Teheran is ready for coronation
Nicholas Herbert - The Times
October 25, 1967


From Nicholas Herbert – Teheran, Oct. 25, 1967

The roses are ready.  The light bulbs are looped up.  The traffic terrifies.  The flags flutter.

Officials wrestling with invitations are distracted.  The press, assembling its adjectives and coordinating its cameras, is frantic.  Cocktail parties follow luncheons, and dinners cocktail parties.  Workmen slap down rented red carpets on wooden walkways, concrete on almost finished pavements, and paint on nearly everything else.  Taxis are as unobtainable as white ties and tails.

Two loose gems have been reset on the Peacock or Nadir Throne, which has been brought by armoured car from vaults of the central bank.  The other 26,731 rubies, diamonds and emeralds have been found to be safely attached of the enamelled gold throne, which was captured from Delhi in 1789.

Horses and orchids

In the Golestan Palace, which a former British Ambassador described as a series of ill-disposed fretwork boxes in no identifiable architectural style, a collection of execrable clocks presented by Queen Victoria has been relegated to the basement so that grey-carpeted benches can be installed for the privileged few.  Five huge and magnificent chandeliers sway over a deep orange carpet and whole scene is bandied to and fro between 17 enormous mirrors.

Horses have arrived from Hungary and orchids, improbably from Australia, although the Prime Minister’s wife grows good ones, too.  Mr. George Ball, the former United States Under-Secretary of States, has arrived from New York and Begum Aga Khan from Europe.  President Bourguiba of Tunisia has sent a golden olive tree, and King Faisal a gold coat of arms with crossed swords and a palm three, and Amir of Kuwait a pair of black Arab stallions.

By day a bright sun shines through crisp clear air.  By night something like 6,800 million coloured lights transform the pedestrian streets into romantic avenues or, as one jaded journalist would have it, “a veritable fairyland”.

And so the scene is set for the coronation tomorrow of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, King of Kings, Light of the Aryans, the latest in a 2,500 year line of Persian monarchs, who has waited 26 years to put on the ostrich-plumed crown which he wore for the first time at yesterday’s dress rehearsal.

Tradition is being observed, but innovation has become a habit here in the past few years, and for the first time in that long history tomorrow will also see the coronation o a woman, the Empress (or Shahbanou) Farah, mother of the Crown Prince and symbol of the emancipation of her sex.

Amir Abbas Hoveyda, the ebullient Prime Minister, maintains that all this is saving the country much money.  The Paradox is explained by the fact that citizens have been asked instead of presenting personal gifts, to endow the building of schools, hospitals and clinics.