Abbas Hilmi Pasha was the great-great-grandson of Mehemet Ali. He succeeded his father, Tewfik Pasha, as khedive of Egypt. When a boy he visited England, and he had an English tutor for some time in Cairo. He then went to school in Lausanne, and from there passed on to the Theresianum in Vienna. In addition to Turkish, his mother tongue, he acquired fluency in Arabic, and a good conversational knowledge of English, French and German.
He was still at college in Vienna when the sudden death of his father raised him to the Khedivate; and he was barely of age according to Turkish law, which fixes majority at eighteen in cases of succession to the throne. For some time he did not co-operate very cordially with Great Britain. He was young and eager to exercise his new power. His throne and life had not been saved for him by the British, as was the case with his father. He was surrounded by intriguers who were playing a game of their own, and for some time he appeared almost disposed to be as reactionary as his great-uncle Abbas I.
But in process of time he learnt to understand the importance of British counsels. He paid a second visit to England in 1900, during which he frankly acknowledged the great good the British had done in Egypt, and declared himself ready to follow their advice and to co-operate with the British officials administering Egyptian affairs. The establishment of a sound system of native justice, the great remission of taxation, the reconquest of the Sudan, the inauguration of the stupendous irrigation works at Assuan, the increase of cheap, sound education, each received his approval and all the assistance he could give. He displayed more interest in agriculture than in statecraft, and his farm of cattle and horses at Koubah, near Cairo, would have done credit to any agricultural show in England; at Montaza, near Alexandria, he created a similar establishment. He married the Princess Ikbal Hanem and had several children. Mahommed Abdul Mouneim, the heir-apparent, was born on the February 20, 1899.