Hussein bin Talal, King of Jordan (حسين بن طلال, Ḥusayn bin Ṭalāl) (November 14, 1935 – February 7, 1999) was the ruler of Jordan from the abdication of his father, King Talal, in 1952, until his death. Hussein guided his country in the context of the Cold War, and through four decades of Arab-Israeli conflict, balancing the pressures of Arab nationalism, the burdens of sheltering a large Palestinian refugee population, and the allure of Western-style development against the stark reality of Jordan's geographic location.
Hussein's family claims a line of descent from the Islamic prophet Muhammad. "We are the family of the prophet and we are the oldest tribe in the Arab world," the king once said of his Hashemite ancestry.
Early life and accession
Hussein was educated at Victoria College
. He proceeded to Harrow School
, where he befriended his cousin Faisal II of Iraq
. He pursued further study at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
On July 20, 1951, Prince Hussein traveled to Jerusalem to perform Friday prayers with his grandfather, King Abdullah I. A Palestinian extremist, fearing the king might negotiate a peace with the newly-created state of Israel, opened fire on Abdullah and his grandson. Abdullah was killed, but the 15-year-old Hussein survived, and turned to pursue the gunman. The assailant turned his weapon on the young prince, who was saved when the bullet was deflected by a medal on his uniform given to him by his grandfather.
Abdullah's eldest son, King Talal, was crowned King of Jordan, but within a year was forced to abdicate owing to his mental state (European and Arab doctors diagnosed schizophrenia). King Talal's son, Crown Prince Hussein, was proclaimed King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on August 11, 1952, at the age of 16; because this was under the legal age, he was enthroned a year later, on May 2, 1953.
In mid-1967, Jordan joined Egypt and Syria to fight Israel in the Six Day War. Jordan lost control of the West Bank
and east Jerusalem and saw its military shattered, but Hussein shored up his support among the country's growing Palestinian population.
In September 1970, the king ordered the forcible expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization
, which he considered to be attempting to foment a civil war, from the country.
The Gulf War
The country also defied the West and the other allied leaders by refusing to side against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War — allegedly done for internal political reasons after the Ma'an uprising in 1988 that threatened the throne of the King — which alienated the kingdom from most of the Arab world.
Peace with Israel
In 1994 King Hussein concluded negotiations to end the official state of war with Israel
resulting in the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace
which he had begun negotiating in secret with the Israelis in the 1970s.
King Hussein developed strong ties of friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, with whom he had negotiated the peace treaty. King Hussein gave a powerful speech at the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin:
- Full text:
- My sister, Mrs. Leah Rabin, my friends, I had never thought that the moment would come like this when I would grieve the loss of a brother, a colleague and a friend - a man, a soldier who met us on the opposite side of a divide whom we respected as he respected us. A man I came to know because I realized, as he did, that we have to cross over the divide, establish a dialogue, get to know each other and strive to leave for those who follow us a legacy that is worthy of them. And so we did. And so we became brethren and friends.
The king wrote three books: Uneasy Lies the Head
(1962), about his childhood and early years as king; My War With Israel
(1969); and Mon Métier de Roi
He died of complications related to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
on February 7
. The King had been suffering from the disease for many years and had been treated at the Mayo Clinic
in Rochester, Minnesota
, United States
on a fairly regular basis.
Just before his death, he made a constitutionally-allowable change to his will, disinheriting the heir-apparent of several decades, his brother Hassan, in favor of his eldest son Abdullah. Then, with a recurrent fever, he abruptly returned to the U.S. clinic January 25 for further treatment. He underwent a bone marrow transplant earlier that week, but the transplant failed, and the king returned home to die. The King was, at the time of his death, one of the longest-serving leaders in international politics.
King Hussein was married four times, although he was never married to more than one woman at the same time: his four wives were
- Sharifa Dina bint 'Abdu'l-Hamid, an Egyptian-born third cousin of King Hussein's father, King Talal, on April 18, 1955. A graduate of Cambridge University and a former lecturer in English literature at Cairo University, the bride was 26 to the groom's 19. They separated in 1956 and were divorced in 1957, at which time Queen Dina became known as Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Abdul-Hamid of Jordan. She became an Egyptian citizen in 1963, and in October 1970, Princess Dina of Jordan married Asad Sulayman Abd al-Qadir, alias Salah Taamari, a Palestinian guerrilla commando who became a high-ranking official in the Palestine Liberation Organization.
- Daughter: H.R.H.Princess Alia bint Al Hussein (born 1956). Married first to Sayyid Nasser Mirza, they have one child together a son Hussein. They divorced in 1987. She remarried in 1988 to Sayyid Mohammed Al-Saleh, they have two sons Talal and Abdul.
- Antoinette Avril Gardiner ('Toni Gardiner'), (born Chelmondiston, England, 1941, styled HRH Princess Muna al-Hussein from May 25, 1961). An award-winning field hockey player, former typist, and daughter of a British army officer turned innkeeper, Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Percy Gardiner, she was given the title Her Royal Highness Princess Muna al-Hussein and retained this title after they divorced in 1972.
It is known that Princess Muna al-Hussein converted to Islam. The Jordanian Constitution at Chapter VI Part I Article 28e specifically requires that every person with rights of succession to the Jordanian throne be born of a legitimate wife who is Muslim.
- Alia Baha el-Din Toukan H.M. Queen Alia al-Hussein (1948–1977), after whom Jordan's international airport (Queen Alia International Airport) is named. She died in a helicopter crash in Amman, Jordan.
- '''Lisa Najeeb Halaby, (renamed Queen Noor al Hussein on her conversion to Islam),
King Hussein was an avid amateur radio operator (callsign JY1). He also loved to fly airplanes (prop and jet) as well as helicopters.
According to actor and comedian Mike Myers in an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, King Hussein was a great fan of the Austin Powers movie series, and would do impressions of Dr. Evil at meetings with defense contractors and high-ranking officers of the U.S military.
King Hussein was succeeded as king by his eldest son Abdullah II of Jordan.