ʿAŻOD-AL-DAWLA, SOLṬĀN-AḤMAD MIRZĀ (b. Tehran, 1239/1824; d. Tehran, 1319/1902; PLATE I), Qajar prince and official as well as author of a history known as the Tāriḵ‑e ʿażodi (also discussed in this entry).  Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā, also called Mučul Mirzā (Bayani, p. 33), was the 49th son of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah Qājār, probably born on 19 Ḏu’l-Qaʿda 1239/16 July 1824 (according to ʿAżod-al-Dawla, ed. Navāʾi, p. 325; Bayani, p. 33; cf. Eʿteżād-al-Salṭana, p. 236).  His mother, Ṭāvus Ḵānom Tāj-al-Dawla, was Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah’s favorite wife (sowgoli), and features prominently in the Tāriḵ-e ʿażodi.  By his own account (ʿAżod-al-Dawla, ed. Navāʾi, p. 10), Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā was ten years old at the time his father died, and he witnessed the events of the royal household firsthand during the reign of his father as well as during the reigns of three of his father’s successors, Moḥammad Shah (r. 1834-48), Nāṣer-al-Din Shah (r. 1848-96), and Moẓaffar-al-Din Shah (r. 1896-1907).

During his long life, ʿAżod-al-Dawla held various governing posts, including the governorships of Borujerd, Malāyer, Tuyserkān, Hamadān, and Qazvin.  He also served as the trustee (motawalli-bāši) of the shrine and endowments of the Imam Reżā in Mashhad (see ĀSTĀN-E QODS-E RAŻAWI).  He had four children; one daughter and three sons.  His daughter, Princess Šams-al-Dawla, was one of the prominent wives of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah.  His three sons were Solṭān-ʿAbd-al-Majid Mirzā ʿAyn-al-Dawla, who was a favorite son-in-law of Moẓaffar-al-Din Shah and served in various positions under him and his successor Aḥmad Shah, including the post of grand vizier (atābak-e aʿẓam); Solṭān-Moḥammad Mirzā Sayf-al-Dawla, who was married to the daughter of Mirzā Moḥammad Khan Qājār Davallu Sepahsalār Aʿẓam, grand vizier under Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, and was therefore known as Āqā-ye Dāmād (“Mr. Son-in-Law”); and Wajih-Allāh Mirzā Sepahsālār, who functioned several times as Persia’s special envoy to the courts of St. Petersburg and St. James. Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā ʿAżod-al-Dawla is the ancestor of the ʿAżodi family (Bāmdād, II, pp. 73-74, 93-102; IV, pp. 396-405).

Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā was known for his prodigious memory regarding the details of life at the court of his father half a century earlier.  He was a much sought-after storyteller, and it was this talent that attracted the attention of his grand-nephew, Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, who requested of him, through the intermediary of Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana Saniʿ-al-Dawla, to record these vignettes for posterity.  Solṭān-Aḥmad Mīrzā complied with this request in 1886, and began dictating his memoir to his secretary (ʿAżod-al-Dawla, ed. Navāʾi, pp. 10-11, 176 n. 8).

Manuscripts and editions of the “Tāriḵ-e ʿażodi.”  Several manuscript copies of the Tāriḵ are preserved in Iran.  One, by the scribe Abu Ṭāleb Ḥosayni Hamadāni, is kept at the Melli (National) Library in Tehran (Monzavi, p. 4259).  It states that the text was scribed “in Jomādā I while Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā was governor of Hamadān” (Eskandari-Qajar, p. xxiii).  It further states that it was produced by imperial decree of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah conveyed through Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, and it is dated 1300 (1883).  Given the indication by Solṭān-Aḥmad Mīrzā that he “wrote” the memoir in 1304 (1886), the date given for this manuscript must be an error.  A second manuscript, in 251 pages, copied by the scribe Moḥammad-Ḥasan b. Ḥosayn-ʿAli Fariqi Kamaraʾi and dated 1319 (1901), is kept at the University of Tehran Library in Tehran (MS no. 7478). Another manuscript is preserved at the Collection of the Central Library Documentation Center of the University of Tehran (Monzavi, p. 4259). It states that it was produced on the order of Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana and Moʿtamed-al-Ḥaram Āqā Mirzā Dāʾi, and the date of the composition of the work is given as 1304 (1886) “while [the author was] governor of Hamadān.”  However, the date of the manuscript itself is 1324 (1906), and it states that it was begun on Tuesday 13 Shaʿbān 1324/2 October 1906 and completed on Sunday 2 Ramażān 1324/20 October 1906.  It is in šekasta nastaʿliq script (see CALLIGRAPHY) by the calligrapher Moḥammad-Reżā Šarif b. Ḥasan-ʿAli Širāzi, produced on orders of Moʿtamed-al-Ḥaram Āqā Mīrzā Dāʾi from the (az ruy-e) hand-written copy composed (taʿlif-e) by “the late” Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā ʿAżod-al-Dawla. The catalogue entry also includes a note regarding the publication of the book, stating: “This book was published in lithograph form in 1306 (1888-89) in Bombay (158 pages) and published in Tehran in 1328 (1910).”  Another manuscript is kept at the Library of the Center for the Preservation of Islamic Culture in Qom; the catalogue there also states that it was produced on the order of Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, minister of publications (wazir-e enṭebāʿāt), but includes no date or further references other than stating that it is in nastaʿliq script, and that it was produced “during the lifetime of the author.”

The Tāriḵ-e ʿażodi was first published in Bombay in Šaʿban 1306/April 1889 (according to a note at the end of the text) in lithograph form with 158 pages, through the patronage of Moḥammad-Karim Namāzi Širāzi and, according to ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Navāʾi, “at the behest of (ḥasab al-farmāyeš-e) Āqā Moḥammad Šāh, Āqā Khan III” (ʿAżod-al-Dawla, ed. Navāʾi, p. 5). In the introduction to his edition of the work, Navāʾi further states that this first print edition of the book in Bombay “was full of errors” and that he worked from the Bombay edition, correcting its many errors, for his own edition, which was published with his notes in 1976 (ʿAżod-al-Dawla, ed. Navāʾi, p. 5).  A second edition, edited by Ḥosayn Kuhi Kermāni, was published in copper print in 1949.  In his introduction, Kuhi Kermāni mentions that the Bombay edition was paid for (be ḵarj-e) by Āqā Khan III (ʿAżod-al-Dawla, ed. Kuhi Kermāni, p. 9).  In 1976, ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Navāʾi published a new edition of the Tāriḵ, which he had supplemented with detailed notes and a list of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah’s wives, male and female children, and grandchildren (ʿAżod-al-Dawla, ed. Navāʾi, pp. 301-22), based on the text itself, Sepehr’s Nāseḵ al-tawāriḵ, and Bāmdād’s Šarḥ-e ḥāl.  His edition was reprinted in 1997.  A translation by M. Eskandari-Qajar based on the Tehran Kamaraʾi manuscript was published in 2014.

The text. Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā begins by introducing the main theme of his memoir as follows: 

The wives of the blessed Khaqan were of different ranks.  The first rank belonged to those who were immediately related to the Imperial family, to the various branches of the Qajar tribe, and to those from the noble families of the realm. They numbered about forty, maybe more.  The late Khaqan would treat the ladies of this rank with utmost respect and protocol.  In their presence, there would never be a show of interest or affection for the wives of lower ranks. The wives of first rank were entitled to a daily audience of one hour at which they would present themselves in the fashion of the official salam ceremonies.  Those of Qajar blood would stand on one side; the rest in a different line based on the rank of honor of their fathers. This salam ceremony was instituted at the time of the martyred Khaqan, Aqa Mohammad Shah and was based on his yāsā (tr. Eskandari-Qajar, pp. 3-4).

About two hundred pages later, ʿAżod-al-Dawla concludes his reminiscences in similar fashion, by listing, almost actuary-like, the names and ranks of brides and grooms who, during the reign of his nephew, Moḥammad Shah Qājār, married the remaining children of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah and of ʿAbbās Mīrzā (Eskandari-Qajar, p. xxv, 149-52).  In this way, he concludes an intimate account of life at the Qajar court spanning the reigns of Āḡā Moḥammad Khan and Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah, the vice-regency of Crown Prince ʿAbbās Mirzā, and finally, the ascendancy to the throne and the beginning of the reign of Moḥammad Shah Qājār.  However, in between these rather dry brackets, Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā manages to open a window on the lives of the members of the royal household that, for its access to and personal knowledge of the subjects of its vignettes, is unequalled and unrivaled in the tradition of memoir writing in the Qajar period (ʿAżod-al-Dawla, ed. Navāʾi, pp. 6-9).

Though ʿAżod-al-Dawla’s account spans the reigns of three Qajar shahs, the main focus of his narrative is life at the court of his father, Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah, but the shah himself is not its central figure.  He is the fulcrum around which swirl a multitude of colorful characters, starting with a number of his notable wives.  What is interesting in this first section of the account is that in listing these particular wives, ʿAżod-al-Dawla not only highlights the major personages, namely Āsia Ḵānom, the mother of ʿAbbās Mirzā; Mahd-e ʿOlyā, the mother of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah; the formidable Badr-al-Nesāʾ Ḵānom, paternal cousin of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah; his own mother, the stunning Ṭāvus Ḵānom; or the beautiful Maryam Ḵānom, but also lesser known wives whose stories would have been lost to posterity but for his efforts (Eskandari-Qajar, pp. 3-32).

In addition to shedding light on the importance of these wives in the daily rituals of the court and in the private life of the ruler himself, Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā also focuses on figures about whom, as he says, no memory would remain, given that they had no children or relatives to tell their stories; for instance, the eunuchs of the palace, namely Manučehr Khan Moʿtamed-al-Dawla, Āḡā Bahrām, Āḡā Jaʿfar, Āḡā Saʿid, Āḡā Yaʿqub, and many others that are recorded throughout (Eskandari-Qajar, pp. 47-49).

Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā also concentrates on listing the wives of all the sons of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah and their lineages and also speaks at length of the daughters of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah, prominently among them, Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah’s favorite daughter, Šāh Begom Ḵānom Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana.  He also mentions, by name, all of the children of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah, both male and female, who survived infancy, forty-eight daughters and sixty sons, and is able to share vignettes about their lives to make portraits out of what otherwise would have remained a simple listing of names.  This fact makes of the Tāriḵ an invaluable genealogical record of all Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah’s male and female descendants.

Woven into these mini biographies are then accounts of marriages, formal meals, religious and holiday observances such as the celebration of Nowruz, and family scenes, as well as encounters with various elders and nobles of the greater Qajar tribe and of the realm. Of particular interest are also the stories about the senior sons of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah, mainly the brothers Moḥammad-ʿAli Mirzā Dawlatšāh, ʿAli-Šāh Ẓell-al-Solṭān, and the crown prince Nāyeb-al-Salṭana ʿAbbās Mirzā.  In fact, some of the most moving and memorable passages of the Tāriḵ deal with the ordeal of Ẓell-al-Solṭān and the news of the deaths of Moḥammad-ʿAli Mirzā Dawlatšāh and of ʿAbbās Mirzā (Eskandari-Qajar, pp. 132-38).

Beyond these accounts, Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā traces the members of the court of his father, from the influential women of the time of Āqā Moḥammad Khan to the religious and spiritual elders to the Anjoman-e Ḵāqān, the circle of learned men around the shah (Diba, p. 16), to the royal pages, attendants, musicians, cooks, masters of royal kitchens, and masters of a variety of ceremonies, from those responsible for the various night watches down to those responsible for serving the tea and coffee.

Solṭān-Aḥmad Mirzā ties together many strands of his vignettes and reminiscences with his recollection of the preparations for the transition from Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah’s rule to that of his grandson Moḥammad Mirzā. Highlights of the Tāriḵ are dedicated to recounting the challenges mounted by the senior sons of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah to the ascendancy of Moḥammad Mirzā as the next king, and the fate of those princes, including prominently that of ʿAli-Šāh Mirzā Ẓell-al-Solṭān. The Tāriḵ ends with the account of Moḥammad Shah’s kindness towards all those who were entrusted to his care by his grandfather, including some of those who ended up plotting against him, and the few concluding glimpses of protocol at the court of Moḥammad Shah mirror, in effect, the opening scenes of protocol at the court of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah and Āḡā Moḥammad Shah earlier (Eskandari-Qajar, pp. 138-52).

The Tāriḵ-e ʿażodi has not been fully appreciated as an example of memoir-literature because it is mainly relating stories about the ruler of the time.  It is noteworthy because of its emphasis on the women of the court, allowing them to shine and cut sharp and splendid figures. In this regard, the Tāriḵ challenges accepted stereotypes of women as passive characters made to submit to the dominant religious and patriarchal structure of the time.


Solṭān-Aḥmad Mīrzā ʿAżod-al-Dawla, Tārīḵ-e ʿażodi, ed. Ḥosayn Kuhi Kermāni, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1963; ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Navāʾi, Tehran, 1976.

Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar, ed. and tr., Life at the Court of the Early Qajar Shahs: The Tarikh-e ʿazodi of Soltan Ahmad Mirza ʿAzod al-Dowleh, Washington, D.C., 2014 (translation based on MS Tehran, University of Tehran Library, no. 7487, dated 1319/1901).

ʿAli-qoli Mirzā Eʿteżād-al-Salṭana, Eksir al-tawāriḵ: Tāriḵ-e Qājāṝiya az āḡāz tā 1259 hejri qamari, ed. Jamšid Kiānfar, Tehran, 1991, pp. 236-37. 

Mahdi Bāmdād, Šarḥ-e ḥāl-e rejāl-e Irān dar qarn-e 12, 13, wa 14 hejri, 6 vols., Tehran, 1968-72. 

Bahman Bayani, “A Short Introduction to the Tārīḵ-e ʿAżodi and Its Author, Prince Solṭān Aḥmad Mīrzā ʿAżod-al-Dawla,” Qajar Studies 10-11, 2011, pp. 29-33.

Layla S. Diba, “The Lost Palatine City of Fath Ali Shah,” Qajar Studies 10-11, 2011, pp. 15-25. 

Ḥosayn Maḥbubi Ardakāni, Čehel sāl tāriḵ-e Irān: Taʿliqāt-e Ḥosayn Maḥbubi Ardakāni bar al-Maʾāṯer w‘l-āṯār, ed. Iraj Afšār, 3 vols., Tehran, 1989, II, pp. 596-97, 610-11. 

Maḥmud Mirzā Qājār, Golšan-e Maḥmud, ed. M. H. Moḥaddeṯ, Tehran, 2015.

Aḥmad Monzawi, Fehrest-e nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭi-e fārsi VI, Tehran, n.d., pp. 4258-59.  

“Nawwāb-e vālā ʿAżod-al-Dawla,” Šaraf 22, 1301/1884 (unpaginated). 

Moḥammad-Taqi Lesān-al-Molk Sepehr, Nāseḵ al-tawāriḵ, ed. Jamšid Kiānfar, 3 vols., Tehran, 1998.

(Manoutchehr M. Eskandari-Qajar)

Originally Published: May 3, 2018

Last Updated: May 3, 2018

Cite this entry:

Manoutchehr M. Eskandari-Qajar, “ʿAŻOD-AL-DAWLA, SOLṬĀN-AḤMAD MIRZĀ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2018, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/azod-al-dawla-soltan-ahmad-mirza (accessed on 03 May 2018).