5/11/1914 Britain’s Egyptian conundrum

Russia has already declared war on Turkey. Now Britain and France follow suit. Britain also declares the annexation of Cyprus. Until now, the island was formally part of the Ottoman Empire but had been occupied by Britain since 1878.

Britain has a more difficult problem in Egypt. Egypt’s constitutional position is complicated and strange. The country is notionally part of the Ottoman Empire, but the Turkish Sultan’s writ has not run there since the early 19th century, when Mehmet Ali, the governor, made Egypt effectively independent. Mehmet Ali took the title Khedive and passed it on to his descendants, who ruled Egypt without recourse to the Ottoman Sultan but for complicated reasons were obliged not to declare formal independence.

In the later 19th century Egypt came under British occupation. Although not officially part of the British Empire, Britain has operated a “veiled protectorate”, with its representatives calling the shots but maintaining the fiction that Egypt is a self-governing constituent of the Ottoman Empire.

Now Britain is at war with Turkey. The Suez Canal runs through Egypt and is a vital part of Britain’s communication with its possessions in India. The canal’s security must not be compromised. But the current Khedive, Abbas II, is hostile to Britain. He is also conveniently out of the country on a state visit to Austria-Hungary. The British authorities in Cairo depose Abbas and appoint his more pliant uncle Hussein Kamel to succeed him. Britain formally establishes Egypt as its protectorate, with Hussein Kamel given the title of Sultan.

Abbas II image source (Wikipedia)

Hussein Kamel image source (Wikipedia)

[NOTE: the events described in this post appear to have actually happened on the 18th of December 1914; not sure where I got 5/11/1914 from]