(إدريس الأول) born Sayyid Muhammad Idris bin Sayyid Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Senussi
, (March 12
- May 25
) was the only King of Libya
, reigning from 1951 to 1969 and the Chief of the Senussi
He was born at Al-Jaghbub
, the headquarters of the Senussi movement, the son of Sayyid Muhammad al-Mahdi bin Sayyid Muhammad al-Senussi and his fifth wife Aisha bint Ahmad al-Syrte. Idris was a grandson of Sayyid Muhammad bin 'Ali as-Senussi
, the founder of the Senussi Muslim sufi
order. He became Chief of the Senussi order in 1916 following the abdication of his uncle Sayyid Ahmad as-Sharif bin Sayyid Muhammad as-Sharif as-Senussi
. He was recognized by the British under the new title Emir
of the territory of Cyrenaica
, a position also confirmed by the Italians in 1920.
Politically, Idris spent the early part of his career attempting to negotiate independence for his territory, Cyrenaica. in 1922 after the Italians began waging military campaigns against the Libyan hinterland he went into exile. Egypt then served as his base in a guerrilla war against the colonial Italian authorities.
World War II
During World War II
, Idris supported the United Kingdom
and brought the Cyrenaican
nationalists to fight alongside the Allies
against the Axis
, which had occupied Libya. With the defeat of the German and Italian
forces led by Erwin Rommel
, he was finally able to return to his capital, Benghazi
and form an official government.
He was also invited to become Emir
, another of the three traditional regions that now constitute modern Libya (the third is Fezzan
). By accepting he began the process of uniting Libya under a single monarchy. From Benghazi, Idris led the team negotiating with the United Kingdom and the United Nations
over independence. Independence was achieved on December 24, 1951, and Idris was proclaimed the King of Libya.
To the chagrin of Arab
nationalists at home and supporters of Pan-Arabism
in neighbouring states, Idris maintained close ties with the United Kingdom and the United States
, even after the former intervened against Egypt during the 1956 Suez Crisis
. Another threat to his regime was his failure to produce a male heir to succeed him to the throne. The economy prospered from its oil
fields and the presence of the American Air Force's Wheelus Air Base
near Tripoli, but the king started to suffer from poor health.
Overthrow and exile
On September 1 1969
, while Idris was in Turkey
for medical treatment, he was deposed by the Libyan army under the leadership of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi
in a bloodless coup
. The coup pre-empted Idris' instrument of abdication dated August 4
, to take effect September 2
, in favour of his nephew the Crown Prince Hasan as-Senussi
Idris left Turkey by ship which he rented at a price of $35,000 and sailed to Greece for a while but ultimately went into exile in Egypt, and died in Cairo in 1983.