A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Historical Aside: The Tunisian Monarchy

Given the fact that half of all Tunisians are under 25 and that the Tunisian monarchy was abolished in 1957, I think it's quite safe to predict that whatever the future holds for the country, one thing we will not see is a groundswell of interest in restoring the old Beylical/Royal House, the Husseinids. Probably few Tunisians even think about the fact that they once had a monarchy. (Apparently there is a claimant somewhere, but so obscure even the Internet doesn't offer all that much information.) But you already know I throw in historical trivia from time to time.

The fellow above left is Muhammad VIII al-Amin, Bey of Tunis, 1943-1956, and first and last King of Tunisia, 1956-57. He had been installed in 1943 when the Free French ousted his cousin, who was considered pro-Vichy.

He did not much outlast French rule. When Tunisian independence was declared in 1956, he became King. The Prime Minister, Habib Bourguiba, had an ego too large to share power with even a figurehead monarch, and in 1957 he deposed the King and declared a republic. Bourguiba became President, and eventually President-for-Life, with a lot more power than the King had had. The ex-King died in Tunis in 1962.

The Husseinids had held the Beylicate of Tunis since 1705.

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