Now boast thee, death, in thy possession lies / A lass unparalleled..
Antony and Cleopatra, Act V, Scene 2
A mournful footnote on this tumultuous day in Egypt, in the midst of a situation both uncertain and discouraging: news from Alexandria of the death at 91 of Princess Fawzia, once Queen of Iran, daughter of King Fouad and the last surviving member of her generation of Egypt's former royal family.
Not since Nefertiti had the Nile seen a princess of such stunning beauty, and while the last decades of her life (after what is said to have been a happy second marriage and a quiet private life following the 1952 revolution) were spent far from the spotlight, during the '30s and '40s she was an international sensation. Above she graces the cover of a 1948 issue of El Musawer (The Photographer). When he photographed the Princess a few years earlier, Cecil Beaton called her an "Asian Venus," praising her "a perfect heart-shaped face and strangely pale but piercing blue eyes."
Coming today, her death can't help seeming something of a portent - the past, ever lovelier in memory, receding ever further, perhaps. It's hard immediately to see anything but melancholy in this unwitting omen, sad at any time but strangely foreboding at this fraught moment, and hard not to think it a mercy that she's been spared whatever will be happening next...