Embroidery from Afghanistan, £10.99
Shah 'Abbas – the rise to power
Shah 'Abbas (1571 – 1629) was aged just 16 when he became the fifth Safavid shah of Iran. He took over a country in a state of chaos.
The Safavid Dynasty was founded by the Sufi mystic Shaykh Safi al-Din during the AD 1300s and in 1501 rose to political power in Iran. After centuries of foreign occupation and failed dynasties, the Safavids reunified the country as an independent state and ruled for 220 years.
The second Safavid shah, Tahmasp, ruled for 52 years. In 1576 he was succeeded by his son Shah Isma'il II, whose disastrous reign lasted just 18 months. Isma'il ordered the murder of all his brothers, apart from one, Muhammad Khudabandeh, who alongside three of his sons, including Prince 'Abbas, survived only because the Shah died before their murders could be carried out. So, it was Muhammad Khudabandeh who took power in early 1578, and ruled for almost 10 years. Nearly blind, and without much care for the responsibilities of his position, his reign was also a disaster for Iran.
All-out civil war gave the Ottoman Sultan, Murad III, the opportunity to wage war against the Safavids, and between 1578 and 1590 he seized more and more territory in the west of the country, including the former capital, Tabriz. In the east, Iran’s Uzbek neighbours raided its borders and desecrated the holy Shrine of Imam Riza, the only Shi'i Imam buried in Iran, at Mashhad.
Following tradition, Prince 'Abbas had been appointed governor of the province of Khurusan at the age of seven in 1578. After one unsuccessful attempt, his guardian, Murshid Quli Khan Ustajlu, decided to advance the cause of Prince 'Abbas and rode with him to the city of Qazvin, where together they forced his father to give up power. He was crowned shah on 16 October 1587.
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