Rare printed invitation to a Ball hosted by Abbas II Hilmi Bey (1874-1944), at the Abdina (Abdeen) Palace in Cairo, dated 12th February 1896, given to Lieutenant William James Bowker ADC (1869-1931).
Abbas II was the last Khedive (Ottoman viceroy) of Egypt and Sudan, ruling from 8 January 1892 to 19 December 1914. In 1914, after Turkey joined the Central Powers in World War I, the nationalist Khedive was removed by the British, then ruling Egypt, in favor of his more pro-British uncle, Hussein Kamel, marking the de jure end of Egypt's four-century era as a province of the Ottoman Empire, which had begun in 1517.
Abbas II, the great-great-grandson of Muhammad Ali, was born in Alexandria, Egypt on 14 July 1874. He succeeded his father, Tewfik Pasha, as Khedive of Egypt and Sudan on 8 January 1892. In 1887 he was ceremonially circumcised together with his younger brother Mohammed Ali Tewfik. The festivities lasted for three weeks and were carried out under great pomp. As a boy he visited the United Kingdom, and he had a number of British tutors in Cairo including a governess who taught him English. In a profile of Abbas II, the boys' annual, Chums, gives a lengthy account of his education. His father established a small school near the Abdin Palace in Cairo where European, Arab and Turkish masters taught Abbas and his brother Mohammed Ali Tewfik. An American officer in the Egyptian army took charge of his military training. He attended school at Lausanne, Switzerland; then, at the age of twelve he was sent to the Haxius School in Geneva, in preparation for his entry into the Theresianum in Vienna. In addition to Turkish, he had good conversational knowledge of English, French and German.
He was still in college in Vienna when he assumed the throne of the Khedivate of Egypt upon the sudden death of his father, 8 January 1892. He was barely of age according to Egyptian law; normally, eighteen in cases of succession to the throne. For some time he did not cooperate very cordially with the British, whose army had occupied Egypt in 1882. As he was young and eager to exercise his new power, he resented the interference of the British Agent and Consul General in Cairo, Sir Evelyn Baring, later made Lord Cromer. At the outset of his reign, Khedive Abbas II surrounded himself with a coterie of European advisers who opposed the British occupation of Egypt and Sudan and encouraged the young khedive to challenge Cromer by replacing his ailing prime minister with an Egyptian nationalist. At Cromer's behest, Lord Rosebery, the British foreign secretary, sent Abbas II a letter stating that the Khedive was obliged to consult the British consul on such issues as cabinet appointments. In January 1894 Abbas II, while on an inspection tour of Egyptian army installations near the southern border, the Mahdists being at the time still in control of Sudan, made public remarks disparaging the Egyptian army units commanded by British officers. The British commander of the Egyptian army, Sir Herbert Kitchener, immediately offered to resign. Cromer strongly supported Kitchener and pressed the Khedive and prime minister to retract the Khedive's criticisms of the British officers.
By 1899 he had come to accept British counsels. Also in 1899 British diplomat Alfred Mitchell-Innes was appointed Under-Secretary of State for Finance in Egypt, and in 1900 Abbas II paid a second visit to Britain, during which he said he thought the British had done good work in Egypt, and declared himself ready to cooperate with the British officials administering Egypt and Sudan. He gave his formal approval for the establishment of a sound system of justice for Egyptian nationals, a great reduction in taxation, increased affordable and sound education, the inauguration of the substantial irrigation works such as the Aswan Low Dam and the Assiut Barrage, and the reconquest of Sudan. He displayed more interest in agriculture than in statecraft. His farm of cattle and horses at Qubbah, near Cairo, was a model for agricultural science in Egypt, and he created a similar establishment at Muntazah, just east of downtown Alexandria. He married the Princess Ikbal Hanem and had several children. Muhammad Abdul Mun'im, the heir-apparent, was born on 20 February 1899.
Although Abbas II no longer publicly opposed the British, he secretly created, supported, and sustained the Egyptian nationalist movement, which came to be led by Mustafa Kamil. He also funded the anti-British newspaper Al-Mu'ayyad. As Kamil's thrust was increasingly aimed at winning popular support for a National Party, Khedive Abbas publicly distanced himself from the Nationalists. Their demand for a constitutional government in 1906 was rebuffed by Abbas II, and the following year he formed the National Party, led by Mustafa Kamil Pasha, to counter the Ummah Party of the Egyptian moderates. However, in general, he had no real political power. When the Egyptian Army was sent to fight Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi in Sudan in 1896, he only found out about it because the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Francis Ferdinand was in Egypt and told him after being informed of it by a British Army officer.
His relations with Cromer's successor, Sir Eldon Gorst, however, were excellent, and they co-operated in appointing the cabinets headed by Butrus Ghali in 1908 and Muhammad Sa'id in 1910 and in checking the power of the Nationalist Party. The appointment of Kitchener to succeed Gorst in 1912 displeased Abbas II, and relations between the Khedive and the British deteriorated. Kitchener, who exiled or imprisoned the leaders of the National party, often complained about "that wicked little Khedive" and wanted to depose him.
On 25 July 1914, at the onset of World War I, Abbas II was in Constantinople and was wounded in his hands and cheeks during a failed assassination attempt. On 5 November 1914 when Great Britain declared war on Turkey, he was accused of deserting Egypt by not returning home forthwith. The British also believed that he was plotting against their rule, as he had attempted to appeal to Egyptians and Sudanese to support the Central Powers against the British, so when the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers in World War I, the United Kingdom declared Egypt a Sultanate under British protection on 18 December 1914 and deposed Abbas II. During the war, Abbas II supported the Ottomans, including leading an attack on the Suez Canal. He was replaced by the British by his uncle Hussein Kamel from 1914 to 1917, with the title of sultan. Hussein Kamel issued a series of restrictive orders to strip Abbas II of property in Egypt and Sudan and forbade contributions to him. These also barred Abbas from entering Egyptian territory and stripped him of the right to sue in Egyptian courts. This did not prevent his progeny, however, from exercising their rights. Abbas II finally accepted the new order on 12 May 1931 and formally abdicated. He retired to Switzerland, where he wrote The Anglo-Egyptian Settlement (1930) and died at Geneva on 19 December 1944, aged 70.
Begun in 1863, the palace was a centrepiece of Khedive Ismail’s plan for a modern Cairo, inspired by Paris’ then-recent makeover; the khedive even called in mastermind French planner Baron Haussmann as a consultant. He wanted the palace finished for the 1869 opening of the Suez Canal, to impress visiting dignitaries, but its 500 rooms weren’t completed until 1874. It was the royal residence until the monarchy was abolished in 1952.
Size: 16.5 X 12.5 cm approx