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Decades after king's toppling, Iraq revisits its royal history

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In the photographs, Iraq’s last king is eternally young – both the boy and the country at an age where everything seemed new and full of promise. In some photos, he poses delightedly in the new motor-cars, which were still sharing the roads with horse-drawn carriages. In others he’s a young boy playing football with his friends or fixing his bike.  

Faisel II was only three years old when his father, King Ghazi, was killed in a car crash. He ascended the throne when he was 18 and reigned for just five years before he was killed in the revolution that ended the British-backed monarchy.

Class differences still resonate

In an era in which Iraq’s oil industry was in its infancy, the royal family lived a life of privilege but not opulence.  But for some, the class differences that helped spark the revolution still resonate.

“We were dying from hunger, we had nothing, we were barefoot. Go back to the monarchy? Never! ” says Baghdad resident Kadhim al-Uqali, before launching into a nationalist poem. Mr. Uqali says he was given a pair of shoes by the king after ranking first in his class.

The revolution paved the way for a republic later headed by Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Until Mr. Hussein was toppled in 2003, the only portrait it was safe to hang was his own.

First public display of royal life

The exhibit at a cultural center on al-Mutanabi street was the first time Iraqis have seen royal life displayed in public.

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