Copyright©Prince Rafet Bey

The Husainid Dynasty


The Husainid dynasty of Tunis is of Cretan origin, though it is difficult to establish if their ethnic origins are Greek or Turkish. The ancestor of the dynasty, 'Ali al-Turki, took military service in the Janissary Corps under the Turkish Deys of Tunis. His younger son Husain seized power in 1705, after a period of struggle between various factions of the Turkish militia forces. He eventually defeated the Algerians and consolidated power. Two years later he was recognised as Ottoman Viceroy of Ifriqiya. After a period of dynastic rivalry, the descendants of Husain established control in 1756 and have provided the heads of the Beylical dynasty ever since.

Tunis enjoyed almost full local autonomy within the Turkish Empire, owing only nominal allegiance to the Sultan. Ottoman control was so limited that the European powers even went so far as to negotiate and sign treaties with the Husainid Beys, independent of Istanbul. European involvement in Tunisian affairs had been brought about by the local tradition of raiding Mediterranean trading vessels and islands for slaves and booty. Several British and Franch naval expeditions eventually forced the Beys to rein in their adventurous subjects.

Ahmad Pasha-Bey, who acceded in 1837, began a reign of reform and modernisation along European lines. He reformed the army and administration, established modern schools and hospitals, and established a system of relief for the poor. He closed the slave market in Tunis in August 1841, declared anyone born in his domains to be free in the following year, and freed all remaining slaves in 1846. He travelled to France and employed European advisors and instructors.

Muhammad Pasha-Bey, who succeeded Ahmad in 1855, established the first Constitution known as the Fundamental Pact in 1857. This reformed the government and brought in a measure of representation and constitutional monarchy.

Muhammad as-Sadiq Pasha-Bey succeeded in 1859, continuing the reforming policies of his brother. The 1857 Pact was replaced by a new constitution, which confirmed and advanced his predecessors' reforms. Cabinet government was established, though most appointees tended to be mamluks of European or Caucasian origin, rather than local Tunisian Arabs. He was able to extract a firman from the Turkish Sultan, which finally recognised hereditary rule by the Husainid family. By 1871, the Porte had virtually recognised the independence of Tunisia.

The Bey's financial administration proved unequal to the task of meeting the increased levels of expenditure demanded by his extensive building and modernization programmes. Inefficient and corrupt financial administrators, and poor accounting methods made matters worse. Large loans were borrowed from Tunisian and foreign traders, frequently at exorbitant rates of interest. Gradually, the country descended into debt and a severe financial crisis loomed. The European powers, egged on by baying creditors, became increasingly anxious and demanded greater control over the national debt.

Although an International Financial Commission was established at the behest of the Europeans in 1877, it failed to resolve most of the problems. As a consequence of a further debt crises, the French threatened the Bey into accepting a protectorate. After some hesitation, he caved in and signed the Treaty of Bardo at Kassar Said on 12th May 1881. Thereafter, France ruled through a Resident-General who was supposed to exercise influence over external relations, military affairs and the national debt. The last, in effect, enabled him to interfere in almost all aspects of financial administration, through which he controlled almost the entire governmental and administrative regime. Within a few years a parallel administration emerged, staffed by French officials who left the Tunisian ministers and officials with little real power. This system prevailed until the Second World War, though not without periodic opposition from local nationalist groups.

The German defeat of France brought profound changes to the relationship with Tunisia and her ruler. Nationalist forces were buoyed by the prospect of freeing the country, though they often mistook German and Italian "help", as genuine support for independence. The Axis forces invaded the Tunisia, two years later.

Munsif Pasha-Bey acceded to the Beylical throne in 1942 and became the focus of nationalist aspirations. He attempted to free himself from French control by demanding sweeping changes and reforms from the Vichy government. Their failure to respond prompted him to instigate reforms himself and to set up a government which, with widespread popular support, increasingly ignored the French administration. The defeat of the Nazis in North Africa allowed the Free French forces to quickly regain control over the Empire. Apprehensive about Moncef Bey's reforms, they charged him with collaborating with the Axis powers and obtained the support of the Allies for his removal. He was deposed and exiled, first to the Algerian desert, and eventually to Pau in France.

Muhammad al-Amin [Lamine] Pasha-Bey, succeded his deposed cousin, proving to be a more cautious though no less compliant successor. He prorogued a nationwide assembly, known as Le Conseil des Quarante, to represent virtually all, social and political groups within the country. In 1950 he appointed a reform oriented Cabinet of Ministers headed by Chenik. Passive resistance became the order of the day when the decrees proposed by the French Resident-General for formal approval were refused. The French retaliated by arresting the Prime Minister and several Ministers, including Lamine Bey's son-in-law, and exiling them to the south. Stalemate was broken when the unpopular Resident-General, Jean de Hauteclocque, was recalled in 1953. The French Premier, Pierre Mendes-France, visited Tunis in the following year and acknowledged full autonomy in internal affairs. The protectorate continued as such for less than two years, after which the country was proclaimed an independent kingdom on 20th March 1956.

Elections were held within a month, but the process was far from 'free and fair'. The Neo-Destour Party ensured, through intimidation and threats, that they would control the National Assembly. Unsurprisingly, the newly elected parliament was almost entirely made-up of Neo-Destour deputies and their allies, leaving the Bey no choice but to appoint their leader as Prime Minister. Habib Bourguiba, though an undoubted nationalist and moderniser who wished the best for his country, was also highly temperamental and given to bouts of suspicion and intense megalomania. At first, he seemed to be supportive of the monarchy, but soon realised that a constitutional monarchy could place limits on his powers. He could brook no opposition or even differences of opinion from anyone around him, so quickly began to campaign against what he perceived as a potential threat. He took control of the Defence and Foreign Affairs portfolios, in addition to those of Prime Minister and President of the Council. Thus, arrogating to himself the same phalanx of powers previously held by the detested French Resident-General.

Fifteen months after independence, Neo-Destour party members, and their associated intellectuals and deputies, began attacking the monarchy in the press and in the National Assembly. On 15th July 1957, Bourbuiba ordered that the Royal Guard at Carthage Palace be replaced by soldiers loyal to him, the telephones cut and the Royal Family placed under virtual house arrest. He then arrested or detained several opponents on trumped-up charges, including certain prominent members of the Royal Family. Ten days later the National Assembly, in a supposed act of democracy, was dragooned into voting for the abolition of the monarchy. The republic was then proclaimed amidst some degree of confusion on the 25th July 1957.

After his deposition, the King was removed to modest accommodation in Manouba, later a women's prison, and was later transferred to a farm at La Soukra. He lived there with his wife under a form of house arrest, refused permission to attend even the funeral of his own daughter. After the death of his wife, he was eventually allowed to reside in a modest apartment in Tunis. During his last days, he would remain a familiar figure going out for an occasional constitutional, chatting to passers by and distributing sweets to children. On his death in 1962 he was buried at La Marsa, having elected to lie beside his departed wife, rather than the great Mausoleum of the Husainids in Tunis.

The Sovereign (1) after 1956: Sayyiduna wa Maulana (reign name), King of Tunisia, with the style of His Majesty. (2) before 1956: Sayyiduna wa Maulana (reign name) Pasha Bey, Sahib al-Mamlakat at-Tunussia, translated as Bey and Possessor of the Kingdom of Tunis, with the style of His Highness.
The Heir Apparent (1) after 1956: Crown Prince of Tunisia, with the style of His Royal Highness. (2) before 1956: Prince Sidi (personal name) Bey, Bey al-Mahalla, with the style of His Highness.
The Heir Presumptive: Prince Sidi (personal name) Bey, Bey al-Taula.
The sons and other male descendants of the sovereign, in the male line: Prince Sidi (personal name) Bey*.
The daughters and female descendants of the sovereign, in the male line: Princess Lalla (personal name).

*some members of the family also use the style of Royal Highness, though this was not formally established by decree of the sovereign.

Male primogeniture. The eldest surviving male in the family, succeeding on the death of his predecessor.

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Copyright©Christopher Buyers
'Ahmad Ibn 'Abi-d-Diyaf, 'Ilthaf ' Ahl az-Zaman bi'Ahbar Muluk Tunis wa 'Ahd al-'Aman. Chapitre VI (Chronique du règne d'Ahmad bey). Publications de l'université de Tunis, 4e série: histoire - Volume XII, Tunis, 1971.
Almanach de Gotha: annuaire généalogique, diplomatique et statistique, Justes Perthes, Gotha, 1900-1944.
Annuaire Tunisien 1950-1951 (51e Année), S.A. de Publicité et Imprimerie, Tunis, 1950. XIII L 1204 190826
General Bel Khodja, ''Cobbat Mamia'', Revue Tunisienne. January 1919, No. 131, pp. 163-173. Institut de Carthage (Association Tunisienne des Lettres, Sciences et Arts). Tunis, 1919.
Mohamed Ben Abdallah, "Décorations Tunisiennes". Revue Tunisienne. 1912, No. 91, pp. 241-247. L'Institut de Carthage (Association Tunisienne des Lettres, Sciences et Arts). Tunis, 1912.
Mohamed Ben Smail & Lucette Valensi, "Le regne de Hammouda Pacha", Cahiers de Tunisie, Tome XIX, Nos. 73-74, 1er & 2eme Trimestres, 1971, pp. 90-108.
Mohammed Seghir Ben Youssef, de Béja, Mechra el Melki: Chronique Tunisienne (1705-1771). Extrait de la Revue Tunisienne. Institut de Carthage, Tunis, 1900.
El Mokhtar Bey, Le Fondateur de la Dynastie Husseïnite, Hussein ben Ali. El Mokhtar Bey, Montpellier, 1993.
El Mokhtar Bey, Les Beys de Tunis 1705-1957. Tunis, 2002.
Gaston Blondeau, Grand Annuaire Tunisien. Imprimerie Typo-Lithographique Franco-Tunisienne, Tunis, 1890.
Burke's Royal Families of the World, Volume II: Africa & The Middle East, Burke's Publications Ltd., London 1980.
Abdelkebir Darghouth, Du pacha a son descendant. Les Nouvelles Presses, Tunis, 1977.
Jean Ganiage, Les Origines du Protectorat Français en Tunisie (1861-1881). Publications de l'Institut des Hautes Études de Tunis, Paris, 1959.
Pierre Grandchamp, "Arbre généalogique de la famille Hassinite (1705-1936)". Revue Tunisienne, Nouvelle série, No. 25, p. 475. Institut de Carthage, Tunis, 1936.
Pierre Grandchamp, "Arbre généalogique de la famille Husainid (1705-1944): Sixieme Tirage; Complete et mis a jour au 1er Mars 1944". Les Cahiers de Tunisie, Tome XIII. La Faculte des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines de l'Universite de Tunis, Tunis, 1965.
Robert Mantran, "Inventaire des documents d'archives Turcs du Dar el-Bey (Tunis)", Université de Tunis - Publications de la Faculté des Lettres, 5e série: Sources de l'Histoire Tunisienne - Volume no 1, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris (VI), 1961.
Saïd Mestiri, Le ministere Chenik à la poursuite de l'autonomie interne. Arcs Editions, Tunis, 2000.
Mohamed-Salah Mzali, l'Hérédité dans la Dynastie Husseinite: évolution et violations. Maison Tunisienne de l'édition, Tunis, 1969.
Yilmaz Öztuna, Devletler ve Hânedanlar. Volume II: Turkiye (1074-1990). Kultur Bakanligi Yayinlari: 1101, Ankara, 1989.
Raymond, André (ed.), Ibn Abîl-Diyâf: Chronique des Rois de Tunis et du Pacte Fondamental. Volume II: Commentaire historique. Institut de Recherches Maghreb Contemporain (IRMC) et Institut Supériuer d'Histoire du Mouvement National (ISHMN), Tunis, 1994.
Charles Samaran, "Le Bey de Tunis et sa Cour". Unpublished manuscript, ca. 1954. Institut de Rech sur le Magreb Contemporain, Tunis.
Andreas Tunger-Zanetti. La communication entre Tunis et Istanbul 1860-1913, Provincet et métropole. L'Harmattan Inc., Montréal, Canada, 1996.

Prince Fayçal Bey.
Prince Karim Bey.
Princess Linda Bey.
Prince Malek Bey.
Prince Rafet Bey.
Prince Torhane Bey.
Maher Ben Miled.

Dr. Morris L. Bierbrier, FSA.
Colette Gailliegue
Emmanuel Halleux.
David Williamson.

Many of the published sources dealing with the Hussanid dynasty should be treated with a great deal of caution. Burke's and Öztuna are both severely contaminated by the false information published by the charlatan pretender, Rachad al-Mahdi. They contain his invented ancestors and utterly spurious family lines, fictitious deaths, bogus spouses, false decorations, rules of succession, places of birth, death and marriage and a host of other misleading information. The dates and names given in Grandchamp, hitherto accepted as an authority, frequently fail to tally with the rolls of succession published in the semi-official Annuaire Tunisien. Even Darghouth is wrong on dates and chronology. Despite his marriage to a daughter of Ahmad Pasha, he lists the daughters, then fails to mention which one he wed!

I am immensely grateful to H.R.H. Prince Fayçal Bey for the painstaking help, patience and support, without which, all these errors could not have been eliminated from the genealogy. My thanks are also extended to Dr. Morris Bierbrier, and to several members of the Beylical and related families for all their assistence.
Copyright©Christopher Buyers
Copyright©Christopher Buyers
I would be grateful to hear from anyone who may have changes, corrections or additions to contribute. If you do, please be kind enough to send me an e-mail using the contact details at: Copyright©Christopher Buyers
Copyright©Christopher Buyers

Copyright©Christopher Buyers, August 2000 - September 2023