by Scott Mehl
King Hussein of Jordan was one of the most polarizing figures in the Middle Eastern region. His efforts for peace in the region earned him the respect of millions around the world, regardless of religious or political beliefs.
Hussein bin Talal was born November 14, 1935 in Amman, Jordan, the eldest son of the future King Talal bin Abdullah and Zein al-Sharaf Talal. At the time, Hussein’s grandfather was the Emir of Transjordan, becoming the first King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan in 1946 (the name was later changed to simply ‘Jordan’).
Hussein had five siblings, but only three survived childhood:
- Princess Asma bint Talal (born and died 1937)
- Prince Muhammad bin Talal (1940 – ), married (1) Firyal Irshaid, had two sons (2) Taghrid Majali, daughter of the late Hazza’ al-Majali, Prime Minister of Jordan, no children
- Prince Hassan bin Talal (1947 – ), married Sarvath Ikramullah, had one son and three daughters
- Prince Muhsin bin Talal, died young
- Princess Basma bint Talal (1951 – ), married (1) Colonel Timoor Daghistani, had two children (2) Walid al-Kurdi, had two children
The young Hussein began his education in Amman, after which he attended Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt. He then attended the Harrow School in England before enrolling in the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
On July 21, 1951, Prince Hussein was accompanying his grandfather, King Abdullah I, to a mosque in Jerusalem when the king was killed by an assassin’s bullet. Hussein was at his side and was hit too, but a medal that had been pinned to Hussein’s chest at his grandfather’s insistence deflected the bullet and saved his life. With his father now becoming King, Hussein was named Crown Prince in September 1951. His father, King Talal, suffered from mental illness and was forced to abdicate just a year later. The 16-year old Crown Prince became King Hussein I with a regency council established until he reached the age of 18.
King Hussein’s mother played a major role in the early years of her son’s reign, guiding him in both political and personal matters. She arranged his first marriage, at just 19 years old, to Sharifa Dina bint ‘Abdu’l-Hamid, a third cousin of his father. The couple separated and were divorced in 1957. They had one daughter:
- Princess Alia (1956)
The King married a second time in 1961 to Antoinette Avril Gardiner, who took the title HRH Princess Muna al-Hussein. This marriage, too, ended in divorce in 1971. The couple had 4 four children:
In December 1972, the King married Alia Baha ad-Din Toukan, the daughter of a Jordanian diplomat. Upon marriage, she became HM Queen Alia al-Hussein. Tragically, Queen Alia was killed in a helicopter crash in 1977. The couple had two children, as well as an adopted daughter:
The King’s fourth marriage was to Lisa Najeeb Halaby, an American, in 1978. The couple met when she was working on the development of the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, named for the King’s recently deceased wife. Upon marriage, and her conversion to Islam, she became HM Queen Noor al-Hussein.
The couple had four children:
In July 1998, it was revealed that the King was battling lymphatic cancer, and being treated at the Mayo Clinic in the United States. He returned to Jordan in early January 1999, and somewhat unexpectedly designated his eldest son, Abdullah, as his successor. After a brief return to the Mayo Clinic for more treatment, the King returned to Jordan for a final time, being taken immediately to the King Hussein Medical Center. Having suffered significant organ failure, he lapsed into a coma, on life-support systems. The King died on the morning of February 7, 1999, with Queen Noor and some of his children at his side.
His body was taken to Raghadan Palace where the King lay in state, allowing dignitaries and world leaders to come and pay their respects. His remains were transferred to a mosque within the Royal Compound where prayers were held. Following this, he was taken to the Royal Cemetery where his body was laid to rest.