A Queen’s Life!

A Queen’s Life!

by guest contributor Joe David
Photo credit: Joe David

Washington’s social season officially began in late September with a Gala Tribute Dinner to honor one of the Twentieth Century’s most respected women, Her Imperial Majesty Farah Pahlavi, the former Shahbanu (Empress) of Iran.

Almost two hundred select members from Washington’s most respected and fashionable families gathered at the Potomac, Maryland, home of renowned philanthropist and Chairwoman Extraordinaire Annie Totah, to welcome the Empress and her Royal Family with an evening of conversation, fine cuisine – and a little reminiscing. To highlight the Queen’s life, pictures and paintings greeted the guests in the reception areas of Totah’s home. They each represented carefully selected, historical moments, showcasing the Empress’ achievements while sharing the Peacock Throne with her husband Shāhanshāh (Emperor) Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Annie Totah and HIH Empress Farah Pahlavi

Annie Totah, a popular Washington hostess, began the evening with a special welcome for her honored guest. In her charming and playful way, Totah asked everyone to sing an original musical tribute to the Empress —to a lively, melodic tune from “Fiddle on the Roof.” The lyrics were written by Totah, especially for the Empress. The cheerful musical introduction set the stage for what followed. A brief highlight of the Empress’ life. 

“Growing up in Lebanon,” Totah began, “I was always fascinated with the Empress. Everything about her I wanted to know – what she wore, what charities she supported, and what she did to enhance the opportunities for her many subjects. I saw her as the Great Lady behind the ruler of the several-thousand-year-old Persian Empire. She was what Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana of Wales were for their followers: The People’s Queen! Today I see her, as many of her subjects do, as the woman whose children one day may bring secular democracy to the Imperial State of Iran and allow all the wonderful things she had done before the 1979 revolution to blossom once again.”

His Highness Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie, Her Highness Princess Saba Sahle-Selassie

To her many friends who came from afar to honor the Empress as an achiever, one who had never wavered despite moments of adversity and tragedy. During her twenty years as Empress, until the House of Pahlavi fell, she had devoted her life to liberating Iranian women from their ancient bonds. She brought hope to them and her country through her commitment to art, culture, health, and, especially, education for women.

HIH Empress Farah with her granddaughter

In a special heartfelt tribute, her granddaughter summed up her life beautifully. “It would take volumes to record her many contributions,” Princess Noor said, “Simply put, she was a mother to her country – and a grandmother to my sisters and me.”

The Empress’ son, His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi and his wife Princess Yasmine also had their special tribute. “She has persevered as a strong mother figure,” the Crown Prince said. “Despite the tragedies in her life, she surmounted each one gracefully with fortitude and dignity. For millions of her people, her lifetime work was a source of inspiration, because it offered them new directions and new opportunities.”

Shaista Mahmoud, HRH Princess Yasmine Pahlavi

Princess Yasmine followed him with her personal tribute, which she punctuated occasionally with brief pauses. The memories, which she shared, were sometimes too strong and personal for her to reference them without an occasional, emotional pause.

“My husband and I owe so much to the queen,” the Princess began. “She has made it possible for us to raise our daughters to become the fine ladies they are today. We will always be grateful for all the wonderful things she has done for us. Iran’s loss will always be our gain.” At the end of her tribute, there wasn’t a person in the audience who didn’t feel the depth of her gratitude.

The Empress’ response, which was succinct, was shaded with humility and graciousness. “I can’t take credit for all my successes,” she said. “My many compatriots and my family deserve most of the credit by giving me the opportunity to achieve.” The tribute ended with the guests respectfully rising to their feet and applauding.

For the many guests who attended, it was a gala black-tie evening of music, fine food, and laughter, an evening planned for the Empress to the detail by Totah, her long-time friend.

Among the guests who were present were the Crown Prince, his wife, and their three daughters, the Princesses Noor, Iman and Farah, and Crown Prince’s sister, Princess Farahnaz.

HIH-Empress-Farah-Pahlavi-Prince-Reza-Pahlavi

Also in attendance were: Prince Ermias and Princess Saba Sahle-Selassie; President and Mrs. Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada; Representative John Sarbanes and Mrs. Sarbanes; Representative John Sarbanes and Mrs. Sarbanes; Mr. and Mrs. Michael Pillsbury; Senator Paul Sarbanes; Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and Mrs. Edilia Gutierrez; The Honorable Peter Franchot and Mrs. Franchot; The Honorable Lloyd Hand and Mrs. Hand; The Ambassador of Japan and Mrs. Kenichiro Sasae; Ambassador John Evans and Mrs. Evans; Ambassador Walter Cutler and Mrs. Cutler; Mrs. Joe Gildenhorn; Ambassador Peter Rosenblatt and Mrs. Rosenblatt; Ambassador Dr. Khosrow Akmal and Mrs. Akmal; Mr. and Mrs. Frank Mars; Ambassador and former Congresswoman Connie Morella; Representative and Mrs. Robert Avetisyan; The Honorable and Miss Bijan Kian; The Honorable Aniko Schott; Ms. Julie Kent; Mrs. Wilhemina Cole Holladay; Mr. and Mrs. Peter Kreeger; Mr. and Mrs.Huda Farouki; Mr. and Mrs. Fabio Trabocchi; Messrs. Barry Dixon and Will Thomas; Messrs. Jose Alberto Ucles and Tom Noll; Ms. Nina Pillsbury; Ms. Beth Newburger Schwartz; Mr. and Mrs. Finlay Lewis; Dr. and Mrs. Milton Corn; Mr. and Mrs. Arturo Brillembourg; Dr. and Mrs. Milton Corn; Mr. and Mrs. Morty Bender; Ms. Maha Kaddoura; Messrs. Reginald Van Lee and Corey McCathern; And many other prominent Washington and Iranian friends of Her Majesty.

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