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JORDAN HEIR'S STRATFORD LINKS; Prince's secretary mum who married a king.

The son of a former Stratford secretary is expected to become the new King of Jordan.

Crown Prince Abdullah Hussein is heir to the throne of his father King Hussein, who is being kept alive on a life support machine after losing his battle against cancer.

His mother Toni Gardiner, worked in Stratford during the 60s when her father, a high ranking British Army officer, was stationed at Long Marston.

The family lived in army accommodation for several years before her Lieutenant Colonel father was seconded as a military adviser to Jordan.

It was during her time in the Middle East that Miss Gardiner met King Hussein and became his second wife. They had two sons, one of them Abdullah, now 37.

The Crown Prince was partly educated in this country and served in a British cavalry regiment.

Stratford councillor Fred Parrott said: ``Her father was a high-ranking officer who got seconded to Jordan and that's how she met King Hussein.

``She worked locally before they moved to the Middle East.''

Although as eldest son Abdullah was heir to the Jordanian throne, he was displaced at the age of three, in favour of his uncle, the king's brother Prince Hassan.

The change of heir, which required constitutional approval, is thought to have been to allay fears of a dilution of the royal family's Arabic bloodline.

But late last month the ailing King Hussein reversed the ruling, following apparent concern that his younger brother had been over-keen to begin taking power.

Abdullah is inexperienced in state affairs and had his first taste of diplomatic life only last week in a hastily-arranged meeting with United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

He also made his first speech in public last week - which prompted onlookers to comment that although he speaks Arabic, he does so with a pronounced English accent.

Until his father's recent change of heart over the succession, Prince Abdullah's life had been seemingly devoted to either military matters or, much like his father, the pursuit of pleasure.

His private life is said to have followed the family tradition in being well-stocked with various girlfriends and fast cars, although he is now married to Princess Rania, a Palestinian.
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Author:Ewing, Richard
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 5, 1999
Words:367
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