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This has been doing the rounds on social media sites, this image with this caption

Princess Qajar

Princess Qajar. A symbol of beauty in Persia. 13 young men killed themselves because she rejected them.

Is this true?

  • 6
    "doing the rounds on social media sites" doesn't really qualify for notability. Also, Qajar is a Persian dynasty (1789-1925). Presumably it had a fair number of princesses. – Ben Barden Sep 22 '17 at 17:22
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    NOTE: The woman in the picture is apparently Princess Esmat od-Dowleh of Iran, daughter of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar. See Liminalities of Gender and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century Iranian, page 70 – DenisS Sep 22 '17 at 17:53
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    Warning for those trying the history search - there are apparently at least two historical Iranian ladies of high class named "Esmat od-Dowleh" out there. I've seen an as-yet-unsubstantiated assertion that the one we're looking at here was the first Iranian woman to learn to play the piano. – Ben Barden Sep 22 '17 at 20:10
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    @BenBarden what does count as notable then? – Andrew Grimm Sep 22 '17 at 22:46
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    There is a big difference between a symbol of power and a symbol of beauty. In the same vein a lot of women try to gain favor with powerful men, a lot of men try to gain favor with powerful women - looks aside for both cases. The gal in the picture is a princess - someone with a lot of political power. – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Oct 6 '17 at 12:03
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There does not appear to be any credible evidence to support this claim.

Like you all, I saw the meme and was frustrated by what was obviously an attempt to make it go viral, rather than perpetuate actual history. So I went in search of the actual history, thanks in no small part to @DenisStallings' reference to the book "Liminalities of Gender and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century Iran." It provided me with an excellent start to finding several excellent sources, and I wrote about what I found in a blog post called "'Princess Qajar' and the Problem with Junk History Memes."

The real history is quite interesting, but in case you just want a straight answer to the question, here is a relevant excerpt:

Naturally, there is no source given to support this claim, which appears to be pulled from thin air. Were it true, it would seem like worthy material to include in even the shortest legitimate biographical information about ‘Esmat, but it doesn’t appear anywhere. There are, however, at least two good reasons to disbelieve this claim. First, ‘Esmat was probably married when she was around nine or ten years old. Second, the marriage was very likely arranged while she was living among the women of her father’s harem. It seems highly unlikely that she had the opportunity to meet any man not her relative, never mind beguile and reject thirteen suicidal lovers. Later, as a married woman in patriarchal Persia, it’s equally unlikely that she was being courted by amorous suitors.

  • The blogger used the best evidence available to prove her case, but that evidence still wasn't super strong. +1 for your answer anyway. – BobTheAverage Dec 21 '17 at 20:08
  • There's stronger evidence against the claim than for it. The meme gives no sources to the claim, which is extravagant. Furthermore, the only place the claim is made is related to the meme and its wide dissemination. Therefore, there is no evidence to support the claim that 13 men killed themselves for her. On the other hand, multiple sources (including Harvard historians) provide the facts of her life and none include any reference to anything even resembling this claim, but do provide evidence that disproves it. I'd say that evidence is as "super strong" as the original claim is "super weak." – Victoria Martinez Dec 22 '17 at 20:16

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