By Jon Gambrell, AP
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Iranian Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, the twin sister of the country’s deposed shah whose glamorous life epitomized the excesses of her brother’s rule, has died after decades in exile. She was 96.
Many in Iran before the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution believed Princess Ashraf served as the true power behind her brother, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and pushed him into taking power in a 1953 coup engineered by the U.S.
Immortalized in her royal prime by an Andy Warhol portrait with bright red lips and raven-black hair, Princess Ashraf’s years out of power more resembled a Shakespearean tragedy. Assassins killed her son on a Paris street just after the Islamic Revolution, her twin brother died of cancer shortly after, while a niece died of a 2001 drug overdose in London and a nephew killed himself in Boston 10 years later.
Still, she always defended her brother’s rule and held onto her royal past.
“At night, when I go into my room, that’s when all the thoughts come flooding in,” the princess told The Associated Press in a 1983 interview in Paris. “I stay up until 5 or 6 in the morning. I read, I watch a cassette, I try not to think. But the memories won’t leave you.”
Reza Pahlavi, a son of the shah, announced his aunt’s death in a Facebook post on Thursday night. Her personal website said she died Thursday, without elaborating. A longtime adviser to Princess Ashraf in New York could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.