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Who is Princess Muna al-Hussein?

Princess Muna al-Hussein, born on 25 April 1941, was the second wife of King Hussein I of Jordan; she is the mother of Jordan’s current monarch, King Abdullah II.

She was born as Antoinette “Toni” Avril Gardiner in Chelmondiston, Suffolk, England and raised as a Christian in the United Kingdom. Her parents were Walter and Doris Gardiner. She was educated at Bourne School, for a time, in Malaysia and was reportedly an excellent field hockey player. She was in school in the Asian country while her father, a high-ranking Army officer, was stationed there; the school would close after British forces left the country. 

Toni would work as a secretary in Stratford in the 1960s during her father’s time being stationed in Long Marston. He would eventually be sent to Jordan as a military adviser on water conservation; it was during this period that she met King Hussein when she was 19-years-old. A biography by Roland Dallas said that she remarked to the King at a costume party when they met, “It makes you look rather scruffy, Your Majesty!” Toni would work on the set of the movie Lawrence of Arabia (some of the desert scenes were filmed in Jordan), as well during this time. 

On 25 May 1961, the couple married, and she took the name of Muna after converting to Islam from Christianity (although rumours persisted that she never actually converted). She was known as Her Royal Highness Princess Muna al-Hussein after the birth of their first child. Together, they had four children: (then Crown Prince) King Abdullah II (b. 1962), Prince Faisal (b. 1963), and twins, Princess Aisha (b. 1968) and Princess Zein (b. 1968).

Princess Muna al-Hussein of Jordan in her home with Prince Feisal and Crown Prince Abdullah (now King Abdullah) in Amman in March 1964. Photo: Angelo Cozzi (Mondadori Publisher) Public Domain

Abdullah was educated for a time in the United Kingdom and underwent training at Sandhurst. According to The Telegraph, he also “served in a British cavalry regiment.” Additionally, he speaks with a clear English accent, and it was said to be his first language ahead of Arabic.

The marriage did not last, and the couple divorced on 21 December 1972, but she was granted permission to keep her style of Royal Highness and title. She continued to live and work in the country. King Hussein died in 1999, and Abdullah succeeded him to the Jordanian throne. Since her son’s ascension, she has attended some official events and engagements, the most recent being in March 2018 when she launched the global Nursing Now campaign. In 2017, while in Spain, she was hosted by King Felipe and Queen Letizia for lunch during a private visit to the country. 

Their Majesties King Felipe and Queen Letizia outside their home with Her Royal Highness Princess Muna in 2017. © Casa de SM el Rey

Her Royal Highness has been passionate about the development of nursing in the Middle Eastern country; she founded the Princess Muna Scholarship Fund for Nursing. Furthermore, she founded the Princess Muna College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions (military nursing college at the time of its inception in 1962). The Princess is currently President of the Jordanian Nursing Council; it was created by her son by a Royal Decree in 2002. In 2007, she was awarded the Sigma Theta Tau International Archon Award due to her work in helping the advancement of health and welfare in the world. She is also the Vice-President of the Royal College of Nursing.

Aside from the two national honours, Princess Muna also holds foreign honours from Greece, Iran (from the time of the Shah), Malaysia, Romania and Tunisia.

This was originally posted to History of Royal Women

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