Ayub Shah Durrani, the seventh ruler of his line, lost Kabul to his distant cousins, the Barakzai in 1823. The head of the latter, Azim Khan, assumed the title of Amir and attempted to extend control over the rest of the country. However, the most powerful member of his family was his younger brother, Dost Muhammad Khan. The latter held command over an important part of the country and ruled as Regent after 1826. He succeeded his brother as ruler in 1835, adopting the title of Amir ul-Mumenin, two years later. Although he exerted a powerful influence over the country, that control was erratic and confused. After a period of continuing instability and because of increasing fears about Russian intentions in Central Asia, the British Indian government intervened in 1839. A large force invaded the country, took Kabul, and restored Shuja ul-Mulk, the fifth son of Timur Shah. However, he was unable to sustain his rule after the British forces withdrew over the border, and succumbed to assassination in 1842. His successors held control over Kabul for a matter of months before retreating into exile to India.
Dost Muhammad Khan returned and regained control of the capital, Kabul. He died after a long but troublesome reign in 1862. Although his son succeeded him peacefully, it was not long before his brothers rebelled and attempted to take control. National consolidation had to wait until the reign of 'Abdu'l Rahman Khan, grandson of Dost Muhhamad. By 1881 the regional centres of power had been extinguished, the country returned to peace and a long awaited programme of reform and rehabilitation begun. He accepted a British protectorate in return for full autonomy in internal affairs, in 1890.
Habibu'llah, 'Abdu'l Rahman's son and heir succeeded peacefully in 1901. Although he continued his father's programme of reform and modest modernisation, he was assassinated in camp in 1919. His younger son, Amanu'llah, took control of the capital and established himself as ruler, not without suspicion of involvement in his father's death. Having displaced his elder brother and neutralised a rebellious uncle, he set about unifying his country in the time-honoured way, by declaring war on Britain. After some initial successes, British forces, so recently freed by the termination of the Great War, checked his ambitions. The peace talks that followed resulted in a British recognition of the full independence of Afghanistan.
King Amanu'llah immediately set out to modernise his country along the lines of Ataturk; women forced to adopt European dress against their will and a Parliament established where the traditional warring clans were kept apart by barbed wire. His ambitions stirred too many conservative elements within the country and rebellion erupted into full-scale civil war 1929. After abdicating in favour of his elder brother, Amanu'llah fled to Kandahar and later evacuated to India by the RAF. 'Basho Sadko', a former army deserter and brigand amazingly took control in Kabul in January 1929 and proclaimed himself Habibu'llah Shah.
Sardar Muhammad Nadir Khan, a famous general of the Third Afghan War in 1919, returned from Paris and took control of the anti-Habibu'llah forces. He swiftly took control of the capital in October 1929 and accepted the crown. Amanu'llah's reform programme was stopped and many of his changes reversed. Thereafter the modernisation programme continued at a more modest pace. However, as events turned out, not modest enough to prevent King Muhammad Nadir Shah's assassination in 1933.
Muhammad Zahir Shah, the eldest son of Muhammad Nadir Shah, succeeded, but reigned largely under the control of powerful uncles and cousins. Despite some flirtation with the German's during the early years of the Second World War, particularly before the Anglo-Russian invasion of Iran, Afghanistan remained neutral and prospered from this course. After a short period of "untutored rule", the King appointed his cousin and brother-in-law, Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan, as his Prime Minister. His increasing dictatorial tendencies and opposition to greater democratic reforms forced the King to dismiss him in favour of a more enlightened politician in 1963. Great reforms were then put in place, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, the right to form political parties, educational reform, and freedom for women, were features of the new constitution. Alas, Russian meddling in the left wing and Marxist parties quickly destabilised politics in the country. Eventually these events forced the King to re-appoint his strong-willed cousin, Sardar Daud, as Prime Minister in 1972. Within a year, this disloyal man deposed the King while he was on absent abroad undergoing medical treatment. Oddly against "Afghan tradition", he did not proclaim himself King but preferred to established a Republic with himself as President. His dictatorial ambitions fuelled rebellion and discord; political parties reduced to one and many of the reforms of King Zahir's constitution overturned. Far-left forces, supported by the USSR, entered Kabul and executed Daud in April 1978.
The subsequent history of Afghanistan is one of almost continuous warfare and revolution. Each successive regime proving to be more ruthless, bloodthirsty and obnoxious than the last. Cities were reduced to rubble, education virtually banned, and agriculture a figment of imagination. Famine and hideous barbaric punishments induced nearly five million inhabitants to flee the country. The fall of the "talaban" regime during late 2001 promises great hope and expectation for better times.
King Muhammad Zahir Shah played a leading role in stitching together the coalition of desperate nationalities, political parties and military interests now forming the government of the country. He went so far as to forego any ambitions for the restoration of the monarchy in order to facilitate national reconciliation and bring in all opposition elements into the coalition. The National Loya Jurga, which convened in Kabul to complete that process, proclaimed him Baba-i-millat or "Father of the Nation", a title subsequently enshrined in the constitution. He was also accorded first place in the table of precedence, assigned a pension and given comfortable accommodation at the old Royal Palace within the Arg-i-Shahi complex in Kabul. At his death in July 2007, he was widely mourned at home and abroad, his reign remembered and extolled as a golden age of peace and national progress.
Crown Prince Ahmad Shah, the second and eldest-surviving son of Zahir Shah, succeeded him as Head of the Royal House and Barakzai tribe. He has two sons and one daughter, all brought up in the US during their father's long exile. A gifted poet and man of letters, he has never avowed any political ambitions for himself. As far back as 1973, Sardar Daud's original plans for a coup d'etat included the replacement of Zahir Shah by the Crown Prince, a move which the prince completely opposed. He remained loyal to his absent father and eventually went into exile in the United States, and settled in Virginia.
STYLES & TITLES:
The Sovereign: King of the God granted Kingdom of Afghanistan and its dependencies, with the style of His Majesty.
The wife of the Sovereign: Malika, i.e. Queen, with the style of Her Majesty.
The Heir Apparent: Vali Ahad, i.e. Crown Prince with the style of His Royal Highness.
The wife of the Heir Apparent: Crown Princess with the style of Her Royal Highness.
The other sons of the Sovereign, by his Queen: Shahzada, i.e. Prince with the style of His Royal Highness.
The daughters of the Sovereign, by his Queen: Shahdakht, i.e Princess with the style of Her Royal Highness.
Other, more remote descendants of previous sovereigns: Sardar (personal name) Khan. Usually granted by Royal decree.
Other unmarried female descendants of a sovereign, in the male line: (personal name) Khanum.
Other married female descendants of a sovereign, in the male line: (personal name) Begum.
RULES OF SUCCESSION:
Male primogeniture, the sons of the four senior wives taking precedence over those of lesser wives and concubines.