09 May, 2021

Princess To The Rescue

The Nizam's legacy-reeling under the weight of its own grandeur, family squabbles, neglect and greed-springs to life again bit by bit

Princess To The Rescue

Sixty years ago, a full six months after British rule had come to an end in India, the Nizam of Hyderabad, then the richest man in the world, was still refusing to sign up to join the new Indian Union. Sir Osman Ali Khan firmly believed that there was no reason why Hyderabad should be forced to join either India or Pakistan. His state had income and expenditure equal to Belgium, and exceeded that of 20 member-states of the United Nations. His personal fortune was more remarkable still: according to one contemporary estimate, it amounted to at least £100 million in gold and silver bullion, and £400 million in jewels. He also owned one of the world's great art collections.

For over three centuries, the Nizam's ancestors had ruled a state the size of Italy and could claim the allegiance of some 15 million subjects. Nor was his reputation limited just to India: during the years leading up to World War II, the Nizam was also regarded by many as the leading Muslim ruler in the world. A few years earlier, in 1921, the Nizam's...

In this article:

More from William Dalrymple

Latest Magazine

May 17, 2021

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section