Saturday, February 11, 2006

Royal Deaths

Many of you may have missed the fact that there has been a recent spate of royal deaths. I mention this, in case it hastens the opportunity of succession for you.

Just this week, Her Imperial Highness Princess Dürrühsehvar, Princess of Berar, died in London on Tuesday night aged 92. She was a member of the Turkish royal house; after her family had been sent into exile, she married an Indian prince.

The Princess was born at Tchamlidcha-Scutari on March 12 1913 (or possibly 1914 - the reference books are not clear), the only daughter of Abdülmecid II and his third wife, Mihisti. Her father was Caliph of the Faithful, with the additional titles of Successor of the Prophet Mohammed, Commander of the Faithful and The Shadow of God on Earth. A cultured man who spoke Turkish, Arabic, French and German, he composed music and was a highly proficient painter, producing landscapes and scenes from Ottoman history (which his daughter went to great lengths to buy when they came up at auctions). He succeeded as Caliph in 1922, and the family resided in the Dolmabahçe Palace on the European shore of Istanbul. In 1924 the family was deposed and moved to Paris.

In mid January another Royal death. HRH Prince George of Hanover, died in Munich on January 8 aged 90, was a grandson of the Kaiser, the brother of Queen Frederika of Greece and the brother-in-law of Britain's own Prince Philip. At the time of his birth, Prince George was technically a Prince of the United Kingdom and Ireland, with the British title of His Highness, due to his direct male descent from George III. The first world war, however, put paid to that.

A few days before, His Highness Sheikh Jaber III, Emir of Kuwait, died aged 79. He fled into exile when Saddam Hussain invaded his oil-rich emirate in 1990, returning a year later. Sheikh Jaber led his country, which produces 10 per cent of the world's crude oil, from his accession in 1977, as the 13th ruler of a 245-year-old dynasty. Decisive in his early years, Jaber was traumatised by the invasion and rarely appeared in public after his family dynasty was restored.
Unlike the flamboyant race-going princes of the Lower Gulf, Jaber liked to live modestly, and before a failed attempt on his life in the mid-1980s often liked to go shopping incognito in the souk dressed in street clothes.

At the start of January there was the death of another mid-east Royal. HRH Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum, died on a visit to Australia aged 62, was one of the principal architects of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but better known to the race-going public in the Britain as a leading owner and breeder of racehorses. On succeeding his father as Ruler of Dubai in 1990 Sheikh Maktoum, helped by two of his younger brothers, steered Dubai from dependence on dwindling crude oil sales to what is now a globally recognised brand for enterprise, tourism, sport and financial services. Thousands of shoppers will be said to know of his death.

Also this week, HRH Prince Carol of Romania, who has died aged 86, spent much of his life in the quest to prove his legitimacy. His paternity was never in doubt. He was the son of Crown Prince Carol of Romania (later King Carol II) and Jeanne Marie (Zizi) Lambrino, an aristocratic Romanian girl whom the future King had married in contravention of the rules of the Royal House. His father was the eldest son and heir of King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie (daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh - later Duke of Saxe-Coburg - and thus a granddaughter of Queen Victoria). The Crown Prince was handsome and intelligent, but not without an element of instability in his character. He was also highly sexed, some believing that he suffered from satyriasis. Anatomical descriptions, when overheard, were mistaken for descriptions of the Eiffel Tower (according to the obituary in the Daily Telegraph, London).

In 2003, after a long court case, a Romanian court recognised Prince Carol's legitimacy and his birth certificate was altered accordingly. The former King Michael contested the decision; the Romanian Supreme Court has yet to rule on his appeal. Prince Carol earned his living in London as a bookbinder and picture framer while his claims were being pursued.

With all of these royal deaths occuring, the loss of a few other people of fond memory may have been missed: Sir Freddy Laker, founder of the low cost airline movement died yesterday; Ron Greenwood, former Englanbd football manager died this week; Al Lewis, who played grandpa in The Munsters; Moira Sheera, dancer; Henry McGee who was Benny Hill's straightman; and Shelley Winters, actress and fearsome lady - all gone since Xmas.

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