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Persia Revisited by Thomas Edward Gordon

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ten miles from the town. The Court, the city notables, and the foreign
legations, with everyone who desires to be fashionable, and can afford
the change, reside there during the warm months--June, July, August and
September. The whole place may be described as the summer suburb of the
capital, and there is great going to and fro.

I have already mentioned the Russian road now under construction from
the Caspian Sea base to Kasvin, with the object of enabling Russian
trade to command more thoroughly the Tehran market. The total distance
from the coast to the capital is two hundred miles. There is an
old-established caravan track over easy country, from Kasvin to Hamadan
in the south--west, distant about one hundred and fifty miles. It has
lately been announced that the Russian Road Company has obtained a
concession to convert this track into a cart-road in continuation of
that from Resht. It is seen that with improved communication Russian
trade may be made to compete successfully at Hamadan, which is only
about fifty miles further from the Caspian Sea base than Tehran, and
there will also be the advantage of a return trade in cotton from
Central Persia, as Armenian merchants now export it to Russia from as
far South as Isfahan and Yezd. The German road from Baghdad to Tehran
will be met at Hamadan.

Kermanshah and Hamadan, through which the German road will pass, are
both busy centres of trade in districts rich in corn, wool, and wine.
They are also meeting-points of the great and ever-flowing streams of
pilgrims to Kerbela _via_ Baghdad, said to number annually about one
hundred thousand. This has been a popular pilgrim route, as well as
trade route, for centuries, and with greater facilities on an improved
road the traffic is certain to increase.

It is said that the alignment of the Russian road from Resht is to be
made in view of a railway in the future. The same will probably be done
in the Hamadan extension, and it is believed that the German road will
be similarly planned. All this would mean that behind the concessions
are further promises for the time when railway construction comes.
Looking into the dim distance, the eye of faith and hope may see the
fulfilment of railway communication from India to Europe by a connection
between the Quetta or Indus Valley line and Kermanshah.

This brings us to the agreement of 1890 between Persia and Russia to
shut out railways till the end of the century. This agreement, when made
known, was regarded as proof of a somewhat barbarian policy on the part
of Russia, unwilling or unable herself to assist in opening up Persia
and improving the condition of the country. But there is some reason for
the idea that the Shah himself was ready to meet the Russian request, so
as to keep back the railway which he feared would soon connect his
capital with the Caucasus. There was much railway talk in Persia in
1890, and Russia knew that it would take quite ten years to complete her
railway system up to the Northern frontiers of Persia and Afghanistan.
The railway now being made from Tiflis to Alexandropol and Kars will
probably send out a line down the fertile valley of the Aras to Julfa,
ready for extension across the Persian frontier to Tabriz, and a branch
may be pushed forward from Doshakh, or Keribent, on the Trans-Caspian
railway, to Sarakhs, where Russia, Persia, and Afghanistan meet, to
facilitate trade with Herat as well as Meshed. In the meanwhile also the
cart-roads, ready for railway purposes if wanted, from the Caspian Sea
base to Kasvin, Tehran, and Hamadan, will be completed.

Russia insisted on regarding the opening of the Karun to the navigation
of the world as a diplomatic victory for England, and a distinct
concession to British commerce, which is predominant in the South. She
therefore thought out well what to get from the Shah in return, to
favour her commercial policy in the North, and the ten years'
prohibition of railways was the result. Russia desires commercial
predominance in Persia just as England does, and she will use all the
influence which her dominating close neighbourhood gives to obtain the
utmost favour and facilities for her trade.

While Russia and England were thus engaged in strong commercial rivalry,
Germany unexpectedly made her appearance in the Western region of
Central Persia, where their competition meets. Nor has Persia been idle
in trading enterprise; her merchants are not only aiming at getting more
exclusively into their own hands the interior commerce of the country,
but they have established direct relations with firms in foreign
countries, and now work in active competition with the European houses
which in old days had almost all the export and import trade in their
own hands. The introduction of the Imperial Bank of Persia has given an
impetus to this new spirit of native enterprise by affording facilities
which before were not available on the same favourable terms. The Nasiri
Company, a mercantile corporation of Persians, was formed in 1889 to
trade on the Karun, and it commenced operations with two small steamers.
Later, a third steamer was added, and they are now negotiating for the
purchase of a fourth. They have a horse tramway, about one and a half
miles long, to facilitate the necessary transhipment of cargo between
the upper and lower streams, where the Ahwaz Rapids break the river
navigation. This trading corporation has strong support, and the Persian
Government is earnest in giving it every assistance, so that it may
develop into an effectual agency for the revival of the prosperity which
made the Karun Valley in old times what the Nile Valley is now.

Messrs. Lynch Brothers also run a large steamer on the Lower Karun in
connection with a 'stern-wheeler' (Nile boat pattern) on the upper
stream, and between them and the Nasiri Company a regular and quick
communication is maintained between Bombay and Shuster. One of the
articles of import at the latter place is American kerosene-oil for lamp
purposes, to take the place of the Shuster crude petroleum, said to have
been used there for centuries. This petroleum contains an unusual amount
of benzine, and being highly explosive in lamps, the Shuster people, who
can afford to pay for the safer substance, have taken to American oil.
The Shuster petroleum-springs belong to a family of Syuds in the town,
and did not fall within the field of the Persian Mines Corporation.
These oil-springs may yet become the object of practical operations
should the Nasiri Company develop the resources of the Karun Valley.

Belgium has also taken an active interest in Persia lately, the tramway
company, and the glass manufactory at Tehran, and the beet-sugar factory
in the vicinity, having all been established with Belgian capital; and
Holland, who is believed to be seeking an opening in Persia, may find
her opportunity in the Karun Valley irrigation works. The creation of
strong international interests in Persia should have the best effect in
strengthening her national independence, developing her natural
resources, and introducing good government. And the peaceful succession
of the lawful heir to the throne should go far to carry the country
forward in the path of progress and prosperity. It is evident that the
strong sentiment attaching to the late Shah's long and peaceful reign,
and the popular feeling of loyalty to him which influenced the people,
has had the effect of enforcing the royal will in favour of the heir
legitimately appointed by Nasr-ed-Din Shah.


The reigning family of Persia are the hereditary chiefs of the royal
Kajar tribe, and still preserve the customs of that position. They have
not changed the manly habits of a warlike race for the luxury and
lethargy which sapped the energies and ruined the lives of so many
monarchs of Persia. Up to the time of the present ruling dynasty the
princes of the blood were immured in the harem, where their education
was left to women and their attendants, and until the death of the King
his destined successor was not known. At that period the son of the
lowest slave in the harem was deemed equally eligible to succeed to the
throne with the offspring of the proudest princess who boasted the
honour of marriage with the Sovereign. And similarly as in the West,
up to about four hundred years ago, the Crown was generally made secure
by murder, every actual or possible rival for the throne being blinded
or removed from the scene. This was the practice of the Soffivean
dynasty, which preceded the Kajar. But with the change which then took
place, this hideous practice disappeared, and usages more congenial to
the feelings of the military tribes which support the throne were
established. Under the late Shah the princes of the blood were employed
in the chief governments of the country, and exercised all the powers
and responsibilities of office.

Persia may be described as a theocratic democracy under an absolute
monarchy. There is no hereditary rank but that of royal birth, and that
of the chiefs of the military tribes, who may be regarded as a military
aristocracy; but there is a system of life titles which secure to the
holders certain privileges and immunities, and are much prized. The
titles are nominally descriptive of some personal quality, talent, or
trust, such as Councillor of the State, Confidant of the King, Trusted
of the Sultan; they are also bestowed upon ladies in high position. The
name of an animal is never introduced into the title; at least, I have
only heard of one instance to the contrary in modern times. An
individual of European parentage was recommended to the late Shah's
notice and favour by his Persian patrons, and they mentioned his great
wish to be honoured with a title. His Majesty, who had a keen sense of
humour, observed the suggestive appearance of the candidate for honours,
and said, 'Well, he is Hujabr-i-Mulk' (the Lion of the Country). The new
noble was ready with his grateful thanks: 'Your sacred Majesty, may I be
thy sacrifice;' but he added in a subdued tone, 'A lion requires at
least a lamb a day.' The Shah laughed at the meaning speech, and said,
'Let him have it.' The granting of a title does not give any emolument
unless specially directed. As a precedent for this title, the Shah may
have had in his mind the story of Ali Kuli Khan, one of the favourites
of Shah Suliman. During the reign of Shah Abbas this chief was generally
in prison, except when his services were required against the enemies of
his country. This had gained for him the name of the Lion of Persia, as
men said that he was always chained except when wanted to fight.

The Shah can raise whomsoever he chooses from the lowest to the highest
position or post, except in the most powerful of the nomad tribes, where
the nomination to chieftainship is confined to the elders of the leading
families, who generally represent two lines from one head, one being in
the opposition when the other is in power. The chieftain of a clan
considers himself superior in real rank to the most favoured Court
title-holder, and the chiefs of the military tribes may be termed the
hereditary nobility of Persia. The monarch may, by his influence or
direct power, alter the succession, and place an uncle in the situation
of a nephew, and sometimes a younger brother in the condition of an
elder, but the leader of the tribe must be of the family of their chief.
The younger sons and nephews are enrolled in the royal guard, and the
Shah is thus enabled by judicious change and selection to keep his hold
upon the tribe. Change of chiefs is not always effected peacefully. The
wild tribesmen who, in feudal fashion, attach themselves as idle
men-at-arms to a popular leader are sometimes disinclined to accept his
fall from favour without an appeal to arms. But the royal authority
prevails in the end, and the new chiefs rule begins, and lasts just so
long as Fortune smiles and the Shah wills.

A marked instance of this was shown in July, 1892, when Jehan Shah
Khan-Ilbegi was deprived of the chieftaincy of the Afshar section of the
powerful Shahsevend tribe, who range from Ardebil to Tehran. The famous
Nadir Shah was originally a simple trooper of this tribe, and belonged
to the colony of it which was planted at Deregez on the Turkoman border.
The ostensible cause of the chiefs removal from power was that with his
own hands he had killed his wife, the sister of his cousin,
Rahmat-ulla-Khan, who was known to be his rival in the tribe for place
and power. Jehan Shah had unjustly accused her of being unfaithful to
him, and going to her house, he called her out, and, notwithstanding her
appearing with a copy of the Sacred Koran in her hand, shot her dead
while in the act of swearing on the holy book that she was innocent of
all guilt. Jehan Shah than went in search of the tribesman whom he
suspected of being her paramour, and killed him also. The matter was
reported to the Shah, then in camp in Irak, who ordered Jebam Shah to
be deprived of the chieftainship, and Rahmat-ulla-Khan to be appointed
Ilbegi in his place. It was further ordered that Jehan Shah should be
arrested and sent as a prisoner to Tehran. The Ihtisham-e-Dowleh-Kajar,
cousin of the late Shah and Governor of Khamseh, in which province Jehan
Shah was then located with his clan, was directed to carry out the royal

Much telegraphing had taken place on the subject, and as cipher was not
used, Jehan Shah, by means of money and influence, was able to obtain
the fullest information of all that passed, and as he was known to have
a numerous personal following armed with Peabody-Martini rifles, the
Governor was instructed to act with caution. He accordingly had recourse
to stratagem, and gave out that the object of his journey to the tribal
quarters was to coerce a section of the tribe which had been giving
trouble. He therefore asked Jehan Shah to assist him, and this gave the
chief a good excuse for assembling his men. The Prince Governor took
with him one hundred cavalry and four hundred infantry, but no attention
was paid to the ammunition, and they started without a proper supply.

Rahmat-ulla-Khan was fully aware of the Governor's real intentions, but
the influence and power of the popular chief prevented any partisan
gathering against him. He therefore could only depend upon the Persian
troops to enforce the order of the Shah, and was unable to do more than
prepare a reception tent and provide a luncheon for the Prince and his
people, about eight miles in advance of their camp, at a place appointed
for the meeting with himself and Jehan Shah. On approaching this place,
these two, with the elders and the tribesmen, went forward for the
customary ceremonial reception of the Governor. Jehan Shah dismounted
and saluted with the utmost show of respect; but on reaching the tent
which had been prepared for them by his rival, he declined to enter and
partake of his hospitality, declaring that he preferred to pass on to
his own tents, some distance off, his mounted following of fifteen
hundred men accompanying him. The Governor knew that Jehan Shah had
become dangerous from the devotion of his well-armed followers, and the
readiness of the main body of the fierce fighting tribesmen to support
him. He had evidently contemplated his arrest and seizure at the place
of meeting, but the show of force and feeling in Jehan Shah's favour was
too strong to admit of any such attempt. He therefore decided to declare
openly the object of his coming, and after lunch he assembled the elders
of the tribe, and summoned Jehan Shah to his presence, who, however,
declined to obey. The Prince on this announced his deposition, and the
appointment of Rahmat-ulla-Khan in his place, showing at the same time
the Shah's written commands. He then appears to have indulged in some
violent abuse of Jehan Shah, and again sent an order to secure his

In the meanwhile, that chief had taken counsel with his tribal
following, numbering about fifteen hundred, armed with breechloaders,
and finding them entirely on his side, and determined to dispute the
rule of his rival, he served out cartridges freely, and decided to
discuss the matter with the Governor. He left most of his men at some
distance, and presented himself attended by only a few. The Prince
informed him of the Shah's orders, and after some contentious talk, he
held out the royal firman for him or any of those with him to read. On
one of the elders moving forward to take the paper, Jehan Shah suddenly
motioned them all back with his hands, and the Prince, taking alarm at
this appearance of a signal, called out to his guards to seize Jehan
Shah. There was a shout and a rush, and some of Jehan Shah's men from
behind fired over the heads of the soldiers, who, however, returned the
fire point-blank, killing and wounding several of the Shahsevends. The
tribesmen then opened fire in earnest, and the Prince with his troops
promptly fled. All ran and rode for their lives, pursued by the furious
enemy. Some of the servants kept with their master, and remounted him
twice when the horses he rode were wounded and disabled. The tribesmen
are said to have made him a special target, for he was most conspicuous
in rich dress, and a third time he and his horse were rolled over
together, he receiving two bullet-wounds. He was then seized, partially
stripped, and treated with great indignity. The pursuit was kept up to
his camp, which was captured and plundered; thirty-five of his men were
killed, and fifty wounded. One of the Prince's officials, also
wounded, was taken with him, and both were kept prisoners for three


In the meantime Jehan Shah, having recovered from his mad fury, trembled
at the recollection of his crime, and dreading the vengeance which he
saw was certain to follow, he packed up his valuables and fled with a
few followers to the Caspian coast. He had the intention to escape by
steamer to Baku, but failing in this, owing to all communication with
Russian territory having been suspended during the outbreak of cholera
then prevailing, he determined to make his way by land across the
Northern frontier. Being closely pursued by a party of Persian cavalry,
he abandoned all his baggage, and with great difficulty reached Tabriz,
where he was constrained to take sanctuary in the house of the chief
Moulla. He died there after enduring existence for about six months
under circumstances and with surroundings which must have been supremely
hateful to him. I was at Tabriz in the end of 1892, while he was there,
and I was told by one who had seen him that he was a sad sight then, the
hereditary head of the Afshar Shahsevends, a section of a royal tribe,
herding in misery with a crowd of criminals seeking sanctuary in order
to avoid the avenger of blood. On the first news of the occurrence the
Shah ordered the immediate mobilization of the infantry regiments of
Khamseh and Kasvin, and this had the effect of dispersing the tribe,
facilitating the work of retribution, and establishing the power of the
new chief. This incident had the best political result in aiding the
Kajar policy of breaking up the ruling families and the cohesion of the
dangerous tribes, and asserting fully the authority of the Tehran
Central Government. Jehan Shah had gradually improved and strengthened
his position by increasing the superior armament of his tribesmen (who
were said to have three thousand breechloaders) and laying in a large
supply of cartridges, so that, with his wealth, influence, and
popularity, he must have been regarded as dangerously powerful. No doubt
the conceited confidence thus produced led him to indulge in the
ungovernable rage which wrecked his freedom and ended his life. The
tribesmen said that the wife whom he killed was truly innocent; but
being themselves men of wild ways and tempestuous temper, they thought
he had been harshly judged, and they therefore stood by him to resist
his seizure and deportation.

As in England four hundred years ago, every place of worship is a sacred
refuge; and the dwelling-house of the Chief Priest gives similar
protection. This right of sanctuary continues in force throughout
Persia; but to benefit by it for any length of time, money is very
necessary, for without such aid, or when the supplies fail, starvation
steps in to drive the refugee out. While in sanctuary, compromise and
arrangement may be effected, so that the fugitive may be allowed to go
unmolested, the relatives paying, or becoming 'bail' for, the
blood-money or compensation agreed upon. A fugitive from justice,
oppression, or revenge often claims the privilege of sanctuary in the
house or premises of a local dignitary of influence, whose house would
not be unceremoniously entered by pursuers, and this affords time either
to meet the demands or accusations made, or to escape to a safer place.

At Tehran there is a big gun, said to have been brought by Nadir Shah
from Delhi, and known as the Pearl Cannon. It is said to be so called
from having had a string of pearls hung on it near the muzzle when it
was on show in Imperial Delhi. This was probably the case, for we know
that heavy guns in India were regarded with a degree of respect and
reverence almost approaching worship. The gunners of the Maharajah
Runjeet Singh, the Lion of the Punjab, used to 'salaam' to their guns,
and to hang garlands of the sweet-scented _champak_ flower, which is
used in temples and at festivals, round the muzzles. The Pearl Cannon
occupies a prominent position close to the Shah's palace, and has always
been recognised as possessing a semi-sacred character, and giving the
right of sanctuary to those who touch it and remain by it.

I remember a regiment of infantry, represented by three hundred men who
were 'off duty' and available for the demonstration, claiming the
privilege of this great gun sanctuary after they had assailed the house
of their Colonel in order to wreak their vengeance on him, as he was
suspected of withholding their pay. The officer's servants were warned
in time, and closed the courtyard door, so that the rioters were unable
to enter; but they relieved their feelings by battering the door with
stones and damaging the Colonel's carriage, which they found outside.
Having thus created a great disturbance and excited considerable rumour,
they proceeded to the Pearl Cannon, and gave vent to their grievances in
loud cries, which reached the royal palace, on which the Shah,
Nasr-ed-Din, was made acquainted with all the facts, and caused the
soldiers' wrongs to be redressed. One of the charges against the Colonel
was that he had managed, by lending money to the men, to gain possession
of their village lands by unfair means--for he was a landlord in the
same district, and desired to add to his holding. The corps was the
Larajani territorial infantry battalion, and an English resident at
Tehran, who caught the name as Larry-Johnny, said the whole incident was
'quite Irish, you know.'


--The military tribes and the royal guard
--Men of the people as great monarchs
--Persian sense of humour
--Nightingales and poetry
--Legendary origin of the royal emblem
--Lion and Sun
--Ancient Golden Eagle emblem
--The Blacksmith's Apron the royal standard.

The warlike nomads form a most important part of the military strength
of Persia, and it has always been the policy of the Sovereign to secure
their personal attachment to him as the direct paramount chief of each
martial clan. In pursuance of this policy, the royal guard, known as
Gholam-i-Shah, or Slaves of the King, which protects and escorts the
Shah in camp and quarters, is mainly composed of bodies of horse
furnished from the best and most powerful of the military tribes. These
come from all quarters of the empire, and are headed and officered by
members of the most influential families, so that they may be regarded
as hostages for the loyalty and fidelity of the chiefs. All are changed
from time to time, and thus a system of short service prevails, to give
as many as possible a term of duty with the royal guard.

The term _gholam_, or slave, has always been given as a title to the
personal guards, and everyone who is admitted to the corps claims the
envied distinction of Gholam-i-Shah. This guard has a very ancient
origin, and service in it is highly prized as giving opportunities of
attracting the attention and gaining the favour of the King. The great
Sovereign Sabuktagin, who reigned in the tenth century, was said to have
risen from the ranks of the royal guard. All the couriers of the foreign
legations at Tehran are styled Gholam, and the title is accepted as an
honourable one, meaning a mounted servant of courage and trust, who is
ready to defend to the death all interests committed to his charge.

The total strength of 'the guard' is twelve hundred and fifty, of whom
two hundred are the elite, called _gholam peshkhidmet_ (personal
attendants) and mostly belong to the Kajar, the Shah's own tribe, with
which his Majesty always identified himself in the most public manner,
and thus made every man proud of his clanship with the King. I here
allude to the royal signature, 'Nasr-ed-Din, Shah, Kajar.' These
superior guardsmen have all the rank of gentleman, and may be called the
mounted 'gentlemen at arms' of the guard. They have the customary right
of appointment to Court and palace posts, such as door-keeper, usher,
messenger, etc. Their service is for life, and is hereditary, a son
succeeding his father, and taking his place in the guard when promotion,
age, illness, or death creates a vacancy. They have distinctive
horse-trappings with silver neck-straps, breastplates, and headstalls,
which pass from father to son, and have become highly prized heirlooms.
The Shah was most partial to the representative tribesmen of his guard,
and his happy characteristics as a King of nomadic taste and camp-like
ways, in familiar acquaintance with all about him, were well shown at a
military review which I witnessed at Tehran some years ago. The review
was a special one, held in honour of the Swedish officers deputed by
King Oscar II. of Norway and Sweden to convey the high order of the
Seraphin to his Majesty the Shah, and as many troops as possible were
called in from the surrounding districts to take part in it. The royal
guard mustered strong, and when they marched past, the Shah stepped
forward to the saluting line, so as to be closer to them, and called out
to each troop, and named each commander in terms of praise and pleasure.
This display of personal knowledge of the men, and acquaintance with
their leaders, drew from them a perfect buzz of delight.

On this occasion the smart appearance of the Bakhtiari horse attracted
particular attention. The Persian bystanders showed their pride in these
popular mounted mountaineers by the admiring exclamation, 'Here come the
Bakhtiaris!' They were very noticeable by their white felt, round,
brimless hats, and the good line they preserved when passing. The
Bakhtiaris (Lurs) are the most numerous and powerful of all the military
tribes, and are noted for their superior martial qualities both as horse
and foot. They are of the most ancient Persian descent, and have held
the hills and valleys of Luristan from time immemorial; while all the
other military tribes may be said to be of much later date, and of
foreign origin--Arab, Syrian, Turk, and Tartar. Competent authorities,
who have had full opportunity of judging, agree in saying that they are
as good material for soldiers as can be found anywhere. I was greatly
interested in hearing the Shah's Prime Minister speak in glowing terms
of the gallantry of the Bakhtiari infantry at the capture of Kandahar
under Nadir Shah, who, after subduing them in their own mountains, won
them over to serve him loyally and well in his conquering campaigns
against Afghanistan and India. The Grand Vizier mentioned the
circumstance of the Bakhtiari contingent, after one of the many repulses
met in the repeated attempts to carry Kandahar by storm, having in the
evening, when all was quiet on both sides, assaulted without orders and
captured a commanding, position in the defences, which they had failed
to take during the day. The shouts of the victors roused the resting
besiegers, and Nadir at once took advantage of the success to carry the
citadel and gain possession of the town. As a closing remark concerning
these nomad tribes, I may mention that they regard themselves as in
every way superior to the settled inhabitants, and express this conceit
in their saying, 'One man of the tents is equal to two of the town.'

I have mentioned the prerogative of the Shah to raise whomsoever he
chooses from the lowest to the highest position, except under
restrictions in the military tribes. This quite falls in with the
democratic spirit which lies dormant among the people, ready to be
displayed in willingness to accept a Sovereign of signal power who
springs from the lower ranks of life. The social equality which Islam
grants to all men was nothing new to Persia in forming ideas regarding a
popular leader and elected King. The descent of such a man is deemed of
little consequence in the minds of a people who look to personification
of power as the right to rule. In fact, with them it is said that the
fame of such a man is in proportion to the lowness of his origin. They
know of notable instances of the nation being delivered from terrible
tyranny and degrading foreign subjection, and being made gloriously
great, by men of the people. They point to Kawah, the blacksmith, who
headed a revolt against the monstrously cruel usurper King Zohak, using
his apron as a banner, and finally overthrew and slew him, and placed
Faridun, a Prince of the Peshdadian dynasty, on the throne which he
might have occupied himself. This blacksmith's apron continued for ages
to be the royal standard of Persia. In the ninth century,
Yacub-bin-Leis, called the Pewterer, as he had worked when young at that
(his father's) trade, made his way to the throne by sheer force of
strong character and stout courage. He remained the people's hero to the
last, was noted for his simple habits, for keeping with his name his
trade appellation (Suffari, the Pewterer), and for never having been
wantonly cruel or oppressive. In the tenth century, when the great
Sabuktagin rose from soldier to Sovereign, we see the principle of
selection in preference to hereditary succession practised and accepted
by the nation. And the choice was justified by the glory he gave to the
Persian arms in extending the empire to India, and in the further
conquests of his soldier-son, Mahmud, who succeeded to his father's
throne, and added still more to the greatness of the kingdom, till it
reached from Baghdad to Kashgar, from Georgia to Bengal, from the Oxus
to the Ganges.

When the country was groaning under the Afghan yoke, it was the daring
spirit of one from the ranks of the people, Nadir Kuli (Shah), who
conceived the overthrow of the oppressor and the recovery of Persian
independence. Originally a simple trooper of the Afshar tribe, he
advanced himself by valour, boldness, and enterprise, and crowned his
successes by winning the admiration of the royal leaders and adherents,
who on the death of the infant King, Abbas III., son of Shah Tamasp,
elected him to be their King. As such he carried the war into the
country of the evicted oppressors, and established the power of the
empire from the Oxus to Delhi, whence he returned with the splendid
spoil which yet enriches and adorns the Crown of Persia. It speaks much
for Nadir Shah's strong character that, having gained such distinction,
he did not allow flatterers to find amid the obscurity of his birth the
lost traces of great ancestors. He never boasted a proud genealogy; on
the contrary, he often spoke of his low birth, and we are told that even
his flattering historian had to content himself with saying that the
diamond has its value from its own lustre, and not from the rock in
which it grows. A characteristic story of this remarkable man is that
on demanding a daughter of his vanquished enemy, Mahmud Shah, the
Emperor of Delhi, in marriage for his son, Nasr-ullah, he was met with
the answer that for alliance with a Princess of the Imperial house of
Timor a genealogy of seven generations was required. 'Tell him,' said
Nadir, 'that Nasr-ullah is the son of Nadir Shah, the son of the sword,
the grandson of the sword, and so on till they have a descent of
seventy, instead of seven generations.' Nadir, the man of action and
blood and iron, had the greatest contempt for the weak, dissolute Mahmud
Shah, who, according to the native historian of the time, was 'never
without a mistress in his arms and a glass in his hand,' a debauchee of
the lowest type, as well as a mere puppet King. In the end the demon of
suspicion poisoned the mind of Nadir to such an extent that he became
madly murderous, and assassination ended his life. The Persians say that
he began as a deliverer and ended as a destroyer.

As a people, the Persians are of a happy disposition and bright
imagination, doubtless produced by the dry, clear air of their high
tableland, which relieves from dullness and depression. They enjoy a
joke and laugh heartily, and they are able to see that most things have
their comic side. The late Shah was quick to show the merry look of
appreciation when something amusing was said. At the Nauroz Court
reception of the Corps Diplomatique all the Legations, headed by the
Turkish Embassy, were ranged in a semicircle in front of the Shah, and
after the congratulatory address was delivered by the Sultan's
Ambassador, his Majesty advanced and walked round slowly, pausing to say
a few words to each Minister. His face lit up with animation when he
spoke to one whom he knew to be able to reply in the Persian tongue. On
one occasion, after speaking with the Ottoman Ambassador, who is always
a Persian linguist (Persian being an obligatory subject of qualification
for the Tehran post), he passed on to a Minister who was a good Persian
scholar. Further on he found an equally well--qualified colloquial
proficient in another; and on finding himself before a well-known very
clever diplomatist for whom he had a great personal liking, he smiled
and said pleasantly, 'Have you learnt any Persian yet?' The Minister
bowed, and, looking duly serious, said in Persian, 'I know something.'
The Minister meant to say that he knew a little, but the word
'something,' as used, could be taken, as in English, to signify 'a thing
or two.' Such a meaning from the diplomatist who spoke was quite
appropriate, and the Shah laughed softly and looked much amused.

As another instance (but in this case of grim humour) of seeing the
comic side, a Prince Governor of a province, sitting in judgment,
ordered a merchant to pay a fine of fifty tomans, but, though well known
to be rich, he protested his utter inability to pay, saying he had never
seen such a sum of money, and begged for some other punishment which the
Prince in his wisdom and mercy would command. His Highness then
suggested a choice of eating fifty raw onions, or eating fifty sticks
(the Oriental mode of expression when speaking of bastinado strokes), or
paying the fifty tomans. Persians are fond of raw onions, those they eat
being small, and the merchant enjoyed the prospect of thus saving his
money. He thought that the punishment had been ordered in ignorance, so,
concealing his feeling of happy surprise, and affecting fear, he
elected for onions. He struggled hard with them, but could not swallow
more than half the number. He was then asked to pay the fine, but he
claimed his further choice of the fifty sticks. Triced up, he underwent
the pain of twenty-five well laid on to the soles of his feet, and then
called out that he would willingly pay the fifty tomans to have no more.
On this he was cast loose, and the Prince said, 'You fool! you had a
choice of one of three punishments, and you took all three.'

Persian servants regard their fixed pay as but a retaining fee, and look
for their real wages in perquisites. They show considerable ingenuity
and brightness of idea in reasons for purchasing this, that, and the
other thing, not really required, but affording opportunities for
'pickings.' A new head-servant, on looking round his master's premises,
and seeing no opening for a fresh purchase, at last cast his eye on the
fowls, kept to secure a supply of fresh eggs, instead of the doubtful
ones bought in the bazaar. He introduced stale eggs into the fowl-house,
and on their condition being remarked at breakfast, he gravely explained
that he had noticed the hens were old, and it sometimes happened that
old hens laid stale eggs, whereas young hens always laid fresh eggs; so
he suggested clearing out the fowl-house and restocking it with young

The leisure time the servants have is not always well spent, it is true,
but they have ideas of imagination and sentiment, which in some degree
is suggestive of refinement. I have seen this shown in their love of
singing birds, and their dandy ways of dress; for some of them are very
particular as to the cut of a coat and the fit of a hat. I have
sometimes been interested in seeing them carefully tending their pet
nightingales, cleaning the cages, and decking them out with bits of
coloured cloth and any flowers in season. In November I saw quite a
dozen cages thus brightened, each with its brisk-looking nightingale
occupant, put out in the sunshine in the courtyard; and on asking about
such a collection of cages, was told rather shyly, as if fearing a smile
at their sentimental ways, that there was an afternoon tea that day in
the neighbourhood, to which the nightingales and their owners were
going. These singing-bird-parties are held in the underground rooms of
houses, which are cool in summer and warm in winter, and I imagine the
company and rivalry of a number of birds in the semi-darkness, with
glimmering light from the 'kalian' pipes, and the bubbling of water in
the pipe-bowls, and the boiling samovar tea-urns, all combine to cheat
the birds pleasantly into believing that it is night-time in the spring

The Persian poets brought the nightingale much into their songs of
praise of earthly joys. The bulbul, of which they wrote and sang, was
the European nightingale, which visits Persia in spring to sing and love
and nest. They pass as far South as Shiraz, where they meet the plump
little Indian bulbul, which is often mistaken for the Shiraz poets'
singing-bird. The word is applied to both species in India and Persia,
but the birds are quite different in shape, plumage, and voice. They
meet at Shiraz, a place which possesses a climate so temperate and
equable as to bring together the birds and fruits of the East and West,
North and South; for there I saw and heard the Indian bulbul and the
hoopoe, the European nightingale, the cuckoo, and the magpie, and I know
that the fruits range from apples to dates.

The nightingale is the favourite pet singing-bird of the Persians. I had
good information regarding the manner of obtaining them for cage
purposes from some small boys who were engaged picking roses in a
rose-garden at Ujjatabod, near Yezd. There are two large rose-gardens in
that oasis in the Yezd Desert, where the manufacture of rose-water and
the attar essence is carried on. The gardens are appropriately favourite
haunts of the nightingales on their return with the season of gladness
from their winter resorts in the woods of the Caspian coast. The Persian
poets tell of the passionate love of the nightingale for the scented
rose, and in fanciful figure of speech make the full-blossomed flower
complain of too much kissing from its bird-lover, so that its sweetness
goes, and its beauty fades far too sadly soon. The boys told me of the
number of family pairs, their nests and eggs, and said that they took
the young male birds when fully fledged and about to leave the nest, and
brought them up by hand at first, till able to feed themselves. There is
a great demand in the towns for the young nightingales, which in Persia
sing well in captivity, so rarely the case with the bird in Europe. The
shopkeepers like to have their pet birds by them, and in the nesting
season they may be heard all over the bazaars, singing sweetly and
longingly for the partners they know of by instinct, but never meet.

There is much pleasing romance and sentiment in the popular idea
regarding the origin of the national emblem, Sher o Khurshed (the Lion
and the Sun). The following legend concerning it was told to me by the
Malik-ut-Tujjar, or Master of the Merchants of Tehran, a gentleman well
versed in Persian history, literature, and lore, and who spoke with all
the enthusiasm of national pride. When the first monarchy of Ajam
(Persia) was founded by Kai Uramas, some five thousand years ago, the
sun was in the sign of Asad (Leo), the highest tower in the heavens, and
the lion was therefore taken as the Persian emblem, and it so remained
without the sun over it, as now shown, till about six hundred years ago.
Ghazan Khan, who then reigned as King, was so attached to his wife, the
Queen Khurshed (the Sun), that he desired to perpetuate her name by
putting it on the coins he struck; but the Ulema objected to a woman's
name on the King's coin, whereupon he decided to put her face on a
rising sun above the national emblem of the lion, as now seen in the
well-known royal arms of Persia. The story is that King Ghazan's
affection for his Queen, Khurshed, was such that he styled her Sham'bu
Ghazan (the Light of Ghazan).

This may have been the origin of the expression Khurshed Kullah, or
Sun-crowned, which I have seen stated is a term that was used to denote
the Sovereign of an empire, but from the fact of the features and style
of dressing the hair shown in the sun-picture being those of a woman, I
think the title may be regarded as applied only to queens. Catherine II.
of Russia, from the magnificence of her Court, her beauty and ambition,
and her fame in love and war, was known in Persia during her lifetime as
Khurshed Kullah, and she is still designated by that title.

I would here mention another instance of a Mohammedan monarch desiring
to publish to his people in the most sovereign manner his high regard
for a wife by putting her name on the current coin. The reign of the
Emperor Jehangir, son of Akbar the Great, the founder of the Moghul
Empire in India and the builder of Agra, was chiefly remarkable for the
influence exercised over him by his favourite wife, Nur Mahal, the Light
of the Harem, immortalized by Moore in 'Lalla Rookh.' The currency was
struck in her name, and we are also told that in her hands centred all
the intrigues that make up the work of Oriental administration. She lies
buried by the side of her husband at Lahore, the capital of the Punjab.

The subject of Ghazan Khan's succession to the throne of Persia is an
unusually interesting one. He was a Moghul chief of the line of Chengiz
Khan, and, holding Persia in tributary dependence for his sovereign
master the Khakan, was at the head of one hundred thousand tried Tartar
warriors. Persia was then Mohammedan, and the proposal was made to him
to join the new faith, and become the King-elect of an independent Iran.
He consulted his commanders, and then decided to enter Islam and become
King. His apostasy was followed by the instant conversion of his hundred
thousand men, who, with the true spirit of Tartar soldiers, followed
their leader into the pale of Islam, and soon became the active
supporters of the faith which they had so suddenly embraced. We can
imagine the triumphant joy of the proselytizing priests as they passed
down the crowded ranks of the time-hardened, weather-proof warrior sons
of the bow and spear, who on June 17, 1265, paraded at Firozkoh, where
the Tartar host was then encamped, to repeat the Mohammedan confession
of faith. To them the learning of the Arabic words must have been the
severest exercise they had ever been called upon to practise, and it is
easy to think of the muttered swearing among the puzzled veterans that
what was good enough for their leader was good enough for them, and that
they were ready to do as he had done, without further talk or ceremony.
Islam was then most actively aggressive, extending by the argument of
smooth speech or sharp sword, as occasion demanded, and the Moullas must
have regarded with enthusiastic pride the glorious reinforcement they
had brought to its armies by the consecration of such a splendid warrior
host to the service of their Church.

Ghazan Khan was the first of this race of kings from the line of Chengiz
who threw off all allegiance to Tartary by directing that the name of
the monarch of that empire should not in future be put on the Persian
coins. On the coins which he struck, the Mohammedan creed, 'There is no
God but God, and Mohammed is His Prophet,' was inscribed instead of the
name and titles of the Khakan. He had not the courage of his heart's
desire to strike his wife's name on the coins, as Jehangir did, but he
was differently placed, in that, as a fresh convert and a new King by
the favour of Islam, he felt himself unable to put aside the priests who
had bribed him with a crown. Malcolm, in remarking on Ghazan Khan's
accession to the throne of Persia, says that Henry IV. of France
similarly changed his creed to secure the crown.

Ghazan Khan reigned about the middle of the thirteenth century, and was
known in Europe for his supposed readiness to assist in re-establishing
the Christians in the Holy Land. He was deemed a wise and just Prince,
and it is believed that his policy led him to seek the aid of the States
of Europe in order to improve the position and condition of himself and
his kingdom. It is said that Pope Boniface VIII endeavoured by a display
of his connection with Ghazan Khan to excite the Christian princes to
another Crusade, and it was probably this connection with the head of
the Christian Church which led to a general impression among Western
writers that Ghazan Khan was not sincere in his conversion to
Mohammedanism, and was at heart a Christian. There is reason to think
that the secret spring of his action was to weaken the Egyptian Empire,
which he regarded as hostile and dangerous to himself and Persia. It is
not clear whether Ghazan Khan apostatized from the religion of his
ancestors or that of the Christians, but he is believed to have been
attached all his life to the latter faith, though he does not appear to
have made a public declaration of his belief in its doctrines. He
professed Mohammedanism in order to obtain the crown, but his life had
been passed in friendship with Christians, and in wars with the
followers of the faith he adopted.

Xenophon mentions that the royal emblem of Persia from early times was a
golden eagle with outstretched wings, resting on a spearhead like the
Roman eagle, but he makes no allusion to a standard. Persian historians
tell of a famous standard carried from the mythical time of Zohak to
that of the last of the Pehlevi kings. Their story is that Kawah, a
blacksmith, raised a successful revolt against the implacably cruel King
Zohak in the earliest time of Persian sovereignty, and relieved the
country from his terrible tyranny by putting him to death. The
victorious blacksmith then placed on the throne Faridun, a Prince of the
Peshdadian dynasty, who adopted his apron, which had been the standard
of revolt, as the royal banner of Persia. As such it was said to be
richly ornamented with jewels, to which every king, from Faridun
to the last of the Pehlevi monarchs, added. It was called the
Durafsh-i-Kawah[1] (the Standard of Kawah), and continued to be the
royal standard of Persia till the Mohammedan conquest, when it was taken
in battle by Saad-e-Wakass, and sent to the Khalif Omar. Malcolm said
that the causes which led to the sign of Sol in Leo becoming the arms of
Persia could not be distinctly traced, but thought there was reason to
believe that the use of this symbol was not of very great antiquity. He
said, with reference to it being upon the coins of one of the Seljukian
dynasty of Iconium, that when this family was destroyed by Halaku,
the grandson of Chengiz, it was far from improbable that that Prince or
his successor adopted this emblematical representation as a trophy of
his conquest, and that it has remained ever since among the most
remarkable of the royal insignia of Persia. He also mentioned the
opinion that this representation of Sol in Leo was first adopted by
Ghiat-u-din-Kai-Khusru-bin-Kai-Kobad, 1236 A.D., and that the emblem is
supposed to have reference either to his own horoscope or that of his
Queen, who was a Princess of Georgia. This approaches the legend told by
the Malik-ut-Tujjar of Tehran, for the face depicted on Sol is that of a

[Transcriber's note 1: The original text has Durnfsh-i-Kawah. The original
Farsi is Derafsh-i-Kaviani. The typesetter must have read an
'a' as an 'n'. Durnfsh is otherwise unpronounceable.]


--The Order of the Lion and the Sun
--Rex and Dido
--Endurance of Persian horses
--The Shah's stables
--The sanctuary of the stable
--Long distance races
--A country of horses
--The _gymkhana_ in Tehran
--Olive industry near Resht
--Return journey
--Grosnoje oil-field
--Russian railway travelling
--Improved communication with Tehran.

The distinguished Persian Order of the Lion and the Sun was instituted
by Fateh Ali Shah, in honour of Sir John Malcolm, on his second mission
to the Court of Persia in 1810, in company with Pottinger, Christie,
Macdonald-Kinneir, Monteith, and other British officers, who rendered
excellent service to Persia in organizing a body of her troops. These
officers were followed by others, who in 1834, under Sir Henry Lyndsay
Bethune, led the troops they had trained against the Pretenders who, on
the death of Fateh Ali Shah, opposed the succession of the Vali Ahd
(heir-apparent), Mohamed Shah, father of the late Sovereign. The
Pretenders were defeated by Sir Lyndsay Bethune, and thus England
established the stability of the throne of the Kajars in the direct
line, and carried out the will of the great Fateh Ali Shah, who had
appointed his grandson to succeed him after the death of his son, Abbas
Mirza. During all the changes since Mohamed Shah's accession, Persia has
always had reason to regard England as a friendly neighbour who has no
aggressive designs against her. This feeling must have become conviction
on finding that the defeat she suffered in 1856 caused her no loss of
territory in the South, and the Order of the Lion and the Sun continues
to be a signal sign of strong friendship between the two nations.

There are two great St. Bernard dogs belonging to the British Minister
at Tehran, which, by their leonine appearance and tawny red colour,
massive forms and large limbs, have made a remarkable impression on the
imaginative Persian mind. They are dogs of long pedigree, being son and
daughter of two famous class champions. Never being tied up, but
allowed full freedom, they are perfectly quiet and good-natured, though
at first sight, to the nervous, they may look doubtful, if not
dangerous. These powerful giant dogs accompany the Minister's wife in
her walks, and seem to know that they are to guard and protect; showy,
gay Rex precedes, with his head up and eyes all about, while Dido
follows, with head down, lioness-like, watchful and suspicious. Painful
experience has taught the street-scavenger curs, which dash savagely at
strange dogs, to slink away at the sight of this pair of champions, and
the passers-by, who, as Mohammedans, are merciless to dogs, treat them
as quite different from the dog they despise, so that they walk along
feared and respected by all, man and dog alike. A Persian gentleman,
riding past with his mounted followers, drew up at the sight of these
St. Bernards, and said, 'I would give the finest Kerman shawl, or the
very best Persian horse, for a puppy dog of that breed.'


Some of the mendicant dervishes of Tehran are of wild look, with matted
locks, and with howling voice go about demanding, not begging, alms.
They regard a giver as under some obligation to them, for affording him
the means of observance of a duty imposed by religion. These stalk along
defiantly, carrying club or axe, and often present a disagreeable
appearance. One of them came suddenly by a side-path behind the
Minister's wife, and followed, yelling out his cry of 'Hakk, hakk!' It
was almost dark, and he did not see the great dogs, which had gone
ahead. His cry and continued close-following steps were disturbing, so I
turned and asked him either to go on at once or keep farther back. He
frowned at what no doubt he considered my bad taste in objecting to his
pleasing and superior presence, and hastened his pace a little to pass,
but stopped suddenly on seeing the 'lion-dogs' belonging to the
Janab-i-Khanum-i-Sifarat (the Lady Excellency of the Legation), and
asked to be allowed to follow us, saying he would be perfectly quiet. On
reaching the Legation gate, and seeing his way clear, the dogs having
entered, he left, saying gently, 'Goodnight; God be with you.'

Formerly a lady could hardly walk about without some little fear of look
or laugh calculated to annoy. This is often the case in a Mohammedan
country, the meaning being that the figure and face should be shrouded
and veiled. But in presence of Rex and Dido there is no sign of the
light look or laugh; on the contrary, there is rather the respectful
gesture of, 'The road is free to thee.' The vivid imagination of the
Persian pictures the group as personifying the Imperial arms, the Lady
with the Royal guard, the Lion of Iran.

Before the warriors of the Mehdi made the term 'dervish' better known,
it was commonly understood to signify a beggar. But though the
derivation is 'before the door,' yet this does not mean begging from
door to door. The dervish originally was a disciple who freed himself
from all family ties, and set forth without purse or scrip to tell of a
new faith among a friendly people, and to tarry here or there as a
welcome guest. In due course he developed into a regular soldier of the
Church, and as schisms arose and the fires of religious animosities were
kindled, various orders of fighting fanatics, calling themselves
dervishes, sprang into existence. Such were the Ismailis, first known as
the Hassanis, in Persia, in the eleventh century, similar in character
to the present dervishes of the Soudan. In the more favourable sense of
the word, the true dervishes of to-day in Persia represent the spiritual
and mystic side of Islam, and there are several orders of such, with
members who belong to the highest and wealthiest ranks.

In the time of Fateh Ali Shah, the mendicant dervishes, who were then as
numerous and profligate in Persia as vagrant monks used to be in Spain
and Italy, became such a pest that one of the first acts of his
successor, Mahomed Shah, was to direct that no beggars should be
tolerated except the lame, the sick, and the blind, and that all
able-bodied men appearing in dervish garb were to be seized for military
service. The profession fell out of fashion then, and there are now
comparatively few mendicant dervishes to be seen. Those that still wear
the 'ragged robe' do not all appear to follow the rules of poverty,
self-denial, abstinence, and celibacy. One there was, a negro from
'darkest Africa,' who attached himself as a charity-pensioner to the
British Legation in Tehran, and was to be seen in all weathers, snow and
sunshine, fantastically dressed, chattering and chuckling in real Sambo
style. He knew that his religious cry of 'Ya Hoo' was characteristic of
him, and he was always ready to shout it out to the 'Ingleez,' whose
generosity he had reason to appreciate. He had a story of being a prince
of fallen fortune, who was kidnapped in Central Africa, traded and
bartered across Arabia, and abandoned in North Persia. He was known as
the Black Prince. During the cholera epidemic of 1892, he took up his
residence under some shady chenar-trees of great age, a recognised
resting-place for dervishes, close to the summer-quarters of the English
Legation at Gulhek, in the vicinity of Tehran. One day he sat outside
the gate and poured forth a pitiable tale of the death of his wife from
cholera during the night, and begged for money to pay for her burial.
Having made his collection, he disappeared at nightfall, leaving his
dead partner under the chenar-trees, and it was then discovered that he
had possessed two wives, who called him _agha_, or master, and he had
departed with the survivor, leaving the other to be buried by strangers.
After that he was known as the Prince of Darkness.

The privileged beggars or mendicant dervishes of Tehran are not all of
the stained, soiled, dust-and-ashes description; some are occasionally
seen presenting a pleasing contrast in washed white garments, and of
neat appearance. There was one such in Tehran, a well-known cheerful old
man, who looked as if he could, in quiet company, tell entertaining
stones, for recitation is adopted by some of these wandering dervishes
as a pleasant means of livelihood, and many of them in the storytelling
art show considerable talent, cultivated taste, and retentive memory.
But, to be successful, they must be able to indulge in variations of
their old stories by the introduction of new incidents which they have
heard or invented. One who is known for good style is always welcomed at
the many tea-shops and gardens in village and town.


In a most unlikely spot, on a long stretch of sand in the Yezd Desert, I
met a well-dressed dervish in clean, cool white clothes, who stopped on
perceiving that I was a 'Firanghi,' and, gently swaying his neat
dervish-dole dish, said quietly, 'Charity; alms are as dew-drops from
the heavens,' a most appropriate speech in the sandy waterless waste.
Membership with the higher dervish orders appears to signify and
convey something of the character of Freemasonry. I know of one
highly-placed Persian gentleman who is a dervish, and also of a European
gentleman of Oriental light and learning who has been admitted to the
same order. A famous Prime Minister of Persia in past time, Haji Mirza
Aghasi, was a well-known but rather eccentric dervish. My knowledge of
this was the means, on one occasion, of averting a disagreeable display
of violence by a gay sort of madcap, the relative of a post-house
master, who had attached himself as groom to the stable establishment.
My smart Armenian servant, who was equally good as groom or table
attendant, had taken off his warm pea-jacket to help in bracing up the
loads on my baggage post-horses, which were to be driven loose at a
canter, the usual practice when riding post with extra baggage. A
powerful, merry-talking groom, who came forward with the horses, picked
up the jacket and put it on, saying that the morning was cold. And so it
was, for the month was November. When all was ready for a start, my
servant asked him for the jacket, but the laughing _diwana_, or
eccentric fellow, said it was a gift to him, and refused to part with
it. Warm words passed, and I intervened and told him to drop his
dervish ways and give back the jacket. The _diwana_ became excited, and
shouted to all who were standing by that I had called him a dervish, and
had hurt his feelings badly. I then told him he was hard to please, as
surely a High Vazir was good enough to be compared with, for was it not
true that the famous Haji Mirza Aghasi was of the noble order of
dervishes. He took in slowly what I said, then smiled, and gave back the
jacket with a good grace. The Persians have a proverb similar to our own
regarding giving to beggars, '_Avval khesh, baad darvesh_' (First our
own, then the beggar. Charity begins at home).

The ordinary Persian horses are small, but very wiry and enduring. In
harness they are also capable of very long journeys in light draught, as
proved in the carriage service between Tehran and Kasvin. The distance
is about ninety-seven miles, divided into six stages. On arriving at one
of these, I found that all the posting horses had been taken by a
Russian Mohammedan merchant who was travelling ahead of me in great
style, with five carriages. I had two vehicles, one a carriage for
myself, and the other a _tarantass_ for my servant and luggage, each
drawn by three horses. There was considerable traffic on the road then,
and the horses had only a few hours in the stable between 'turns.' It
was night when I arrived at the post-house, and though anxious to go on,
I had no option but to remain there till the horses should come back
from the next stage. On their return, after three hours' rest and a feed
of barley, six took my carriage and waggon to the next post-house,
sixteen miles, where again I found an empty stable, the horses which had
gone with the party ahead of me not having come back. On inquiring
judiciously from the post-house master if the horses which had brought
me from the last stage were able to do another, I was told that with an
hour's rest and an extra feed they would be ready to go on. And they
travelled the second stage well, showing no signs of distress. These
horses had done sixteen miles in draught, and sixteen miles in cantering
back to their stable during the evening and night; then thirty-two miles
in draught with me in the morning, and after a short rest were to return
the same distance to their own stable, all in double-quick time.

I had the privilege of again seeing what I consider one of the most
interesting sights in Persia, the stables of his Majesty the Shah. They
contain the very best blood in Asia, and comprise the pick of the finest
horses in Arabia, Persia, Kurdistan, Karadagh, Khorasan, and the
Turkoman country, also the choicest home-breds from the horse-farms
belonging to the late Shah and his sons, the present Shah and the
Zil-es-Sultan, all of them great horse fanciers and breeders. The late
Shah had three breeding establishments: one in the vicinity of Tehran,
another near Hamadan, and the third at Maragha, in Azerbaijan, where the
pasture is good. In each of these there are said to be about one
thousand mares and foals. There is no part of the establishment of a
monarch of Persia to which more attention is paid than his horses. They
are always placed under the care of an officer of high rank, who is
styled Mir Akhor.

The Mir Akhor (Master of the Horse), Mohamed Hussein Mirza, a Prince of
royal blood, shows by his intimate knowledge of the history of each
horse, and the good condition of all and everything under his care, that
he loves his charge well. We were first shown the racing-stud, called
_mal-i-shart_ (race-horses), thirteen in number, all in hard condition
(the Persian expression is, 'as hard as marble'), and showing good bone
and much muscle. They were Arabs, but not all imported from Arabia, some
being bred from pure stock in the late Shah's establishments. The royal
races are held at Doshan Tepe, six miles from Tehran, where there is a
soft sand-soil course, said to be a two-mile one, but the correct
measurement is one and a half miles. The Persians breed and train for
long-distance speed and endurance, and the races at Doshan Tepe are from
three to nine miles. The Prince pointed out the last winner of the
nine-mile race, saying that he ran it in twenty-five minutes. This horse
was a well-shaped, warm gray Arab, with black points. He, with a darker
gray and a chestnut, all Arabs of pure breed from Nejd, none of which it
is said can be obtained except by free gift, or rare capture in war,
took the eye most with their make and shape. All were ridden slowly
round the yard by their 'feather-weight' jockey-boys, dressed in red
racing-jackets and blue breeches, with long, soft leather boots, and
coloured handkerchiefs bound tightly round their heads in place of
caps. I think these _shart_ horses in the royal stables, which are
always kept in galloping-condition, are the outcome of the old days of
flight or fight, when it was necessary to be always prepared for raid,
attack, or treachery, and so often man's best friend in pressing need
was his horse.

'A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!'

After the racing stud came the riding-horses, sixty-two in all:
deer-like Arabs of the best desert blood of Nejd and Anizah, and others
of a stouter build from the country of the Jaf Kurds; selected
cross-breeds from Persian and Turkish Kurdistan, and bigger-boned
animals from the Karadagh, the result of a strong strain of good
Northern blood. There were some long, low, powerful Yamut and other
breeds from the Turkoman country, and some good-looking active small
horses from Khorasan. From the Kashkai breeding-grounds near Shiraz were
shown some fine big horses of high quality, also neat, stout mixed
breeds from the hills and plains of Luristan and Persian Arabistan; and
Arabs of the best type, bred from 'blood stock' by the Shah's sons,
also choice specimens from the royal home farms.

Three gray Arabs, favourites of the late Shah, were brought out, set off
with gold collars, and their points were gone over to show how
powerfully safe they were as riding-horses on the hillside and the
plain. One of them was said to be getting too old for good work, but he
was bursting so with flesh and spirits that he threw out before and let
out behind in such vigorous wide-circling style as to scatter the crowd
of spectators, _gholams_, guards, and grooms. The most powerful and
best-shaped among the riding-horses, in my opinion, were a Jaf (Kurd)
dappled gray, and two big gray Turkomans, the latter very deep in the
girth, and distinguished by the long, fine neck so common to their
class, and rather large but lean heads, showing blood and breeding. The
Turkomans say that the superior size and strength of their horses over
others are due to the rich grass of their pasturelands, I may conclude
this short account of the royal stud by mentioning that, as Persia is
essentially a country of horses and horsemen, every foreign Minister on
first arrival and presentation to the Shah receives the gift of a horse
from his Majesty's stables. All these horses had their tails plaited or
tied up. The Persians never cut a horse's tail, but tie it up, which not
only improves the animal's appearance, but prevents the tail trailing on
the ground, or being whisked about when wet or dirty, to the annoyance
of the rider. The tail is only knotted up when the horse is made ready
for riding, otherwise it remains loose, to be used for flipping off

The stable of the King is deemed one of the most sacred of sanctuaries,
and this usage continues in force to the present time. The stables of
the foreign Legations are also regarded, by reason of the Ilchi-Envoy
representative sovereign character, as affording a similar asylum, and
in 1890 I was witness to protection being thus claimed in the stable of
the British Minister. The military tribes of Persia have always regarded
this sanctuary of the stable with the most superstitious reverence. 'A
horse,' they say, 'will never bear him to victory by whom it is
violated.' In a Persian MS. referred to by Malcolm, all the misfortunes
of Nadir Mirza, the grandson of Nadir Shah, are attributed to his having
violated the honour of the stable by putting to death a person who had
taken refuge there. The same writer says that the fleeing criminal finds
a place of safety at the head of the horse even when tied up in the open
air; the fugitive touches the headstall, and is safe so long as he
remains there. Malcolm again tells us of what is still observed, that it
is not unusual for those of the military tribes who desire to show their
respect at the funerals of chiefs and soldiers of high reputation to
send a horse without a rider, but with arms upon the saddle, to swell
the train of the mourning cavalcade. The favourite charger of the
departed warrior, carrying his arms and clothes, accompanies the
procession; the sheepskin cap he wore is placed on the pommel of his
saddle; his scarf sash, or _kumarbund,_ is bound round the horse's neck,
and his boots are laid across the saddle. In all this may be seen the
origin of similar customs now followed by the most civilized nations,
and of the regard in which the horse is held as 'the noble animal.'

The late Shah had not a single English or European riding-horse in his
stables, nor are any such seen in the country except some from
Russia--heavy, coarse animals, bred in the Don districts, and used for
carriage purposes. The artillery with the Persian Cossack brigade at
Tehran also have a few Russian horses. Nasr-ed-Din had such a high
appreciation of Arab and Eastern horses, of which he was in a position
to get the very best, that he found it difficult to understand what he
considered the fancy prices paid in England for racing stock. The story
is told that when he was shown Ormonde at Eaton Hall, in 1889, and was
informed that L14,000 had been offered for him, he tapped the ground
briskly with his cane, and said in a vivacious manner: 'What! L14,000
offered for him? Sell him, sell him now to-day. Why, he may be dead
to-morrow.' He would have been astonished to hear that Ormonde
afterwards changed owners at the advanced price of about L30,000.

In speaking to two friends, competent judges of such matters, about the
breeding and training for long-distance races in Persia, and the time in
which it was said the nine miles had been run, I found that, while one
thought the time might be reasonably correct, the other was more than
doubtful. I have since then seen in the _Journal of the United Service
Institution of India_, 1886, a paper on 'Horse-breeding in Central Asia,
translated from the Russian of Kostenko by W.E.G.,' in which the
following details regarding the Kirghiz race-meetings and the pace and
staying powers of their horses are given. M. Kostenko mentions that the
details are taken from an article by M. Garder in the _Voyenni Sbornik_
for 1875. He says that among the Inner Kirghiz Horde, races for prizes
were instituted by the Minister of State Domains, beginning with the
year 1851. On October 4 of the same year a circular course measuring
four miles was made, and the horses ran five times round it. The winner
did the 20 miles in 48 minutes and 45 seconds. Commencing with 1853, the
races were run over a distance of 13-1/3 miles on a circular course, and
of these races detailed information from 1869 was obtained.

The greatest speed was recorded on October 2, 1853, when the distance
(13-1/3 miles) was done in 27 minutes and 30 seconds. The longest time,
on the other hand, was 39 minutes 30 seconds.

The Chief Administration of the State Studs did not credit the
information sent from the Horde, so that in 1856 there was sent to the
sitting committee a second metre, for the speed to be followed on it,
the circumference of the circle having been previously measured. The
president of the committee repotted that the measurement of the course
was correct, except that in every 4 versts (2-2/3 miles) it was out
17-1/2 feet. The deficiency was then made good. Accordingly, on October
2 a trial was held, at which the speed was checked with the aid of the
second metre that had been forwarded, and several watches with
seconds-hands. These showed the 13-1/3 miles run in 31 minutes. Of
nineteen races run over this course, the average time was 33 minutes 40

In 1861 a race was run over another circular course, measuring about
3-1/2 miles, five times round. The mare that won performed the
distance--about 17 miles--in 48 minutes 45 seconds. In the Kalmak
_uluses_ (groups of nomad tents) of the Astrachan Government, races of
10 miles have been held. The greatest speed recorded was in 1864, viz.,
23 minutes 56 seconds; the longest time was in the same year, viz., 27
minutes. The average time between 1862 and 1865, and 1867 and 1869, was
25 minutes 15 seconds.

The riders in these races are lads of not more than ten or twelve years
of age. They are in no way specially trained, as from early age they are
always riding, and grow up in good condition for hard exercise. Their
weights range from four to six stone.

The Persians are a nation of horsemen still, and most of them can ride
well. All the migratory tribes breed horses, and such is the habit of
observation of horses in the country, that, as a rule, a man is known by
his horse, just as in some parts of England a man is known by his dog.
Owing to the notice thus taken of a man's horse, a party of nomad
brigands who carried off all my baggage-train in 1890 were discovered
and hunted down. There is a road guard service for all the King's
highways in Persia, and an annual fixed sum is allowed for its
maintenance. Officials with influence among the neighbouring nomads farm
this service on the main roads, and entertain a certain number of
'black-mail' men for each stage from the various tribal sections to keep
watch and ward. The official who farms the road guard service is held
liable to pay compensation for losses by robbery, and this stimulates
the energies of all to recover stolen property and to keep the highways
safe and secure. Incidents of robbery occasionally happen, but, all
things considered, the system may be said to work fairly well, as
instanced in the recovery of my baggage.

I had taken a short-cut over the hills to avoid some miles of circuit by
the highroad, and on the way I met the relieved Governor of Luristan
returning to Tehran, with a long train of well-guarded laden mules. Some
little distance behind them came three mounted nomads, armed with
Martini-Henry rifles (the common arm now in Persia), and showing
well-filled cartridge belts. They rode up to me and my party, consisting
of a _gholam_ courier and two servants, all mounted. One of the nomads,
riding a chestnut mare, while examining me intently, dropped a short
stick which he carried, alongside of me, and on dismounting to pick it
up, his mare wheeled round towards me, and I saw that she had lost her
right eye. We passed on, and shortly rejoined the highroad, and when
close to the next halting stage, a post-boy, driving three loose
post-horses before him, galloped up to say that he had seen my baggage
mules driven off the highroad by five armed nomads. The road guards were
called, and on hearing my description of the three men we had met, and
that one of them was riding a one-eyed chestnut mare, they at once said,
'Kara Beg and his sons are in this,' and rode off to follow the trail.
Almost all my luggage was recovered that night, and Kara Beg was hunted
hard, and disappeared. He had been suspected of several robberies
carefully carried out, so that detection was difficult; but in my case
it appeared that he had hung on to the rear of the Luristan Governor's
baggage without being able to steal anything, and when disappointment
had made his men sore and reckless, they followed up my mules, which had
no guard, and carried them off. The tribal road guards knew where to
find him and his men, and soon had most of the plundered property back.
The recovery was due to identification of his mare.

The English national love of sport has lately introduced into Tehran the
popular _gymkhana_, an institution which hails from India, where it is
English enterprise under an Indian name. The British Legation has
started this amusement, and it seems to provide energy for many who had
longed for some fresh outdoor exercise, but could not organize it. Now,
when weather permits, there are weekly gatherings for variety races,
tent-pegging, and paper-chases. A very amusing and effective novelty,
which I saw there for the first time, was a donkey tug-of-war. This new
'gym' was imported by a sporting young diplomatic secretary, who had
lately arrived from Cairo, where he had seen it in full exercise. Tehran
has excellent riding-donkeys for hire, well turned out, and attended by
the usual smart-tongued youth. Eight donkeys, four a side, heading
outwards, all ridden by Europeans, mostly English, were engaged in this
sport. Neither whip nor spur was allowed. The rope was passed along
under the right arm, and held as each rider thought best. At the word
'_Off!'_ heels were brought into fast play on the donkeys' ribs to make
them move forward, and the scenes that followed were ludicrous and
exciting. Riders were pulled off backward, and, still hanging on to the
rope, they managed to remount and get again into the pulling line in
time to drag off someone on the opposite side, who had lost his balance
on the sudden 'go' forward from the lessened strain. This amusement was
a highly popular one with the laughing spectators.

Our travelling-party on the outward journey had separated at Tehran, and
I travelled back homeward alone. I left Tehran in the middle of
November, and as there had been a heavy fall of snow some days before, I
quite expected to have a cold crossing of the Kharzan Pass over the
Elburz range. I did the journey to Kasvin comfortably in a carriage, and
rode thence to Resht in three days. I was unexpectedly fortunate in
finding that the bright weather had freed the road over the pass from
snow, and I had a perfect day, with still air, for that part of my ride.

About halfway between Kasvin and Resht the road passes through the
extensive olive-groves of Rudbar, which for many centuries has been the
centre of a flourishing olive-oil and soap business. There are about
sixty villages in the district engaged in this industry; they possess
from eighty to one hundred thousand trees, each yielding on an average
from six to nine pounds' weight of fruit a year. The olive as a
fruit-tree has been known in Persia from a comparatively early period,
and it is not surprising to hear the villagers ascribe quite a fabulous
age to some of the old trees, just as in Italy some olives are credited
with an equally astonishing antiquity.

To me it has appeared that the habit the olive has of sending up new
stems from the root of an old trunk--just as the chenar sycamore does in
Persia--may have made the old trees become young again, and thus
present, to succeeding generations in the villages, the look of the same
old trunks. Messrs. Kousis, Theophylactos and Co., of Baku, have
obtained a concession for pressing and refining olive-oil in this
district, and I observed the buildings which they are erecting for their
business rising on the right bank of the river there.

Near Rudbar commences the thick growth of various hard-wood trees, which
flourish well in the damp soil of the Caspian slopes and lowlands, and
in November their foliage was surpassingly lovely, with many warm tints,
from delicate red to deep russet and shades of shot-green and brown. On
some of the high, thickly-wooded hills, the different colours ran in
well-defined belts, showing where particular kinds of trees had found
most favourable soil, and had grasped it to the exclusion of all others.

About forty miles from the Caspian coast I fell in with rain and
mud--such mud as cannot be realized without being seen. I embarked at
Enzelli on board a small Russian steamer, the _Tehran_, which had taken
the place of one of the usual large vessels employed on the
mail-service. The sea was rising as I embarked, and I was lucky in
getting on board before the surf on the bar at the mouth of the lagoon
became impassable. The steamer had five hundred tons of iron cargo on
board, machinery for electric light and other purposes, intended for
Tehran, but which could not be landed owing to the rolling sea. It was
therefore carried back to Baku, a second time within a fortnight, for
accident had prevented it being landed on the previous voyage.

There is always this risk of wind and weather preventing landing at
Enzelli. Proposals have been made to remove the bar sufficiently to
allow steamers of eight hundred tons to pass into the lagoon harbour;
but the expense of doing this, and keeping up dredgers, would be
great--too great, it is thought, to allow of any profitable return. The
same landing difficulties are experienced at Astara and Lenkoran, the
places of call between Enzelli and Baku. Should there be any intention
of eventually making a railway from the coast to Kasvin and Hamadan,
there to meet a line to Baghdad, then it would be the best course in
every way to connect Resht with Baku by a railway along the coast,
passing through Astara and Lenkoran.

The coast country is famous for its rice, which could be extensively
cultivated, and the resources in forest and fishery produce are great.
There would be considerable local traffic as the country opened up, and
the through trade in oil from Baku would be a paying one. I believe the
Russians know that it would be cheaper to build a railway along this
coast-line of about three hundred miles, with such trade capabilities,
than, in the absence of harbours, to erect breakwaters, make sheltered
anchorages, and dredge navigation channels. For two-thirds of the
distance the line would lie in Russian territory.

I met at Enzelli a foreign artist, whose acquaintance I had formed in
Tehran, where he made some good pictures of local life and scenery. He
was loud in his complaints of the elements--the heavy rain and the awful
mud. He had come down the road with a minimum of travelling comforts,
and had been rather miserable. On going off to the mail-boat in the
steam-launch, he vented his feelings of disgust with Persia by spitting
over the side towards the land, and saying, 'Ach! ach! what a country!
'May I never see it again!' When I reminded him of Tehran and its club,
he acknowledged that he had enjoyed his stay there, and appreciated the
place; but the rain and sea of mud at Resht had drowned and smothered
all his pleasant memories of Persia.

The voyage to Baku was uneventful. There are two Astaras, one Persian,
the other Russian, with the frontier stream between them. The steamer
remained part of the night at the former place, and moved in the morning
three miles to the anchorage opposite the latter. There the Russian
Customs officers came on board to examine luggage. The first mate of the
steamer, a Swedish Finn, attended the search proceedings, and became
much interested In a rusty pistol which was found in the luggage of one
of the deck passengers. The question arose, Was the pistol loaded? and
he undertook to find out. He raised the hammer to full cock, and,
placing the muzzle in his mouth, he blew down the barrel, with his
finger on the cap nipple, to feel if the air passed through. He naively
explained to me the certainty of this mode of discovering whether a
percussion arm is loaded or not. In this instance the pistol was thought
to be loaded, but it was found to be only choked with rust.

I had intended to return _via_ Constantinople, but on arrival at Baku I
learnt that the damage done to the railway between Tiflis and Batoum by
a storm of unprecedented fury and unusually heavy floods was so extended
and bad as to stop all traffic for a long time. I went to Oujari, a
station one hundred and sixty miles from Baku, where I was hospitably
entertained by Mr. Andrew Urquhart, a Scotch gentleman, established
there with a factory and hydraulic presses for the liquorice-root
industry, and from there I entered into telegraphic communication with
Tiflis to ascertain if I could get a carriage to Vladikavkas, so as to
join the railway and proceed home through Russia. There was such a
number of passengers detained at Tiflis, _en route_ to Batoum, and all
anxious to go to Vladikavkas by road, that I found I should have to wait
long for my turn. Accordingly, after six days' stay with my hospitable
friend, I went back to Baku and took steamer to Petrovsk, whence I
travelled by rail to Moscow and St. Petersburg on my way to England
_via_ Berlin.

A great petroleum field is now being developed near Grosnoje, a station
on the Petrovsk Vladikavkas railway, north of the main Caucasus range;
and an English company has had the good fortune, after venturing much,
to find the fountain for which they and others have long looked. After
carrying on 'sounding' operations for some time, and sinking several
wells, oil was at length 'struck' towards the end of August at a depth
of three hundred and fifty feet, and it came up with such force as to
reach a height of five hundred feet above ground. The well was on a
hillside, and the valley below had been dammed up previously to form a
reservoir capable of holding a large supply of oil. But such was the
flow from the fountain, that after a few days it rose above the dam,
and, although every effort was made to raise and strengthen it, the oil
overflowed, and the top of the dyke was carried away. Millions of
gallons were lost, though on its course down the valley the oil
completely filled another reservoir, which had been prepared for the oil
of a rival company, but which never came from their own wells.
Eventually the main flow of oil found its own level in a low-lying piece
of ground, about four miles below the broken dam.

As the fountain continued to flow with almost undiminished vigour, the
Governor of Grosnoje began to be alarmed at the damage which was being
done by this deluge of oil, and he therefore placed four hundred
soldiers at the disposal of the English engineer in charge, and by their
organized labour he was able to repair the dam, so that the flow of oil
was checked. A friend, from whom I received this account, visited the
place on November 27, and saw the fountain still playing to a height of
twenty feet, and also the lake of oil which had been formed. The lake
was about three hundred and fifty yards long, one hundred and twenty
yards wide, and from fifty to sixty feet deep. The fountain was still
playing on January 10, but it shortly afterwards ceased to flow. The
same company had another stroke of luck in again 'striking oil' last
month at another spot, some little distance from the original fountain,
while, strange to say, none of the other companies engaged in
prospecting for oil there have as yet succeeded in getting so much as a
gallon. All this flow of fortune to the one firm reads very like the
luck of Gilead Beck in the 'Golden Butterfly.'

Mr. Stevens, H.B.M.'s Consul for the consular district of Batoum, shows
in his report for 1894 that the demand for naphtha fuel is increasing in
Russia at such a rate, owing to it being more and more widely adopted
for railways, steamers, factories, and other undertakings using
steam-power, that the time appears by no means far distant when the
Russian home market may be in a position to consume in the shape of fuel
almost the entire output of the wells of the Caspian, and he adds that
probably the supply will even be insufficient to meet the demand. With
all this in view, the value of the Grosnoje wells, situated as they are
on the main line of railway through the heart of Russia, is likely to
prove very great.

I landed in a heavy snowstorm at Petrovsk on November 30, and found the
whole country under its winter sheet. Since October 1 all railway fares
and charges in Russia have been greatly reduced, and the policy now
appears to be to encourage travelling and traffic, which must result in
a general improvement of the minds and condition of the people.

Railway travelling in Russia is now much cheaper than in any other
country; a through first-class ticket from the Caspian to St.
Petersburg, seventeen hundred miles, is but L4 10s., and the other
classes are low in proportion. The carriages are comfortable, and the
refreshment-rooms excellent.

With accurate information as to the sailings from Petrovsk to Baku and
Enzelli, one can now go from London to Tehran in fourteen days. This, of
course, means steady travelling, frequent changes, a saddle-seat for
about one hundred miles (which can now be reduced to seventy-five), and
some previous experience of rough life, so as to reconcile the
traveller to the poor accommodation afforded in a Persian post-house.
But the Russian road, now under construction, will soon change the rough
ride into a fairly comfortable carriage-drive, with well-provided
post-houses for food and rest.




--Shrine of Shah Abdul Azim
--Death of Nasr-ed-Din Shah
--Jemal-ed-Din in Tehran
--Shiahs and Sunnis
--Islam in Persia.

The famous shrine and sanctuary of Shah Abdul Azim, about five miles
from Tehran, is a very popular place of pilgrimage with the inhabitants
of the town, and its close neighbourhood to the crowded capital makes it
a great holiday, as well as religious, resort. This shrine has been
specially favoured by many sovereigns, and particularly by those of the
present dynasty. On the Mohammedan special weekly day of prayer and
mosque services, Friday, called Juma, or the day of the congregation,
Shah Abdul Azim is visited by great numbers of people.

On Friday, May 1, this sanctuary was the scene of one of the saddest
events which has ever happened in Persia--the murder within its sacred
precincts of Nasr-ed-Din Shah, a monarch who was about to celebrate the
jubilee of a reign which will always be remembered, not only for its
remarkable length, but also for its peaceful character and general
popularity. The proof of this popularity is that Nasr-ed-Din Shah was
able to leave his country on three occasions for visits to Europe, and
returned each time to receive a welcome from his subjects. This in
itself is unprecedented in Eastern history.

I little thought when I had the honour of conversing with him in October
last that it was possible that a King so admired and loved by his
people, and then looking forward with pride and pleasure to the
celebration of his approaching jubilee, should perish in their midst by
the hand of an assassin within five days of the event.

Passing over what in the early years of his reign, through the
exigencies of the times and the pitfalls of intrigue, led to the
shedding of blood, we see in his later years a reluctance to inflict
capital or severe punishment which almost amounted to a serious fault.
I remember an instance of this in the case of a notorious highway
robber, guilty of many murders, who was spared so long, that it was only
on the bad effect of leniency becoming prominently dangerous to traders
and travellers that the extreme penalty was sanctioned. I have already
mentioned how the people had learnt to put their trust in the late
Shah's desire to protect them against oppressive government in the
provinces, and how he had made himself popular with the military and
nomad tribes. The crime which has caused his death will undoubtedly be
regarded as sacrilege, both with reference to the life which was taken
and the sanctuary which it violated. And the abhorrence of the crime
will strengthen what it was intended to end or weaken, viz., the
influence and power of the Kajar dynasty. With the impressionable
Persians there will be but one feeling, of shuddering horror that such a
thing could be done by one of their own faith, who was a subject of
their Sovereign.

A criminal of the deepest dye can abide with perfect impunity in the
Mohammedan sanctuary, and the tranquillity of this sacred safety, we are
told, brings reflection and repentance to work the redemption of many
from evil ways. Thus we can understand how horror-struck the nation must
be at the thought of the Shah being mortally wounded while in the pious
act of kneeling in reverence on passing the chain which marks the actual
line where the 'bast' or sanctuary begins.

The murder is said to have been prompted by the well-known agitator,
Jemal-ed-Din, who, though called an Afghan, is really a native of
Hamadan, in Western Persia; but having travelled and resided a short
time in Afghanistan, the term 'Afghani' was added to his name. He was
well known in Tehran in 1891 for his vehement and violent public
speaking against all Western innovations. I have seen it stated that it
was owing to him the tobacco monopoly was withdrawn, as he had roused
the Moullas throughout Persia, and wellnigh brought about a revolution.
Jemal-ed-Din no doubt took a strong part at Tehran in the agitation, but
he was in no way such a prominent leader of it as has been represented.
The sudden introduction of systematic labour and Excise regulations
under foreign direction, by which it was said a few depots were to
displace the numerous retail shops and stalls, at once created a
hostile army of unemployed small owners of hereditary businesses, who
worked on the fears and feelings of the mass of the people. The Moullas
and guild-masters then took the lead, and brought about the cancelment
of the concession. All this I have previously described. It suited well
the nature of a stormy petrel like Jemal-ed-Din to find himself in
Tehran at that time, and he became an inflammatory public orator of the
hottest kind. At first he confined himself to speaking against the
tobacco monopoly and all European enterprise, and on his violent
speeches being made the subject of some remonstrance, the Shah said that
the Persians had long enjoyed great liberty of speech, and with them
words generally took the place of deeds. But this freedom was
misunderstood by Jemal, who gradually grew bolder, until his
revolutionary utterances went beyond all endurance. He scarcely veiled
his contempt for the Crown, and his opinion that all should combine to
rid Persia of the rule of the Shah and the continuance of the Kajar
dynasty. He was warned, but would not listen to reason; he was then
arrested, and informed of the decision to deport him from Persia. On the
day of his departure from Tehran under escort, he managed to make his
escape, and took sanctuary in the same shrine of Shah Abdul Azim where
the Shah was mortally wounded on May 1 by his follower, Mirza Mohamed
Reza. Jemal opened negotiations with the Government from his asylum, and
was finally persuaded to leave Persia quietly. It was said that he
received generous treatment in the matter of his leaving, but I am aware
that he stated he had cause for complaint on this head. We must bear in
mind, however, that he was a hot hater of the Shah, and a thorough
'irreconcilable.' On quitting Persia he went to Constantinople, where he
appeared to be allowed such free expression of disrespect to his
Sovereign that the Shah addressed a remonstrance to the Sultan, who
stated in reply that Jemal was leaving for some remote place to employ
himself in literary work.

As a native of Hamadan, Jemal-ed-Din is a Persian subject; he is also of
the Shiah faith, though it is believed that, in order to make things
easy for himself, he passes as a Sunni where the State religion is of
that creed. He was well received by the Shah on his visit to Tehran in
1890 as a man of learning and letters, and it is said that he accepted
and enjoyed his hospitality. This, however, did not prevent him plotting
against his royal host, and doing his utmost to compass the downfall of
the Kajar dynasty. He probably saw clearly during his stay in Persia
then that the Shah's authority rested too strongly in the minds of the
people, by reason of his long and peaceful reign and mild rule, to give
any hope of a successful revolution during his lifetime. And it may have
been in this connection that recourse was had to assassination.

Jemal-ed-Din is credited among Orientals with a powerful energy and will
in working on the enthusiasm of others, and establishing a moral
despotism over them. His disciple, Mohamed Reza, appears to have
resembled his teacher in reckless disregard of kindness, and
determination to render evil for good. In him a willing hand was
apparently found to carry out the first part of Jemal-ed-Din's programme
for the reformation of Persia, but the possibility of madness in the act
of murder was not foreseen. For the horror of the crime has been so
intensified from being committed in the holy shrine of the sainted Shah
Abdul Azim, that its object must be defeated in the most complete
manner, and the reaction will result in stronger attachment to the
throne of the Kajars.

Jemal-ed-Din held a brief for the union of Sunni and Shiah, an idea
which from time to time has found favour with some advanced leaders of
the former faith. He spoke of the gain to Islam in sinking their
religious differences, and joining to form one Church and one creed. He
was said to be very earnest on this point, and he succeeded in planting
his opinions in Persia, as shown by the subject being still occasionally
discussed. But the idea is entirely of foreign growth, and is generally
introduced by enthusiasts like Jemal-ed-Din, who have exchanged their
Persian national pride of Church and State for the ambition to see Islam
ruling as one power from Constantinople to Pekin. These visionaries fail
to see what thoughtful Persian politicians and Churchmen know well, that
the Shiah schism has preserved Persia as a nation, for without it the
incentive to popular cohesion would long ago have ceased.

The annual Passion-play to commemorate the murder and martyrdom of the
progeny of Ali, and the solemn fast-days when their assassins are
cursed and reviled, which are observed all over Persia, serve to keep
alive their patriotism and pride of independence, for with the Persians,
religion and patriotism are synonymous terms. There is probably no
country where Church and State are more closely and fortunately bound
together than Persia. Had the sovereignty not been Shiah, it would long
ago have disappeared between its Sunni neighbours. With them the
persecution of the 'accursed Rafizi,' as they speak of the sect, is the
exercise of a holy duty, and their enslavement by Sunnis is a
meritorious act, giving the heretics an opportunity of benefiting by
example, and of rescue from perdition by conversion to the orthodox
faith. Thus it was that the Hazaras and Shiah inhabitants of the small
principalities on the head-waters of the Oxus were sold into Sunni
slavery, and the purchase of the Shiah Circassians in the Turkish
markets was justified on the same grounds. The bitter experience of ages
has taught all Shiahs that, once helplessly at the mercy of the Sunnis,
there must be absolute submission on all points. This conviction has
buried itself deep in the minds of the Persian people, and they now and
then are painfully reminded of the savage readiness of their Sunni
neighbours to emphasize the fact.

In 1892 a bazaar quarrel in Herat between Sunni and Shiah traders grew
to a disturbance, and culminated in some of the latter, Persian
subjects, being slain and their goods plundered, the Moullas solemnly
pronouncing their judgment that it was 'lawful' for Sunnis to take the
lives as well as the property of the heretical Shiahs. The Shah, on the
representation of the Meshed religious authorities, addressed a
remonstrance to the Amir Abdul Rahman Khan, who, being a strong and wise
ruler, made reparation. The religious antagonism is very bitter in
Afghanistan, and were it not for the warlike character and good fighting
qualities of the Shiah Kizzilbash tribe at Kabul, their presence at the
capital would not be tolerated by the bigoted Moullas. The common danger
makes the Kizzilbashes a united band and dangerous foe, and arms them to
be always ready to fight for their lives. They have become a power which
it is the policy of the rulers to conciliate, and thus secure their
support. But notwithstanding this, the fanatical hatred of the orthodox
Sunni, as representing both Church and State, cannot be suppressed. I
was with General Sir William Mansfield (the late Lord Sandhurst) when
he, being Commander-in-Chief in India, had a conversation with the Amir
Sher Ali of Kabul on general subjects, in the course of which the Amir,
in rather a captious manner, made some sharp remarks on what he called
the hostile differences in the Christian Church; Sir William rejoined by
referring to the great division in Islam between Sunni and Shiah, and
asked if there were many of the latter faith at Kabul. A look of
displeasure passed over Sher Ali's face as, half turning towards his
people who stood behind him, he said, in a severe tone, 'Yes, there are
a few of the dogs there, sons of burnt fathers.'

The mutual hatred ever existing with Sunni and Shiah has always worked
against very cordial relations between Turkey and Persia, and once
certainly, in the sixteenth century, the fear of Persia, then actively
hostile on the south-eastern border, benefited Austria and Russia by
deterring the Turkish Power, in the days of its triumph and strength,
from extended aggressive operations north and west of Constantinople.
Accordingly, the reconciliation of Sunni and Shiah has long been a
cardinal point of policy with the Porte. While it appears that Austria
thus benefited in an indirect manner through Turkey's fear of Persia, it
is an interesting coincidence that, from the time the latter extended
her diplomatic relations beyond those with Russia and England, which,
for a considerable period, were the only Western Powers represented at
the Shah's Court, Austria has held a prominently friendly position in
Persia. Austrian officers have long been employed in her army, and the
fact of the Emperor Francis Joseph and the late Shah Nasr-ed-Din having
ascended their thrones within three months of each other in the same
year (1848) was regarded by the latter as an association with himself of
the highest honour and amity. And this brings to my recollection a
matter connected with the Austrian Legation at Tehran which occurred
after the deportation of Jemal-ed-Din in 1891. Mohamed Reza, the
murderer of the late Shah, remained in Tehran, and continued the
treasonable practices which had been originated by Jemal, even to the
extent of disseminating his revolutionary opinions by means of printed

The press used for printing was a lithographic one, and one of the
Mirzas employed by the Austrian Legation having been drawn into Jemal's
secret society, he was induced to set it up in his own house. The usual
informer accomplice was found, or offered himself, for the purpose of
betraying his brethren, and the police became so keen on capture that
oblivious of the privilege enjoyed by the employe of a foreign Legation,
they entered the Mirza's house and arrested him in the act of printing
treasonable papers from the lithographic press. The Mirza was carried
off to prison before the Minister knew of the occurrence, but, on being
informed, he promptly made a strong remonstrance against the violation
of international privilege. The fullest satisfaction was at once given;
the Chief of Police called and apologized, and the prisoner was released
and sent to the Legation.

The Minister conducted his own inquiry, and on undeniable proof of the
truth of what was alleged, he dismissed the Mirza from his post, and
the Persian authorities were then free to arrest him. The Mirza was kept
a prisoner for some time, and was eventually released with Mohamed Reza
and his companions. The Tehran telegram of May 4 tells us that Mohamed
Reza continued his old course of public hostility to the Government, and
was again imprisoned, but once more obtained his release, and was
granted a pension by the Shah, notwithstanding which he remained
discontented, as the 'black-mailer' generally does, greed suggesting
that the price paid for silence is inadequate. This lenient treatment of
the conspirators was quite characteristic of the later disposition of
Nasr-ed-Din Shah, and his averseness to judicial severity.

From what is now known regarding the Mohammedan revival and Church union
contemplated by Jemal-ed-Din, it is obvious that the idea of any
connection between Babism and the crime at Shah Abdul Azim is out of the
question, for the Babis of Persia and Jemal-ed-Din's followers have
little or nothing in common. I have already told how the former are
averse to violent measures, practise no public preaching, and suffer in
silence, while the latter we know shout aloud and try to terrorize.

When Nadir Shah accepted the throne, he insisted on the abandonment of
the Shiah schism and reunion with the Sunni faith, and he went to
extreme lengths in suppressing the unwillingness of the clergy to accept
the arbitrary decree which he issued in proclaiming his mandate. His
attempt to bridge the great gulf between the hostile creeds entirely
failed, and the Persians remained Shiahs. Freedom of thought and liberty
of speech are national characteristics and privileges, and with minds
never thoroughly subjected to severe Church discipline, the people have
been ever ready to indulge in free criticisms on religious and other
matters. They had no desire to study a new religion, even at the command
of their King, and, judging that any change would be irksome, they sided
with the Moullas, and without display refused to be Sunnis. Nadir's
devotion to ambition was greater than his love of religion, and his
object in trying to drive all into one creed was to remove the obstacles
to the progress of his Imperial power among the Sunnis of India,
Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Asia Minor. On issuing his mandate to
form the Shiahs into a new branch of the true faith, he intimated to the
Emperor of Constantinople his high aim at general concord among

Islam, as it was forced on Persia, was the faith of foreign conquerors
and oppressors, so it never has had the same considerable influence on
the people as elsewhere. This, taken with their habits of freedom of
thought and love of romance and poetry, inclined them to champion the
Shiah schism, which, on the fall of the Arab power, they adopted for
their National Church. I refer to this in connection with what is now
reported of Jemal-ed-Din's relations with the chiefs of the State Church
party at Constantinople, for in his preachings in Persia there were
clear signs of movement towards a great Mohammedan revival, which was to
restore Islam to its old dominant position in the world.




--The Shah Mozuffer-ed-Din
--His previous position at Tabriz
--Character and disposition
--His sons
--Accession to the throne
--Previous accessions in the Kajar Dynasty
--Regalia and crown jewels
--Position of the late Shah's two sons,
Zil-es-Sultan and Naib-es-Sultaneh
--The Sadr Azem (Grand Vazir)
--Prompt action on the death of the late Shah.

Among the great families of Tartary from whom the chiefs of the royal
Kajar tribe claim descent, much importance has always been given to the
birth of the mother of a candidate for high position. Therefore, in the
choice of an heir to the throne, Persia, as now represented by the Kajar
dynasty, looks to the claims of the mother as well as the father, and
requires royal birth on both sides. For this reason Mozuffer-ed-Din
Mirza, the second son of the late Shah, his mother being a Kajar
Princess, was preferred to the first-born, Sultan Masud Mirza, known
as the Zil-es-Sultan. It has been customary with the Kajars to have the
Vali Ahd, or Heir-apparent, at a distance from the capital, and for him
to be nominal Governor-General of Azerbaijan, the richest and most
important province of Persia. Its capital is Tabriz, a town of
considerable commercial prosperity, through its Russian and other
foreign trade connections. The mother of Mozuffer-ed-Din Mirza
maintained a dignified position of high influence at the Court of the
late Shah until her death, which took place at Tehran in May, 1892.
During the intrigues and disquieting rumours which at one time
prevailed, the strong influence of the mother of Mozuffer-ed-Din Mirza
was always present to watch over his interests in the Shah's palace, and
when she died his friends feared that he had lost his only good
protector. But the Sadr Azem, then known as the Amin-es-Sultan, rightly
interpreting the true feelings of the royal father and the people,
promptly filled the vacancy himself, and has now led the nation to act
as executors of the will of the departed Shah in securing the peaceful
succession of the heir whom he appointed.


There has been much speculation regarding the character, abilities, and
disposition of Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah. I think the general opinion formed
of him by those who have had opportunity of judging is favourable. He is
of kindly disposition, and has pleasing manners, and though prudence has
demanded that as Heir-apparent he should not take a very active part in
public affairs, yet there have been occasions on which he showed himself
to be a capable ruler. His position made it absolutely necessary that he
should avoid all appearance of impatience of subjection to the Central
Government, and he showed considerable tact in never giving cause for
suspicion on this point. He was most successful in keeping clear of
everything that could offend the susceptibilities of his royal father,
and was always regarded as a dutiful son and a loyal subject. His was a
most difficult position to fill, and the fact that he filled it to the
satisfaction of the Shah proves that he possesses the qualities of
prudence, patience, and good judgment.

Mozuffer-ed-Din Mirza had with him for a long time as Kaimakam, or
Vazir, the well-known Amir-i-Nizam, who was virtually Governor-General
of Azerbaijan, for the Shah held him personally responsible for the
administration of the province. He was a man of strong character, and
had great influence in Azerbaijan. His wealth also added to his
importance, and it was not surprising, perhaps, that he considered
himself qualified to hold independent opinions. The active resistance to
the tobacco monopoly was first shown in Tabriz, and he was said to have
encouraged opposition to the wishes of the Central Government. In
consequence of this the Shah summoned him to Tehran in the end of 1891,
and early in 1892 appointed him to be Governor-General of Kurdistan and
Kermanshah, a post which he still holds. On this change taking place,
Mozuffer-ed-Din was directed to assume responsible charge of the
Northern province, and has continued to exercise it till now. The
Amir-i-Nizam was succeeded as Kaimakam by Haji Mirza Abdul Rahim, who
was formerly Persian Minister at St. Petersburg, and as his predecessor
had been Minister at Paris for some years, the European experiences of
these able Vazirs no doubt aided the further education of the Vali Ahd.
The association of enlightened companions and Ministers gave him
opportunities of gaining knowledge which not only informed him on
matters of public importance and general interest, but was also
calculated to prepare him for the position of Sovereign. It has been
said of him that he is entirely Russian in his inclinations, and
considering his long residence at Tabriz, within view, as it were, of
the great power of Russia's vast empire, it would be strange if he had
not been strongly impressed with the vital necessity of securing the
goodwill of the Czar, and we may feel certain that the advice and
opinions of the two Vazirs I have mentioned were to this effect. But it
does not follow that Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah's mind is wholly bent in that
one direction. Judging from the present as well as the past, he knows
well he can believe in England's sincere desire to preserve the same
friendly relations with him as existed with his father, and that she
wishes to see Persia strong, prosperous, and independent.

While the Amir-i-Nizam was at Tabriz, his energetic management left
nothing for the Prince to do, and as, moreover, a policy of caution
debarred him from taking a very active part in public affairs, he
occupied himself chiefly with the simple amusements of a country
gentleman. He was greatly interested in his horse-breeding farms
established on the fine pasturelands of Maragha, near Lake Urumia, and
made frequent visits there. He is a good horseman and a keen sportsman
with gun, rifle, and falcon, just as his father was, and his love of
life in the open brought him much in contact with the people in a manner
that developed the good-nature for which he is known. He possesses in a
large measure the pleasing characteristics of a nomad chief, and on the
departure of the Amir-i-Nizam, his personal qualities, added to the
sympathetic exercise of his duties, made his rule popular.

While his prominent brothers have benefited pecuniarily to a
considerable extent by the positions which they hold, the Vali Ahd was
content to maintain a miniature Court on a modest scale, keeping up his
dignity in a fitting manner, and showing no desire to amass money. The
people were aware of this, and respected him for not taking advantage of
his opportunities to enrich himself as others might have done. More than
once lately mention has been made in the papers of the large fortune
which the Zil-es-Sultan is said to have acquired at Isfahan, and
invested in foreign securities.

Mention may here be made of the first two sons of Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah.
The elder is Mohamed Ali Mirza, twenty-four years of age, whose mother
is a daughter of Mirza Taki Khan, Amir-el-Kebir and his wife, who was
the favourite sister of the late Shah. The second is Malik Mansur, about
fifteen years of age, whose mother is a daughter of Ismail Mirza, a
Prince of the reigning Kajar family. The latter is spoken of as an
engaging and bright-looking youth, and is generally believed to be the
favourite son. The other sons are not much known nor mentioned as yet,
but it may be said that the succession in the direct line appears to be
well assured.

Naturally the health of the Heir-apparent was a matter of great
consequence to himself, in the first place in view of his future, and
secondly to those who desired to see the nomination to the succession
undisturbed, for change would have produced great uncertainty and unrest
throughout the country. When I visited Tabriz in the end of 1892, there
were three physicians attached to the Vali Ahd's Court. One was the
Hakim Bashi, Mirza Mahmud Khan, a Persian of superior education and
professional training, who was in constant attendance on the Prince, and
with him were associated the English Dr. Adcock (who had then been four
years in Tabriz, and is still with Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah), and an Italian
doctor, S. Castaldi, brother of the wife of the Russian Consul-General,
regarding whom I have no late information.

The succession of Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah so far has been peaceful,
notwithstanding the fears of many that opposition would appear in the
South. This is the first time with the present dynasty that on the death
of the Shah the Vali Ahd has found no rival in his path. Curzon stated
very decidedly in his important work on Persia that a contest for the
throne was most improbable, and his forecast has proved correct.
Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah is the fifth Sovereign of the Kajar dynasty, which
was founded by Agha Mohamed Shah, and I may here remark that the reign
of the late Shah was just within one year of completing a century of
royal rule shared by only three successive sovereigns of this line, a
notable fact in an Oriental kingdom.

Fateh Ali Shah succeeded to the throne in 1797, having been appointed
Vali Ahd by his uncle, Agha Mohamed Shah, who had no family of his own.
He was the son of Hussein Kuli Khan (full brother of the Shah),
Governor-General at Shiraz, and he was there with his father when called
to the throne at Tehran. On the death of Agha Mohamed Shah in camp with
his army on the Northern frontier, General Sadik Khan, chief of the
Shekaki tribe in Azerbaijan, seized the opportunity to gain possession
of the Crown jewels and treasure, and quitted the camp with his men; but
the rest of the troops marched at the command of the strong Prime
Minister Haji Ibrahim, to the capital, which by his orders was held by
the Kajar chief, Mirza Mohamed Khan, for the legitimate heir of the
Shah. Two competitors for the Crown appeared in the South, in the
persons of Fateh Ali Shah's own father, and a son of Zaki Khan Zend; but
both, as well as the Shekaki chief who advanced similar claims in the
North, and Nadir Mirza, grandson of the great Nadir Shah, who had
entered Khorasan from Afghanistan, and raised the standard of revolt,
were soon defeated and driven into submission. The Shakaki chief was
able from his possession of the Crown jewels and treasure to make terms
for pardon and preferment; but he afterwards broke his oath of
allegiance, and rebelled. He was captured and confined in a dungeon,
where his life soon ceased.

Fateh Ali Shah died in 1834, and was succeeded by his grandson, Mohamed
Shah, son of the capable Abbas Mirza, who predeceased his father. He was
at Tabriz, holding the post of nominal Governor-General of Azerbaijan,
which was the customary position assigned to the Vali Abd, when his
grandfather died, and I have in a previous chapter told of the part
taken by British officers in defeating the Pretenders, who attempted to
dispute his right to the throne. These Pretenders were his uncles Ali
Mirza, the Zil-es-Sultan, and Hussein Ali Mirza, Governor-General at
Shiraz, each of whom proclaimed himself King. Fateh Ali Shah died at
Isfahan while on his way to Shiraz to compel the obedience of his son
Hussein Ali Mirza, who in expectation of his father's death from age and
infirmity had decided to withhold payment of revenue to the Crown. The
rebellious son advanced with an army, and took possession of the jewels
and treasure which his father had brought with him; and his brother, the
Zil-es-Sultan, seized what had been left at Tehran, but Mohamed Shah
afterwards regained possession of the whole.

Nasr-ed-Din, son and heir-apparent of Mohamed Shah, was present at his
post of Governor-General of Azerbaijan when his father died in Tehran,
and there was an interval of disturbance for the six or seven weeks
which passed between the death of the one King and the coronation of the
other. During this period revolution prevailed in the towns, and robbery
and violence in the country. The son of Ali Mirza, the Zil-es-Sultan,
the Prince-Governor of Tehran, who had disputed the succession of
Mohamed Shah, issued forth from his retirement in Kasvin to contest the
Crown with his cousin; but the attempt came to an inglorious end. A
revolt at Meshed with a similar object also failed, and then Mirza Taki
Khan, Amir-i-Nizam, proceeded successfully to consolidate the power of
Nasr-ed-Din Shah, whose long reign, and on the whole good rule, have so
accustomed the people to peace that the old ways of revolution and
revolt on the death of a Shah have been forgotten and changed.

The regalia and Crown jewels of Persia mentioned in these changes of
royal rule have, by inexplicable good fortune, been preserved from
plunder while in the hands of rebels. The Crown jewels are in great part
a portion of the splendid spoil which Nadir Shah obtained in the sack of
Delhi, when it was the capital of the richest empire in the East. On his
assassination near Meshed, the treasury was seized by the troops, and
while a considerable share, including the famous Koh-i-Nur diamond,
which now adorns the English crown, fell to the Afghans with Nadir's
army, the greater part, with the Koh-i-Nur companion diamond, known as
the Darya-i-Nur (Sea of Light), was secured by Persian soldiers, who hid
it all away in Khorasan and the adjoining districts.

When Agha Mohamed Shah found leisure from his wars and work of firmly
establishing his authority, he turned his attention to the recovery of
Nadirs jewels, and proceeded to Meshed, where, by means of cunning and
cruelty, he succeeded in wresting from the plunderers of Nadir's camp,
and others, the rare collection of gems and ornaments now in the royal
treasury at Tehran. The value of the collection is believed to be very

The singular preservation of the regalia and Crown jewels of Persia from
plunder while they were in the hands of rebels after the death of Agha
Mohamed Shah, and again on the death of Fatch Ali Shah, is most
remarkable. A superstitious feeling of fear and respect appears to have
kept them from being lost from the Crown, or it may be that, on the
principle of 'safety in numbers,' every one, with a prospective share of
the plunder in view, was a check on his neighbour against theft of that
which they thought belonged to all.

Sultan Masud Mirza, better known as the Zil-es-Sultan, the eldest son of
the late Shah, has generally been regarded as likely to challenge the
right of his younger brother to the throne. His ambition and overweening
self-confidence combined to make him imprudent in permitting his
partisans to speak aloud of his superior qualifications as a successor
to his father. The late Shah's considerate treatment of him on all
occasions also led him to make ill-judged requests for such extended
rule in the South that his father said Persia was not large enough for
two Shahs. I think his idea of a viceroyalty in the South came from
foolish vanity, and not from any serious thought of semi-independence,
as some who heard him speak on this subject supposed.

His father always wrote to him as 'my well-beloved first-born,' and up
to 1888 he allowed him great power and freedom of action. He was fond of
'playing at soldiers,' and he went to work at this amusement with such
energy and will that he formed a numerous and very efficient army under
well-trained officers, too good, the Shah thought, to be quite safe.
Nasr-ed-Din sent an officer whom he could trust to Isfahan to bring back
a true report on the army there; and such was the Zil's self-assurance,
that he went out of his way to show him everything, and to make the most
of his force.

The Shah, on learning all, became jealous or suspicious, and ordered the
reduction of the troops to the moderate limits really required for
provincial purposes. As affairs then stood, the Zil, with his
well-appointed army, was master of the situation, but he was constrained
to submit. He singled out the Amin-es-Sultan (now the Sadr Azem) as his
enemy at Court, and regarded him as the strong adviser who influenced
the Shah. His relations with Tehran then became so strained that the
Shah summoned him to his presence to have his wishes clearly explained
to him. The meeting of father and son did not tend to smooth matters,
and the latter, allowing his temper to carry him to extreme lengths,
tendered his resignation of the various governments he held, asking only
to retain the governorship of Isfahan. His request was granted, and from
that time he made no secret of his enmity to the Prime Minister.

Two or three years later the Shah restored to him some of the provinces
which he had resigned in 1888, and this enabled, him to carry out more
successfully the task which he had set himself, viz., that of amassing
money, after his army was broken up. The warlike Bakhtiari tribe form
the most important part of the military strength under the nominal
command of the Zil-es-Sultan, but he alienated them entirely by his
cruel and treacherous murder of their popular chief, Hussein Kuli Khan,
in 1882, and the long imprisonment of his son, the equally popular
Isfendiar Khan. Now that he has promised allegiance to his brother,
Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah, we may regard the peace of the South as assured.

The Naib-es-Sultaneh, Kamran Mirza, as Minister of War,
Commander-in-Chief, and Governor of Tehran, who was in constant
attendance on his father, was also regarded by foolish partisans as a
likely successor to the throne, but he himself never entertained the
idea. His position as head of the army gives him no real power--in fact,
it rather takes from his influence as Governor of Tehran; for the
soldiers look upon him as a costly appendage, for whose pleasures and
palaces their pay is clipped.

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