Decadence and Downfall: The Shah of Iran’s Ultimate Party

In 1971, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran, the ‘king of kings’, and Empress Farah (wearing her Seven Emerald Tiara) celebrated 2,500 years of the Persian monarchy by throwing the greatest party in history at Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Persian Empire. Featuring interviews by, among others, Prince Michael of Greece and members of the Iranian government and Imperial Court in the 1970s, the BBC documentary “Decadence and Downfall: The Shah of Iran’s Ultimate Party” charts the progress of planning the lavish celebrations throughout the political turmoil in Iran in the 1970s. Money was no object – a lavish tent city, using 37km of silk, was erected in a specially created oasis. The world’s top restaurant at the time, Maxim’s, closed its doors for two weeks to cater the event, a five-course banquet served to over sixty of the world’s kings, queens and presidents, and washed down with some of the rarest wines known to man. Over a decadent five-day period, guests were treated to a pageant of thousands of soldiers dressed in ancient Persian costume, a ‘son et lumiere’ at the foot of Darius the Great’s temple, and the opening of the Azadi Tower in Tehran, designed to honour the Shah himself. Every party leaves a few hangovers. This one left a country reeling, never to recover. It crystallized the opposition, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. More than any other event, this party marked the break between the king of kings and the people of Iran he reigned over, leading to his exile just a few years later and the downfall of the monarchy.

Royal attendees at the Grand Banquet included the Shah and Empress Farah (wearing the Noor-ol-Ain Tiara), Emperor of Ethiopia, the Emperor of Japan, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal (in Princess Andrew’s Meander Tiara), King Frederik and Queen Ingrid of Denmark (wearing the Pearl Poiré Tiara), Crown Prince Carl Gustav of Sweden, King Olav of Norway, King Constantine, Queen Anne Marie (in the Emerald Parure Tiara) and Prince Michael of Greece, King Hussein and Princess Muna of Jordan, The King and Queen Ratna (wearing the Nepalese Diamond Tiara) of Nepal, King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium (wearing the Wolfers Necklace Tiara), The Prince Consort of the Netherlands, the King and Queen of Malaysia, Prince Juan Carlos and Princess Sofia (in Queen Maria Christina’s Cartier Loop Tiara) of Spain, Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Josephine Charlotte (wearing the Belgian Scroll Tiara) of Luxembourg, Prince Ranier and Princess Grace (in a Diamond Tiara ) of Monaco, the Prince and Princess Gina (wearing the Hapsburg Fringe Tiara) of Liechtenstein, the Prince and Princess of Naples, and the Begum Aga Khan. 

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