Asian Royalty: Jordan's Hashemite Monarchy

The modern Kingdom of Jordan has dates it history to World War I and the post-war settlement. For most of its history since independence from British administration in 1946, Jordan was ruled by King Hussein. King Hussein bin Talal claimed to be the 42nd generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the male line of the Prophet's grandson Al-Hassan.A pragmatic ruler, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major world powers, Arab states of widely varing politics, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population, through several wars and coup attempts. Few in 1953 thought he would succeed. He not only succeeded, but has introduced a level of dmocracy to Jordon unusual for the Middle East. He resumed parliamentary elections in 1989 and has gradually permitted political liberalization. He signed a formal peace treaty was signed with Israel in1994. Prince Abdallah, the eldest son of King Hussein and Princess Muna, assumed the throne following his father's death in February 1999. King Abdallah II has since consolidated his power and established his own domestic priorities. He appears to be continuing the democratic, moderate policies of his father.


Jordan is a small Arab country with inadequate supplies of water and other natural resources such as oil. The Persian Gulf crisis, which began in August 1990, aggravated Jordan's already serious economic problems.

Jordan is a very modern creation. Before the Emirate in 1921, there was no such country a Jordan. It was an artificial political entity. No one in the area had ever thought of themselves as Jordanians. The inhabitants of northern Jordan traditionally associated with Syria, those of southern Jordan associated with the Arabian Peninsula, and those of western Jordan identified with Palestinians in the West Bank. The area that now constitutes Jordan in 2000 had traditionally served as a kind of buffer zone between the more settled tribes living to the west of the Jordan River as far as the Mediterranean Sea and the more nomadic tribes roaming the trackless desert to the east of the Jordan River. Over the centuries, the area has formed part of various empires; among these are the Assyrian, Achaemenid, Macedonian, Nabataean, Ptolemaic, Roman, Ghassanid, Muslim, Crusader, and Ottoman empires. There is still a string feeling among Jordanians and other Arabs for a united Arab nation.

Historical Backgroud

The modern Kingdom of Jordan has dates it history to World War I and the post-war settlement. The Arabs which had been a people of little importance ithin the Ottomon Empire appeared as significant force during World War I. They sought independence by allying themselves with the British. A British officer and classical scholar, T.E. Lawrence, helped them perfect their effective guerilla tatics. The Amirate of Transjordan under Abdullah of the Hashimite was created in 1921. The British in forming Transjordan, divided their League of Nation's Palestine Mandate by dividing it along the Jordan River-Gulf of Aqaba line.

World War I

The Arabs during World War I joined the British in their war against the the Ottomans Turks. The British in Egypt faced the Turks across the Suez Canal. The Arab revolt which began in ernest during 1916. The British sent an idealistic young offcer who had studied the Arabs, the fabled Colonel T.E. Lawrence, the famed Lawrence of Arabia. The Arabs with Lawrence used guerilla tactics to cut the Hejaz railway. The Arab army led by Prince Faysal ibn Husayn (of the Hashemite dynasty) captured al-'Aqabah in July 1917 and by October 1918 Amman and Damascus were in Allied hands.

Post-World War I settlement

The Allies instead of recognizing an Arab state proceeded to carve out protectorates. In 1920 the Conference of San Remo (Italy) created two mandates, allotting the one over Palestine to Great Britain and the one over Syria to France. This act effectively separated the area now covered by Israel and Jordan from that of Syria. The Emirate of Transjordan under Abdullah of the Hashimite was created in 1921. The British in forming Transjordan, divided their League of Nation's Palestine Mandate by dividing it along the Jordan River-Gulf of Aqaba line. Transjordan's creation reflected in large measure a compromise settlement by the Allied Powers after World War I that attempted to reconcile Zionist and Arab aspirations in the area. Britain assumed a mandate over Palestine and Iraq, while France became the mandatory power for Syria and Lebanon. In a British government memorandum of 1922, approved by the League of Nations Council, Jewish settlement in Transjordan was specifically excluded.

Jordanian Monarchs

The relatively limited history of modern Jordon leaves of with only a few national leaders leading to the kings of the modern state.

Sharif Hussein bin Ali

The Emir of Mecca, Sharif Hussein's two sons, Faysal and Abdullah, played a key role in the founding of modern Jordon. Sharif Hussein ibn Ali , King of the Hijaz until 1924 , was a key player in the Great Arab Revolt. The father of Jordan's first king, Abdullah inb Hussein, Sharif Hussein was burried in Beit el Maqdis in Jarusalem , a city which he held particularly dear.


Prince Abdullah in November 1920, Faysal's brother, arrived in Ma'an, then part of the Hejaz, with 2,000 armed supporters intent on raising the tribes to attack the French, who had forced Faysal to relinquish his newly founded kingdom in Syria. By April 1921, however, the British had prevailed upon Abdullah to take over as ruler of what then became known as Transjordan. Effectively, Turkish rule in Transjordan was simply replaced by British rule. The mandate, confirmed by the League of Nations in July 1922, gave the British virtually a free hand in administering the territory, although in September 1922 it was explicitly excluded from the clauses regarding the establishment of "a Jewish national home" and was closed to Jewish immigration. Jordon achieved full independence was achieved after World War II by a treaty concluded in London on March 22, 1946, and on May 25 Abdullah proclaimed himself king. Throughout the interwar years Abdullah had been dependent on British financial support. He also was assisted by them in the formation of an elite force, the Arab Legion, which was commanded and trained by British officers but staffed with Bedouin troops. On May 15, 1948, the day after the Jewish Agency proclaimed the independent state of Israel and immediately after the British withdrew from their Palestine mandate, Transjordan joined its Arab neighbours in the first Arab-Israeli war sending the Arab Legion across the Jordan River. When the Jordan-Israel armistice was signed on April 3, 1949, the West Bank and East Jerusalem came under Jordanian rule. The half-million Transjordanians were joined by almost half a million more Palestinian Arabs. This territory was formally annexed by the kingdom in April 1950. The incorporation of the West Bank, with 400,000 Palestinians, into Jordan, as well as a large refugee population that, on the whole, was hostile to the Hashemite regime, brought with them severe economic and political consequences. Abdullah was assassinated at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on July 20, 1951, by a young Palestinian frustrated by the king's hostility to Palestinian nationalist aspirations. His grandson Hussein was by his side.

Figure 2.--King Hussein and his younger brothers Hassan and Mohamed.


Talal was King Abullah's son. We have no information on his childhood. King Talal had three sons. He instilled in his sons the need for humility and empathy in a monarch. The home in which King Hussein was born was a modest one in the center of modern residential Amman. Talal's sons included: Hussein, Hassan, and Mohammed. Talal, who succeeded him, was according to Hashemite family sources popular with his citizens as the initiator of the second Jordanian constitution, the basis for the present system of democracy. The actual situation was considerably different. King Talal was declared unfit to rule by parliament because of mental illness after reigning only one year (in August 1952). Talal abdicated in favour of his eldest son, Hussein ibn-Talal, who was crowned king on his 18th birthday, on May 2, 1953.

King Hussein

From his youth, when his grandfather, Abdullah, was gunned down at his side in Jerusalem Hussein's life has been a dramatic one. Hussein ibn Talal, is the third king of Jordan. Hussein assumed his constitutional powers as king on reaching the tender age of 18 on May 2nd 1953. Hussein was at the helm of Jordan and at the heart of Middle Eastern affairs for 50 years. Hussein was born in Amman on November 14, 1935. Despite being a prince, he grew in rather strained circumstances. Hussein as a boy he appears to have primarily worn English-syle clothes. This included short pants suits. His Grandfather the King arranged for him to attend Victoria College (a secondary school) in Alexandria Egypt. It was at the time the Arab worlds primier secondary school. He also attended Harrow, an English Public school to give him a grounding in both Arab and Western culture. He also spent 6 months at Sanhurst, the English military acrdemy. Prince Hussein was at his grandfather's side when the kong was shot to death at Jersalem's al-Aqsa mosque in 1951. A bullet also struck the prince. It was, however, deflected by a medal on his uniform that the king had insisted he wear. After his grandfather's assasination, his father Talal was ceowned king. Talal's memtal illness forced him to abdicate after a year at in 1953 at the age of 17 Hussein became king. The new king faced his first political crisis on May 4th 1954, when he dismissed his first prime minister at the age of 19. Another early act was in 1956 when he dismissed Glubb Pasha. He then survived a coup by radical Aran nationlist Army officers opposed to the king's moderate policies. King Hussein has had been married four times, once to an Englishwoman and most recently to an American, Queen Noor. His relationship with his four wives has been uneven at best. King Hussein had 11 children, 5 sons and 6 daughters. His eldestson was Abdulah born in 1963. King Hussein has been described as a macho man. Although widely admired in the West, he is a strongman, albeit a benevolent one, at home. He is one of the longest serving heads of state. Among world's heads of state and government, only Queen Elizabeth II held office longer. King Hussein has survived attempts on his life and in August 1998 was revealed to be battling cancer for the second time. In late October he was reported to have only 3 months to live. King Hussein was succededed by his eldest son Abdulah after a long struggle with cancer.

Figure 3.--King Hussein's sons Abdulah and Faisal at an English prep school.

Abdullah II

Prince Abdullah was a dashing army officer, King Hussein's eldest son. His mother was the daughter of a British diplomat who his father has since divorced. Abdullah and his younger brother Faisal studied abroad as a child. Prince Abdullah went at age of 4 to St. Edmundís School in Surrey, England. He finished high school in the United States. He studied international affairs at Oxford University in England and Georgetown University in Washington. Abdullah went to the British military academy at Sandhurst in 1980 and served in the British army in Germany and Britain. He served with a variety of Jordanian army and air force units before being appointed deputy commander of the Special Forces in 1993. He assumed command a year later. He is married to a Jordanian of Palestinian origins. Abdulah was a Major General and leads a special unit in charge of palace security. He does not have the experience of his brother, but he has his father's carisma and more importantly his ties with the Army were probably critical in the succession. His father dramtically announced a change in the assumed succession in January 1999, replacing his brother with Abdullah. Abdullah has one son, Hussein. King Abdallah II has since consolidated his power and established his own domestic priorities. He appears to be continuing the democratic, moderate policies of his father. He has focused on efforts to bring the Syrians and the Israelis together. According to a report in Janeís Foreign Report, Abdullah could be merely a placeholder king. Unconfirmed reports said that Abdullah promised his father he would turn the crown over to another of Husseinís sons, Hamza.

Prince Hamza bin Hussein

King Abdulah's eldest son is Crown Prince Hamza bin Hussein. We do not yet have much information about the Prince. We do know that the Prince married Princess Noor on May 27, 2004.


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Created: June 6, 1998
Last updated: 9:17 PM 12/27/2008