Learn more about Isma'il Pasha
Isma'il Pasha, known as Ismail the Magnificent (December 31, 1830–March 2, 1895) (Arabic: إسماعيل باشا), was khedive of Egypt from 1863 until he was removed at the behest of the British in 1879. While in power he greatly modernized Egypt, but also put the country heavily in debt. His philosophy can be glanced at through the statement he made in 1879: "My country is no longer in Africa; we are now part of Europe. It is therefore natural for us to abandon our former ways and to adopt a new system adapted to our social conditions."
 Youth and education
Ismail was born in Cairo, being the second of the three sons of Ibrahim Pasha and grandson of Mehemet Ali. After receiving a European education in Paris, where he attended the École d'état-major, he returned home, and on the death of his elder brother became heir to his uncle, Said Mohammed, the Vali of Egypt. Said, who apparently conceived his own safety to lie in ridding himself as much as possible of the presence of his nephew, employed him in the next few years on missions abroad, notably to the Pope, the Emperor Napoleon III and the Sultan of Turkey. In 1861 he was dispatched at the head of an army of 14,000 to quell an insurrection in the Sudan, and this he successfully accomplished.
 Khedive of Egypt
After the death of Said, Ismail was proclaimed Governor on January 19, 1863. In 1867 he obtained from his suzerain Abdülâziz, the Ottoman Sultan, firmans giving him the title of khedive in exchange for an increase in the tribute. These firmans also changed the law of succession to direct descent from father to son, and in 1873 he obtained a new firman making him to a large extent independent.
Ismail launched vast schemes of internal reform on the scale of his grandfather, remodeling the customs system and the post office, stimulating commercial progress, creating a sugar industry, building palaces, entertaining lavishly and maintaining an opera and a theatre. He greatly expanded Cairo, building an entire new city on its western edge modeled on Paris. Alexandria was also improved. He launched a vast railroad building project that saw Egypt rise from having virtually none to the most railways per habitable kilometer of any nation in the world.
One of his most significant achievements was to establish an assembly of delegates in November 1866. Though this was supposed to be a purely advisory body, its members eventually came to have an important influence on governmental affairs. Village headmen dominated the assembly and came to exert increasing political and economic influence over the countryside and the central government. This was shown in 1876, when the assembly persuaded Ismail to reinstate the law (enacted by him in 1871 to raise money and later repealed) that allowed landownership and tax privileges to persons paying six years' land tax in advance.
 Suez Canal
Ismail's khedivate is closely connected to the building of the Suez Canal. He agreed to, and oversaw, the Egyptian portion of its construction. On his accession, he refused to ratify the concessions to the Canal company made by Said, and the question was referred in 1864 to the arbitration of Napoleon III, who awarded £ 3,800,000 to the company as compensation for the losses they would incur by the changes which Ismail insisted upon in the original grant. Ismail then used every available means, by his own undoubted powers of fascination and by judicious expenditure, to bring his personality before the foreign sovereigns and public, and he much success. In 1867 he visited Paris and London, where he was received by Queen Victoria and welcomed by the Lord Mayor. Whilst in England he also saw a Royal Navy Fleet Review with the Ottoman Sultan. In 1869 he again paid a visit to England. When the canal finally opened, Ismail held a festival of unprecedented scope, inviting dignitaries from around the world.
These developments left Egypt in deep debt to the European powers, and they used this position to wring concessions out of Ismail. One of the most unpopular among Egyptians was the new system of mixed courts, by which Europeans were tried by judges from their own nation. But at length the inevitable financial crisis came. A national debt of over one hundred million pounds sterling (as opposed to three millions when he became viceroy) had been incurred by the khedive, whose fundamental idea of liquidating his borrowings was to borrow at increased interest. The bond-holders became restive. Judgments were given against the khedive in the international tribunals. When he could raise no more loans, he sold his Suez Canal shares (in 1875) to the British Government for only £ 3,976,582; this was immediately followed by the beginning of foreign intervention.
In December 1875, Stephen Cave was sent out by the British government to inquire into the finances of Egypt, and in April 1876 his report was published, advising that in view of the waste and extravagance it was necessary for foreign Powers to interfere in order to restore credit. The result was the establishment of the Caisse de la Dette. In October, George Goschen and Joubert made a further investigation, which resulted in the establishment of Anglo-French control over finances and the government. A further commission of inquiry by Major Baring (afterwards 1st Earl of Cromer) and others in 1878 culminated in Ismail making over his estates to the nation and accepting the position of a constitutional sovereign, with Nubar as premier, Charles Rivers Wilson as finance minister, and de Bhigriires as minister of public works.
 Urabi Revolt and exile
This control of the country was unacceptable to many Egyptians, who united behind a disaffected Colonel Ahmed Urabi. The Urabi Revolt consumed Egypt. Hoping the revolt could relieve him of European control, Ismail did little to oppose Urabi and gave into his demands to dissolve the government. Great Britain and France took the matter seriously, and insisted in May 1879 on the reinstatement of the British and French ministers. With the country largely in the hands of Urabi, Ismail could not agree, and had little interest in doing so. The Europeans pressured the Sultan to recall Ismail, and this was done. Ismail stepped down from his office on June 26, 1879. The more pliable Tewfik, Ismail's son, was made his successor. Ismail at once left Egypt for Naples, but eventually was permitted by the sultan to retire to his palace of Emirgan on the Bosporus. There he remained, more or less a state prisoner, until his death. He is buried in Cairo.
- 1867 Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
- 1874 Honorary member: Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities
- Knights Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
- Official Presidential web site of Egypt
| Muhammad 'Ali Dynasty|
Born: 31 December 1830; Died: 2 March 1895
|Governor of Egypt|
|Khedive of Egypt|