This Day In History

King Faisal of S Arabia assassinated

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, King Faisal is shot to death by his nephew, Prince Faisal.

King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, son of King Ibn Saud, was introduced to politics at an early age. In 1919, at the age of thirteen, Faisal was sent to meetings in the United Kingdom and France as the head of the Saudi delegation. After Abdulaziz’s eldest son Turki, Faisal’s half-brother, died in 1919 during the influenza pandemic, Faisal became the second eldest of Abdulaziz’s sons after his half-brother Saud. Besides speaking Arabic, Faisal was fluent in English and French. Faisal had four wives and a total of seventeen children.

Faisal served as Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Prime Minister, and Crown Prince. After a power struggle with Faisal’s half-brother King Saud, the cabinet and senior members of the Saudi royal family forced Saud to abdicate and Faisal became the third King of Saudi Arabia in 1964.

On March 25, 1975, at the Royal Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, King Faisal was holding a reception. Prince Faisal bin Musaid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud joined the Kuwaiti delegation that had lined up to meet King Faisal. The king recognized his nephew Prince Faisal and bent his head forward so that his nephew could kiss the king’s head as a sign of respect. Prince Faisal took out a revolver from his robe and shot King Faisal twice in the head. 

The third shot missed and he threw the gun away. King Faisal fell to the floor. A bodyguard hit Prince Faisal with a sheathed sword but Saudi oil minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani yelled repeatedly not to kill the prince. Then bodyguards with swords and submachine guns subdued Prince Faisal and arrested him.

King Faisal was rushed to Riyadh Hospital where he was treated by an American doctor. Head wounds from the .38 caliber bullets fired at point-blank range were the cause of death. King Faisal’s death was announced shortly after 12 noon. A sobbing announcer read the official statement over Saudi radio: “With great sorrow and sadness, on behalf of His Highness, the Crown Prince, the royal family and the nation announces the death of His Majesty King Faisal who died in Riyadh Hospital of wounds sustained in an attack on his life by mentally deranged Prince Faisal ibn Musaid Abdulaziz.

On March 26, 1975, King Faisal was buried in Al Oud cemetery in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in a simple unmarked grave alongside hundreds of other unidentified graves. Leaders of the Arab world including Presiden Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt, King Hussein of Jordan, President Hafez al Assad of Syria, and Yasir Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization attended the funeral. King Faisal’s successor, his half-brother King Khalid, wept over his body at the funeral.    —Unofficial Royalty