Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiari
Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiari (Isfahan, Iran, June 22, 1932 - Paris, France, October 25, 2001) was the second wife of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. During her marriage, she was known as Queen Soraya; the title of "empress" was not used in Iran at that time.
She was the only daughter of Khalil Esfandiary Bakhtiari a notable of the Bakhtiari tribe and Ambassador of Iran to the Federal Republic of Germany, and his Russian-born German wife, Eva Klein ; she had one brother, Bijan Esfandiary Bakhtiari.
At the age of 17, the green-eyed Soraya, an Ava Gardner lookalike, married the Shah at Golestan Palace in Tehran on February 12, 1951 and was divorced by him on April 6, 1958, when it became apparent that she could not bear children. A weeping Shah announced their divorce to the Iranian people. The headline-making divorce inspired French songwriter Françoise Mallet-Jorris to write a pop song, "Je Veux Pleurer Comme Soraya" (I Want to Cry Like Soraya).
Granted the title Her Imperial Highness the Princess Soraya of Iran, she moved to France and launched a brief career as a film actress. She starred in the 1965 movie "Three Faces of a Woman" and became amorously engaged with its Italian director Franco Indovina (1932-1972). After Indovina's death in a plane crash, she spent the remainder of her life unhappily, by her own admission, wandering through Europe, buying antiques and couture, appearing at social events in a desultory fashion, and generally becoming known as a serious depressive.
Princess Soraya died of natural causes at age 69 and is buried in Munich, Germany. In 2002, her tomb was defaced with the words "miserable parasite," followed by the phrase "Didn't work from the ages of 25 to 60." The vandalism made headlines throughout Europe.
Upon learning of her death, her brother, who died one week after Soraya, sadly commented, "After her, I don't have anyone to talk to." Since Soraya's death, several young women have come forward claiming to be her illegitimate daughter, reportedly born in 1962, according to the Iranian newspaper Nimrooz ; the claims have not been confirmed.
Princess Soraya wrote a memoir of her tragic life, "The Palace of Solitudes" (1991).
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