Royal Family Coup in Saudi Arabia

Royal Family Coup in Saudi Arabia

“On this day in 1964, King Saud of Saudi Arabia was formally forced from the throne by his brother Faisal. King Saud, whose father Ibn Saud had founded the modern state of Saudi Arabia, was unable to cope with the increase in administrative responsibilities due to the influx of royalties involved with the country’s oil production. His brother was forced to step in.

King Saud was born in Kuwait in 1902. After his father conquered the Hejaz in 1925, a region on the western side of the Arabian Peninsula that includes the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, he appointed Saud and Faisal as his deputies to Najd, to the east, and this region. In 1932, Ibn Saud consolidated the two regions and founded Saudi Arabia. It is said that he married a daughter of every tribal chief in these regions, in total over twenty, and produced forty-five legitimate sons (the number of daughters is apparently unknown). The following year, Saud, his eldest son, was named crown prince.

In the 1930s oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia and the following years, especially those after World War II, saw the country begin to shift from its roots as a nomadic culture with an economy based on subsistence agriculture, to the oil giant it would become in the 1970s. Ibn Saud died in 1953, and Saud took the throne.

King Saud was said to be well meaning, but his self-indulgence eventually proved his demise. Saudi Arabia was rapidly modernising, due to Ibn Saud’s efforts and the growing increase in oil royalties. Saud was unable to manage the progress and his family was forced into a difficult decision. Saud was prone to procrastination and he was considered weak. His brother Faisal, on the other hand, was tough and had a 20th century vision for Saudi Arabia. The power struggle between the brothers had begun soon after Ibn Saud’s death, but it would end in 1964, when the family decided to act.

In 1964 Saud abdicated the throne and was forced into exile. He eventually moved to Greece where he died of heart attack in 1969.”

Credit: © Bettmann/CORBIS
Caption: Newly crowned King Faisal is surrounded by well wishers on November 3, 1964, the day after his brother was deposed.