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

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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.

In the courtyard of the restored Ottoman-era military college, a 1932 black Rolls Royce gleams almost as brightly as it would have when it was given to King Ghazi. Next to it was a silver 1936 Mercedes presented by Hitler to the king.

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