Birthday: November 14, 1935
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 63
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Hussein bin Talal
Born in: Amman
Famous as: King of Jordan
Spouse/Ex-: Alia Baha ed din Touqan, Antoinette Avril Gardiner, Lisa Halaby
father: King Talal bin Abdullah
mother: Princess Zein al-Sharaf bint Jamil
siblings: Prince El Hassan, Prince Muhammad, Princess Basma
Died on: February 7, 1999
place of death: Amman
King Hussein bin Talal was the King of Jordan from 1952 until his death in 1999. At the time of his death, he was the longest serving executive head of state in the world. He ascended the throne when his father, the reigning king, Talal I bin Abdullah, was forced to abdicate the throne due to health reasons in 1952. Hussein, the crown prince, was thus proclaimed the new King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Since Hussein was just 16 years old at time, a Regency Council was appointed till he came of age. King Hussein believed in maintaining peace and was not in favor of war which according to him was futile. Jordan was going through a period of strife and turmoil when he came to power, and he tried his best to bring about stability and peace in the Middle East. Because of his compassionate nature and pacifist efforts he was known to his people as the ‘Al-Malik Al-Insan’—The Humane King. Over the period of his long reign he focused on the country’s development and helped to substantially raise the Jordanians’ quality of life. During his reign Jordan achieved the world's fastest annual rate of decline in infant mortality between 1981 and 1991. He was a much respected figure all over the world and is often referred to as the father of modern Jordan.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on 14 November 1935 to Prince Talal bin Abdullah and Princess Zein al-Sharaf bint Jamil in Amman. He had two brothers, Prince Muhammad and Prince El Hassan, and one sister, Princess Basma.
He received his elementary education in Amman after which he went to Egypt to pursue his higher studies. After studying at Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt, he moved to England to study at the Harrow School. He also went to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
He went to Jerusalem to perform Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque with his grandfather, King Abdullah I, on 20 July 1951 when a Palestinian assassin opened fire at the king and the prince. The king died in the attack but Hussein survived as the bullet shot at him was deflected by a medal he was wearing.
Following his grandfather’s death his father Talal became the King of Jordon, and Hussein was appointed the Crown Prince. His father however suffered from some mental health problems and was unable to administer his responsibilities properly; he was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.
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Accession & Reign
King Talal was forced to abdicate the throne due to his illness and the Crown Prince Hussein, was proclaimed King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on 11 August 1952. Hussein was just 16 years old at that time so a Regency Council was appointed until he came of age.
In 1956, he replaced all the British Officers in the Jordanian Army with Jordanians in order to assert Jordanian independence.
He held several meetings with Israeli ministers Abba Eban and Golda Meir in order to establish peaceful relations between the two nations. Jordan and Israel had been involved in disputes for long and he tried his best to resolve the dispute peacefully.
He was genuinely interested in the welfare of his citizens and emphasized on the development of the industrial and economic sectors of the country. Several industries were built, and the country’s major industries—phosphate, potash, and cement—thrived.
He focused his efforts on ensuring that proper infrastructure facilities such as highways and water works were built throughout the nation. During his reign there was a marked rise in the standard of life of the Jordanians.
He ensured that basic facilities like clean water, sanitation, medical facilities and nutritious food reached the vast majority of the people who had been deprived of these basic necessities for long.
He believed that the people were the country’s biggest asset and thus provided his full support to the underprivileged, disabled and the orphaned in their struggles to uplift themselves and become productive citizens of the country.
He was deeply committed to democracy and human rights—Jordan is internationally recognized to have the best human rights records in the Middle East. Jordan’s parliamentary elections held in 1989, 1993 and 1997 were considered among the fairest ever held in the Middle East.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1955, he married Egyptian-born Sharifa Dina bint 'Abdu'l-Hamid who was a former lecturer in English literature at Cairo University. A daughter was born to them the next year but the marriage did not last long and they soon divorced.
His second marriage was to Antoinette Avril Gardiner, a field hockey player and daughter of a British army officer, in 1961. This marriage produced four children. The couple divorced in 1971 after a decade of marriage.
He married an Egyptian born Palestinian, Alia Baha el-Din Toukan, in 1971. Alia gave birth to two children and the couple also adopted a baby girl. Unfortunately his third wife died in a helicopter crash in 1977.
He married again in 1978. His fourth wife, Lisa Najeeb Halaby, an Arab-American of Syrian descent, was the daughter of Najeeb Halaby. Four more children were born to him from this marriage.
He was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in the late 1990s; it was his second bout with cancer, he had already lost a kidney to the disease earlier. He died on 7 February 1999.
He was a much beloved king of the people and around 8, 00,000 Jordanians came to pay their last respects to him at his funeral held on 8 February 1999. Several foreign dignitaries and statesmen also attended his funeral. The UN General Assembly held an Emergency Special Session in "Tribute to the Memory of His Majesty the King of Jordan" on the same day.