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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Zil es Sultan has no other influence


We

have in Mr. Preece a very able and intellectual officer; a man who understands the Persians thoroughly, and a gentleman of uncommon tact and kindliness. His artistic taste has served him well, so that the Consulate and grounds have been rendered most comfortable and delightful, and the collections of carpets and silver which he has made during his many years' residence in Persia are very interesting.

It is true that Russian influence is spreading fast towards the south, and that the establishment of a Russian Consulate in Isfahan, with its guard of Cossacks, has made considerable impression on the population, but no doubt Mr. Preece will be able to maintain British prestige high, if the Government at home show grit and enable him to do so.

It is most important, I think, to come to some sound conclusion on the policy to be followed towards Russia in Persia, either to check her advance immediately and firmly, or to come to some satisfactory agreement with her so that her interests and ours may not altogether clash; but it cannot be impressed too often upon our minds that our present policy of drift and wavering is most disastrous to our interests. We have lost Northern Persia. Southern Persia will soon slip from our grip unless we pull up soon and open our eyes wide to what is happening.

We place too much reliance on the fact that Zil-es-Sultan, the Shah's brother and now Governor

of Isfahan, was once extremely pro-British. We have a way of getting ideas into our heads and nothing will drive them out again, but we forget that things and people change in Persia as everywhere else, and what was accurate fifteen years ago may not be so now. Also it must be remembered that Zil-es-Sultan, although in high power, does not occupy the same high position politically as before the late Shah's death. He and his family are kept under strict control of the Shah, and any pro-English ideas which they may still have are discouraged, if not promptly eradicated. His Highness's sons have been forbidden to be educated in Europe or to travel abroad, although a visit to Russia only might be allowed. Beyond the secondary power of a High Governor, Zil-es-Sultan has no other influence, and has to conform to superior orders. He is now no longer very young, and his popularity, although still very great, cannot be said to be on the increase.

[Illustration: H. R. H. Zil-es-Sultan, Governor of Isfahan.]

While in Isfahan I had an audience of his Highness. One could not help being struck at first glance by the powerful countenance of the Prince, and the mixture of pride and worry plainly depicted on his face. He spoke very intelligently but was most guarded in his speech. One of his sons Baharam Mirza--a wonderfully clever young man, who spoke French and English fluently although he had never been out of Persia--interpreted. I was much impressed by the kindliness of the Zil-es-Sultan towards his children, and in return by the intense respect, almost fear, of these towards their father. After a pleasant visit and the usual compliments and refreshments, coffee was brought, the polite signal that the audience should come to a close. The Prince accompanied the Consul and myself to the door of the room--a most unusual compliment.

There were many soldiers, and servants and attendants with silver-topped maces who escorted us out of the grounds, where we found the Consular guard again, and returned to the Consulate.


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