Mukarram Jah, heir to opulent throne he abandoned, dies at 89

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As the Mughal Empire declined and the British took control of India in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Nizams cooperated profitably with their colonial overseers.

Mr Jah’s predecessor as nizam, his grandfather Osman Ali Khan, saw an opportunity to expand the royal family’s authority in the 1920s, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, overthrew the Ottoman Caliph, Abdul Mejid, considered by many to be the leader of world Islam. The nizamate was also a Muslim and Mr Khan used his wealth to support Mr Mejid’s family.

The bond was consummated in 1931 with the joint marriage of the nizam’s two sons to the deposed caliph’s daughter and niece – a union between “the most powerful houses of Islam”, the Washington Post reported at the time.

Barkat Mukarram Jah was born on October 6, 1933, in Nice, France, to Azam Jah, the eldest son of the Nizam, and Princess Durrushehvar, the Caliph’s daughter.

It quickly became clear to Mr Khan’s inner circle that Mr Khan wanted his grandson of illustrious pedigree, not his eldest son, to be the next nizam. And when Abdul Mejid, the ex-caliph, died in 1944, his will named Mukarram, albeit just a schoolboy, to inherit his claim to the mantle of his lost caliphate, according to “The Last Nizam”, a detailed history of the royal family of Hyderabad, by John Zubrzycki.

Growing up, Mukarram showed an odd mix of craftsmanship and incompetence. One of his tutors wrote in a memoir that at age 13, “he was fluent in English, French, Turkish and Urdu but could not write any of them correctly; he could ride any horse with confidence, could dive from any height, had shot a tiger, could drive a jeep and disassemble an engine but couldn’t catch a bullet, and if you asked him the most simple in arithmetic, he resorted to counting his fingers.