amin-ol-Sultan as Mozzafar-e-Din Shah's prime minister would have such fatal consequences for himself. The story is narrated below. Both men are present in most of the photos usually flanking the Shah.
In the early part of Mozzafar-e-Din Shah's reign (1897) Mirza Mahmoud Khan supported the Qajar Prince Farmanfarma's efforts to have the highly ambitious prime minister Mirza Ali Asghar Khan Amin-ol-Sultan Atabak (later given the title Atabak Azam) removed from power according to memoirs of one of the senior Qajar Courtiers amongst other sources. Doostmohamad Khan Moayer al-Mamalek had tried to warn the prime minister (Amin-ol-Sultan) as they were friends and were related through his son's marriage to Amin-ol-Sultan's daughter. He sent the prime minister a note but the conceited prime minister wrote back saying that a bamboo strong enough to make the pen to write his order of dismissal had not yet been planted, after he lost his position, Moyaerie wrote back saying there was no need for a bamboo pen as they (the Shah & his opponents) already had a pen made of steel!
The Moayerie memoirs give an incredible insight into the politics within the Qajar inner circle, as one has to bear in mind that one does not have the same quality of historical records under absolute monarchies or dictatorships as it is available for democracies. It was very unusual for anyone involved in government to record their diaries. The traditional histories therefore leave many questions unanswered often unable to get to the truth because of all the propaganda, rumours, and innuendos used by the governments, political parties or influential people to discredit each other. The Moayeries are one of the oldest Iranian families who were first given the title Moayer Bashi (Head Treasurer) during the Safavi period and the title Moyaer al-Mamalek (Treasurer to all the lands in the Kingdom) by the great king Nader Shah Afshar. It is already mentioned that often the noble titles and the post associated with the title went from one generation to the next in Iran. Unlike Europe where the nobility had hereditary rights to their property and position, in the East this was completely the Shah's prerogative, making the people around the kings more competitive, less secure and consequently the politics volatile. The Moayeries were also known for their love of arts, with many poets, painters and calligraphers among them to the present day. The memoirs mostly concern Doostali Khan's father Doostmohammad Moayer al-Mamalek and his contemporaries. He was Nasser-e-Din Shah's brother in law whose famous marriage ceremony to the Shah's sister Essmat-o-Doleh lasted 7 days and nights! Despite his position in the court, he shunned politics and ended the family's traditional role as the kings treasurer. But he was still a member of the inner circle of the Nasserie and Mozzafarie periods. According to his memoirs he was especially good friends with Mirza Mahmoud. As it has already been mentioned he was also related to Amin-ol-Sultan and a good friend.
Getting back to the narrative, the Shah appointed the honest and progressive Mirza Ali Khan Amin-o-Doleh as his prime minister. Amin-o-Doleh's past achievements included establishment of a reliable postal system in Iran similar to the European system. the first Sugar factory/refinery and the first safety match manufacturing plant in Iran. However he failed in his attempts to implement the reforms that Mozzafar-e-Din Shah had promised or seemingly wanted mainly because of the Shah's own weak character, interference by the Russian Government who wanted the reinstatement of their man Amin-ol-Sultan and the Qajar family members opposed to him who with the backing of the previous Grand Vazir Amin-ol-Sultan fomented trouble, Qajar Prince Farmanfarma [yes, him again] who was telling the Shah his prime minister was looking to overthrow the monarchy in favour of a republic, and for his own lack of courage. He was finally dismissed by the Shah in 1899 after he failed to secure the loans the Shah wanted for his expenses and to visit Europe partly for medical reasons.
Amin-ol-Sultan in his bidding to return to power managed to get the backing of Moayer al-Mamalek. Doostmohammad Khan must have secured the backing of his friend Mirza Mahmoud Hakim-el-Molk as when the time came for the Shah to choose a prime minister after the departure of Amin-o-Doleh, the two of them hatched a plan to influence the outcome by exploiting the Shah's superstitions beliefs. The Shah wanted to seek divine guidance to approve his choice of prime minister, so they knew he was going to ask his guru Seyyed Bahrainie to perform an ancient Persian rite called an Estekhareh, whereby the stars were consulted using astrological charts to determine whether a task to be undertaken would be promising or ominous (the custom in old Persia was to consult the charts even for such simple tasks such as travelling or hunting or leaving the palace).
Shah's astrologer or holy man was briefed and he was to take his queue from Hakim-el-Molk. Moayer al-Mamalek gives a vivid account of his father's description of the actual scene (15). The guru was seated opposite the Shah, Moyarie behind him and Hakimi was seated behind the Shah. The Shah had three pieces of paper with the candidates' names which he drew in turn and gave to his astrologer his who had to predict whether the choice would be a lucky or successful one, how ridiculous that a leadership of a country was chosen using superstitious nonsense, Hakim-el-Molk then gave the appropriate signal to give a favourable response or not, by the movement of his head which could not be observed by the Shah. That is how Hakim-el-Molk helped appoint his future rival. Yet later something happens which soured the relationship between Hakim-el-Molk and Atabak. Moayer al-Mamalek does not give any reasons or explanations, he merely says they fell out before Shah's second trip to Europe in 1902. Atabak was extremely jealous and would not stand for anyone carrying more influence than himself. In addition he wanted and eventually got full control of the concessions given to foreign powers. We know from histories of the period that Atabak's continued concessions to the Russians caused a rift between the two men. Atabak secured loans for the Persian Government to pay for Shah's trips to Europe from the Russians. These measures very unpopular with the people of Iran. The British were very obviously unhappy for their own reasons and gave active support to the opposition by the clergy. The Russians understandably tried to tarnish the patriotic leaders as agents or sympathisers of the British. This is how both colonial powers made it impossible for anyone to distinguish between genuine patriots and those in their employ.
According to Kasravi (13) who reports the differences between Hakim-el-Molk and the prime minister Amin-ol-Sultan Atabak came to a head during Mozzafar-e-Din Shah's second tour of Europe in 1902, to the extent that their open disagreement were reported in the European press. Kasravi saw the above as yet another discord between the Qajar elite divided into Anglophile and Russophile camps. Yet he offers no evidence to support the allegation against Hakimi other than repeating the prevalent rumours. In fact, ever since the same innuendo has unjustly been used against Hakimis. Amin-ol-Sultan as a servant of Qajars was merely doing the bidding for his masters to keep his post. During the Nasserie reign he administered the sale of all tobacco rights to an English company for Nasser-e-Din Shah. In fact it was the Qajar Kings' themselves who were pro Russian and increasing relied on the powerful northern neighbour. So much so that the only credible army at the beginning of the new century in Iran was the Persian Coassack Brigade (later Mohammad Ali Shah proved the above point by having the Russian led brigade bombard the Parliament). From 1885 the Qajar Kings were guarded by the cossack brigade, Turkish [Azarie] speaking soldier trained and commanded by Russian officers, who were not responsible only to the Shah but the Russian Viceroy of the Caucasus! (16) The clergy accused Mozzafar-e-Din Shah and Atabak of selling 'the government and faith of Persia to the Christians by their own whim and caprice'. The Qajars had become so pro Russian that the British turned to the clergy (hence their behind the scenes support for the 1906 Revolution, a fact that the nationalists often choose to ignore). This still exists in the Persian psyche today which is one reason why some Persians believe the British were behind the clergy today - the 1979 Revolution). The enmity between Hakimi and Atabak was more complex than Kasravi's simplistic explanation and had its roots in the complex politics of the Court itself.
Kasravi mainly quoting from Kermanie's history of the 1906 revolution says, upon returning to Iran after the 1902 tour, Atabak discovered a conspiracy by some members of the clergy and some powerful courtiers in his absence and set about getting rid of all opposition. He had Mirza Mahmoud moved away from Teheran and the court by having him appointed as Governor of Gilan (northern province on the Caspian coast). Shortly after taking up his post in Gilan, in early September of 1903 (18) Mirza Mahmoud died unexpectedly in suspicious circumstances. He also says that at the time it was thought that Hakim-el-Molk was poisoned on the orders of Atabak. Hence the Persian saying: If it is death you desire, go to Gilan, which is somewhat unfair to this most beautiful province.
In his well known history of the 1906 revolution (14), the historian Kermanie describes how Amin-ol-Sultan confident of the Court's dependence on him no longer courted the clergy and members of Qajar family whom he had previously cultivated as political allies by providing them with financial assistance or positions. The latter turned on him and started criticising him at every opportunity, During his absence in Europe, they wrote to the senior clerics and criticised the prime minister's role in increasing public borrowing by the government to pay for the Shah's trip. A number of the senior clergy and courtiers met in secret and wrote a manifesto to unite under and work to overthrow Amin-ol-Sultan. They were betrayed by Eqbal-o-Doleh Kashanie one of the courtiers, who gave a copy of the manifesto to the prime minister after the latter had returned to Iran, making a feeble excuse to his co-conspirators, saying that he had lost his papers during a pilgrimage to a religious site on the outskirts of Teheran and the person who had returned the papers must have passed photographs of the papers to Amin-ol-Sultan.
The prime minister immediately set about distinguishing the conspiracy by bribery, setting the conspirators against each other and removing as many as their sympathisers in the court as he could either sending them to exile or discrediting them. Even though Hakim-el-Molk was on the same European tour and was not involved in the above, the prime minister was not about to take any chances and used the above to remove Hakim-el-Molk from the court. Kermanie says that "he forced poor Hakim-el-Molk who was the Shah's doctor, the Surgeon General of the country, Secretary of State for The Imperial Court and Shah's companion to accept the post of Governor of Gilan. Shortly after taking up his post in Rasht [the city of Rasht, capital of the Gilan province] that he died suddenly, either it was an unexpected death or he was poisoned. One of his special [close or long serving] servants and one his friends who was a close advisor also died suddenly of the same symptoms. It is for this reason that one can say Hakim-el-Molk was poisoned. The above caused those who opposed the prime ministers with the exception of Mr Tabatabie to either desist or stay silent." Kermanie then quotes a poem:
"If the price is my head, I will not forget my promise Lest my epitaph would be: he sacrificed his loyalty to save his head"
In a different part of the history (page 130) Kermanie actually uses the term murder in reference to Hakim-el-Molk's death. Edward Granville Browne, the famous orientalist, who was studying Iran and later became Professor of Persian Studies in University of Cambridge, wrote the following in his history of the Persian Revolution (18): "On 15th September 1903 the hatred of the populace [of the prime minister] reached so high that Amin-ol-Sultan resigned his post as prime minister. Five care-taker ministers where chosen and in the following week, Ein-o-Doleh the grand son of Fat-h Ali Shah was appointed minister of interior. About two week prior, at the beginning of September, Shah's favourite doctor who is reputed to be an Anglophile, died in Rasht at the same time as one of his close servants and their death has caused a lot of suspicion, the majority believing that his arch rival Amin-ol-Sultan had somehow arranged to have him poisoned".
There is no explanation anywhere of why the Shah let his doctor, trusted aide and confidante to be so easily removed. Amin-ol-Sultan's treatment of Hakim-el-Molk probably was a result of Atabak's extremely suspicious nature which according to Moyarie caused him to look for allies in the court who turned out to be his true enemies. According to Moayerie, the same courtiers "led by Sardar Afkham and Prince Ein-o-Doleh were scheming day and night to have Hakim-el-Molk removed". Ein-o-Doleh was sidelined by Atabak and he carried a grudge. He also wanted very much to be prime minister and later became the main beneficiary of these events as he succeeded Amin-ol-Sultan. Moayerie who was friends with both Atabak and Hakim-el-Molk, had tried to warn Atabak as he had tried once before. He was hoping this time to prevent Atabak from committing a grave mistake (to remove Hakimi from the Court) but as before Atabak did not heed his advice. Moyarie had correctly deduced that Atabak was playing into the hands of other, serious and dangerous, enemies in the Court.
His son relates the following story from that time. Hakim-el-Molk threw a big party before he left Teheran. All the princes, courtiers and senior government officials attended the party. Moayer, Hakimi and another senior courtier were sitting together in a corner of the huge garden talking when Atabak arrived in his carriage, after making his rounds, Atabak approached the three friends who had stood up as a sign of respect. He then asked Moayer: "Lord Moayer [khan-e-Moayer] what were you discussing?" Moyarie who was upset with Atabak for his lack of judgment and broken promises, answered sharply without thinking: "We were discussing the same subjects as the one which we have advised you many times which you chose to ignore!". Atabak was offended by the tone and bluntness of his answer and quickly withdrew to the main marquee.
The enemies of Atabak and Hakim-el-Molk succeeded in setting the two men against each other and managed to get one of them killed and the other to be rightly or wrongly blamed for his death thereby killing two birds with the same stone. Seven generations earlier, political intrigues in the court of the Turco-Persian rulers of India cost Mohammad Davoud Hakim his life as a result of his loyalty to JahanShah.
Mirza Mahmoud's Family Tree And Timeline
Mirza Mahmoud Khan, Hakim
el Molk, married
daughter of Kazem Tehranchi
|Hejri Solar (Iranian)||Hejri Lunar||Georgian|
|First Title Physicain to Crown prince Moshir-ol-Hokama||1304||1887|
|Is given the Hakim-el-Molk tiltle and Chief Physician to the Shah (Raess- ol-Otaba)||1312||1895|
|Minister of Construction||1314||1896|
|He is decorated by the Shah for his services to the Crown. And he is given the title Grand Vazir||1315||1898|
|Becomes Minister of Treasury responsible for coinage and money supply||1316||1899|
|Minister of Court||1317||1900|
|Death||23rd Mordad 1282||1321||15/08/1903|