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A princess makes the Oudh royals see red

A French national, 'Princess' Jehan Ara Fay Ary's proposed visit to Lucknow for launching a cleanliness campaign in the slums here has kicked up a furore with the 'direct' descendants of Wajid Ali Shah, the last ruler of Oudh, asking her to come clean on her 'royalty' status before she goes cleaning the Nawabi city.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2009 21:25 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times

A French national, 'Princess' Jehan Ara Fay Ary's proposed visit to Lucknow for launching a cleanliness campaign in the slums here has kicked up a furore with the 'direct' descendants of Wajid Ali Shah, the last ruler of Oudh, asking her to come clean on her 'royalty' status before she goes cleaning the Nawabi city.

To ascertain her status, they want her to answer a simple query: "Who's your husband?"

Their anger stems from the fact that the Princess claims to be the wife of one of the great grandsons of Wajid Ali Shah.

But, the French lady, claiming a royal connection, has not spoken so far on who her husband is.

So Shouting "foul", the royals, from Lucknow to Kolkata, are hopping mad, shooting off letters to the French embassy, ministry of culture in Delhi as well as senior officials in Lucknow to stop, the "cultural fraud being perpetrated by imposters with the help of some middlemen."

Nawab Ibrahim Ali Khan, president of the Royal Family of Awadh (RFA) and a descendant of the Prime Ministers of erstwhile Oudh, told HT, "We are opposing the visit simply because the lady needs to tell who her late husband was or stop claiming her royal link." Khan along with other office bearers of RFA is scheduled to meet the Lucknow district magistrate in this connection.

Shikoh Azad, general secretary of RFA said, "Whether it was Nawab Asif-ud-daula, King Mohammad Ali Shah, Gaziuddin Haidar or Wajid Ali Shah, most of their descendants live in Lucknow. Those who for some reasons have left Lucknow are in constant touch with each other. None of them has ever heard of any Princess who was wedded to any of Shah's descendants." Asif Ali Mirza, a descendant of Shah based in Kolkata in an e-mail to the Princess has asked, "I would request you to enlighten me with the name of your late husband and his relation to King Wajid Ali Shah."

Wasif Mirza, the Kolkata based President of Oudh Royal Family Association has sot off a letter to the French embassy saying: "The French lady has the tacit support of few middlemen who are promoting her as the daughter-in-law of this family. Our objection is against the use of our family's name for large monetary gains that go against our culture of hospitality and etiquette."

The royals say, "She has been holding paid dinners, auctioning her personal jewellery and charging a hefty amount from her guests, primarily because of her so called royal link, which doesn't exist." Princess Fay is also the president of Royal Awadh Cultural Heritage Foundation, which has organised her Lucknow visit too.

Farhana Maliki, who also uses the prefix 'Princess' and is also the president of Begamat Royal Family of Awadh, however has come out in her support.

"I would welcome the French lady as she is one of our own. I have nothing to prove that, but why would she lie?" And Manoj Dixit, director of Lucknow University's Institute of Tourism Studies, said, "I am least bothered whether she is a royal or not. She is coming here for a noble purpose, to clean the slums near LU and that's good enough for me."

First Published: Oct 13, 2009 21:24 IST