His ancestors ruled India's greatest princely state, his grandfather was the only prince to be proclaimed His Exalted Highness. By the time he became the eighth and last Nizam of Hyderabad in 1967, Mukarram Jah had inherited one of the largest fortunes in the world.

Yet he would spend much of the next three decades creating a durbar in the desert on a remote stretch of coast in Western Australia, only to flee to Turkey in 1996 when his finances - and the world he loved - collapsed.

A fortune teller in Geneva once told Jah that he would live past the age of 86. When he died at his home in Istanbul on January 14, he was aged 89.

In 2005, I tracked this notoriously private and media-shy man to Antalya in southern Turkey, where he was living in a modest two-bedroom flat overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

None of his neighbours knew that his maternal grandfather was Abdul Mejid II, the last Ottoman sultan and caliph. In 1924, Mejid and his family were unceremoniously bundled on a train and sent into exile to Switzerland by Ataturk, where their plight caught the attention of Jah's grandfather, Osman Ali Khan.

His grandfather was the richest man in the world, but the titular 'last Nizam of Hyderabad' ran through that fortune in his own lifetime

Seven years later, the seventh Nizam arranged for his son Azam to marry Mejid's only daughter, Princess Durrushevar, in an opulent wedding in Nice on the French Riviera. Jah, their first son, was born on October 6, 1933.

Private schooling in Hyderabad was followed by several years in Harrow, where his classmates included King Faisal of Iraq and his cousin King Hussein of Jordan. His upbringing was unconventional, even by princely standards. His Doon School teachers despaired at his lack of aptitude in maths and English but noted, somewhat optimistically, that he 'was very keen on carpentry and spent a good deal of his spare time in the workshop and this can provide unlimited scope in the future.'

In September 1952, Jah began reading English and History at Peterhouse, Cambridge University's oldest residential college, where his close friend George Hobday described him as a person who was courteous and generous, never flaunted his wealth and enjoyed 'playing with explosives.'

After graduating with third-class honours in 1955, he joined the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, where he could finally indulge in his greatest passion - engineering.

While holidaying in Istanbul in 1958, he met Esra Birgin. The...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT