The iconic figure known as “Princess Qajar” is a composite representation of two esteemed Persian royals from the 19th century: Fatemeh Khanum, also known as “Esmat al-Dowleh,” and Zahra Khanum, referred to as “Taj al-Saltaneh.”
In the recent era dominated by the internet, the epigram that “a picture is worth a thousand words” often is not enough to depict the complete truth. The memes revolving around the viral images of the so-called Princess Qajar emphasize this point perceivably. While the photos have gone viral over the past few years, let us explore the true backstory of this mustached princess who narrates a far more complex story.
The social media posts certainly claim that she was the ultimate beauty symbol of her time. Some posts have even gone far as to claim that 13 people committed suicide after the beauty of this princess, as she rejected their advances. However, all these claims touch upon the truth, failing to capture the entire narrative. Let us discover the real story behind the trending images of Princess Qajar.
Princess Qajar Viral Images
In the recent past, several images of the so-called Princess Qajar have gone viral on the internet. The posts have been viewed by thousands of viewers and shared by them, following the same particular narrative.
A Facebook post from 2017 gained over 100k likes which said: Meet Princess Qajar! She is the beauty symbol of Persia and 13 young men committed suicide as she rejected them. Have a look at the particular image of Princess Qajar that has gone viral in the past few years.
One more post about Princess Qajar was showered with 10k likes that depict a similar story describing Princess Qajar as the ultimate symbol of beauty in Persia of her time and 13 men gave their lives facing rejection from her.
But the reality behind the posts is a lot more complicated than it appears. These photos are of two different Persian princesses, and not one. Moreover, Princess Qajar never existed, the women appearing in the images were princesses that ruled from 1789-1925 during the Persian Qajar dynasty.
The reality of Persian Women behind the social media posts
The images showcase two half-sisters and not a single woman. Martinez clarifies that the images in the posts portray two princesses, Fatemeh Khanum, and Zahra Khanum. They were the daughters of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar and the princesses of the Qajar dynasty in the 19th century. Naser Shah was obsessed with photography at a very early age which resulted in multiple images of the sisters. He even loved to click the images of his harem, and his cat Babri Khan.
Conflicting the story behind the viral post, both sisters were indulged in a married relationship at an early age, and never had any encounter with stranger men out of their relatives until they got married. Hence, it totally rejects the probability of them attracting, or rejecting 13 men, who further killed themselves deprived of love from the Princess of Qajar. Regardless, the lives of both women were far more vibrant and captivating than what the viral posts imply.
The 2nd daughter of Naser Shah, Esmat al-Doweh got married when she was just 11 years of age. She was interested in music and learned the piano and embroidery from a French tutor, and appeared as a perfect host for the wives of European diplomats who frequently visited her father, Naser Shah.
Taj al-Saltaneh, was Naser Shah’s 12th daughter, and her younger half-sister. She got into the limelight representing herself as a feminist, nationalist, and amassing people with her writing skills. She was married at the age of 10! Princess Qajar parted ways with her two husbands.
“Alas!” she penned, “Persian women have been relegated to a status beneath humanity, grouped with cattle and beasts. They endure lives of despair, confined within the walls of a metaphorical prison, burdened by the weight of harsh ideals.”
The truth behind the Princess Qajar posts
Unwanted attention is drawn to the upper lip and the downy hair in the multiple posts describing Princess Qajar. Indeed, women with mustaches were given the symbol of beauty in the 19th century in Persia.
Harvard Historian Najmabadi penned a book on the topic of Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Se8ual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity. She illustrated how women in the 19th century in Persia stood to their particular beauty standards. Women in that era highly valued thick eyebrows and upper lip hair. Moreover, they were obsessed to the extent they would highlight it by painting them with mascara.
Similarly, delicate men without beards were considered highly handsome. Further, these beauty standards developed changes with the Persians traveling frequently to Europe. With time they adapted the European beauty norms, leaving behind their traditional beauty aspects.
Princess Qajar Death Reason
Zahra Khanum passed away on January 25, 1936, when she was either 51 or 52 years old. The exact cause of her death remains uncertain, although some sources indicate that it may have been due to a stroke or a heart attack.
The Viral memes related to Princess Qajar are not totally incorrect. The beauty standards in Persia differed a lot from today in the 19th-century era, and the women depicted in the viral posts indeed adopted those beauty norms.
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