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Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiari

Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiari (Isfahan, Iran, June 22, 1934 - Paris, France, October 25, 2001) was the second wife of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. She was the daughter of Khalil Esfandiary Bakhtiari, Ambassador of Iran to the Federal Republic of Germany, and his Russian-born German wife, Eva Karl; she had one brother, Bijan Esfandiary Bakhtiari.

At the age of 17, the green-eyed Soraya, an Ava Gardner lookalike, married the Shah at Golestan Palace in Tehran on February 12, 1951 and was divorced by him on April 6, 1958, when it became apparent that she could not bear children. A weeping Shah announced their divorce to the Iranian people. The headline-making divorce inspired French songwriter Françoise Mallet-Jorris to write a pop song, "Je Veux Pleurer Comme Soraya" (I Want to Cry Like Soraya).

Granted the title Her Imperial Highness the Princess Soraya of Iran, she moved to France and launched a brief career as a film actress. She starred in the 1965 movie "Three Faces of a Woman" and became mistress of its Italian director Franco Indovina (1932-1972). After Indovina's death in a plane crash, she spent the remainder of her life unhappily, by her own admission, wandering through Europe, buying antiques and couture, appearing at social events in a desultory fashion, and generally becoming known as a serious depressive.

She died of natural causes at age 67 and is buried in Munich, Germany. In 2002, her tomb was defaced with the words "miserable parasite," followed by the phrase "Didn't work from the ages of 25 to 60." The vandalism made headlines throughout Europe.

Upon learning of her death, her brother, who died one week after Soraya, sadly commented, "After her, I don't have anyone to talk to." Since Soraya's death, several young women have come forward claiming to be her illegitimate daughter, reportedly born in 1962, according to the Iranian newspaper Nimrooz; the claims have not been confirmed.

The former Empress's belongings were sold at auction in Paris after her death. Her wedding dress, made by Christian Dior, brought $1.2 million.

Princess Soraya wrote a memoir of her tragic life, "The Palace of Solitudes" (1991).