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On this day:

King Hussein of Jordan dies

On February 7, 1999, King Hussein bin Talal, the 20th century's longest-serving executive head of state dies, and his son Prince Abdallah bin Hussein ascends to the Jordanian throne. Hussein was named the third constitutional king of Jordan in 1952 and proved a great leader in his country and throughout the Middle East. He was a member of the Hashemite dynasty, said to be in direct line of descent from the Prophet Muhammad.

The Hashemites became the rulers of Jordan following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. In 1963, Hussein appointed his one-year-old son, Prince Abdallah, as heir, but after suffering through a series of assassination attempts, the Jordanian king feared he would not live long enough for Prince Abdallah to reach maturity. He amended the Jordanian constitution to allow for fraternal succession and in 1965 appointed his younger brother, Prince Hassan bin Talal, as crown prince. Hassan was age 18 and thus just old enough by Islamic law to avoid a regency that might compromise the Hashemite dynasty.

After Hussein's son Prince Abdallah reached adulthood, Prince Hassan remained crown prince and during the late 1990s served as acting king while Hussein suffered through a long illness. However, in January 1999, just weeks before his death, King Hussein made Prince Abdallah crown prince, ending Prince Hassan's 34 years as the Jordanian heir. Hussein had long wanted the royal line to revert back to his eldest son, but delayed making the acrimonious decision until it was almost too late. In February, 37-year-old Abdallah ascended to the throne upon Hussein's death.