Princess Niloufer – An unfulfilled yearning




By Nagarjun Kandukuru - CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Princess Niloufer Khanum Farhat was born on 4th January 1916 at the Göztepe Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. She was one of the last princesses of the Ottoman Empire. Her parents were Damad Moralizada Salar ud-din Bey and Adile Sultan, daughter of Şehzade Mehmed Selaheddin, a son of Sultan Murad V.

When the First World War ended, the Ottoman Empire came to an end with the Royals being exiled from Turkey and settling in France. Princess Niloufer’s father passed away when she was barely two years old. Her position and fortune were not great, but her luck changed dramatically overnight when the richest man in the world, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan, the Nizam of Hyderabad, sought her hand in marriage for his second son Prince Moazzam Jah. She was married at the young age of 15 into the richest royalty in the world. She travelled to India, where an entirely different culture awaited her. She learnt to wear a saree and learned to move in the Hyderabadi society. She was called the ‘Kohinoor of Hyderabad ‘and was regarded as the most beautiful woman in the world.

As the years passed and the initial excitement of being newly married into a lavish lifestyle with a doting husband started to settle, and a gloomy reality began to dawn upon her. Princess Niloufer was unable to have children. On the outside, she was a beauty to behold but inside she was heartbroken and longed for a child. She consulted many doctors, but she did not have any good results. Soon this feeling of emptiness was compensated with a glittering public life. She was invited to many functions, and even received a few movie offers from Hollywood, and she was often featured in “the ten most beautiful women of the world”- lists and she regularly featured in several magazines. She was known for her style in India where she was always in sarees, and she only wore European-style clothes when she was travelling. She had a maid named, Rafat Unnisa, who unfortunately died during childbirth. The incident so moved her that she promised herself that she would never let another ‘Rafat’die and she set about building a hospital in Hyderabad for children and mothers.

She was like a daughter to the Nizam and addressed him as ‘father’, and he encouraged her in her social work. She was also involved with the Hyderabad women’s association for education and social advancement. During the Second World War, she served in the women’s volunteer corps. She trained as a nurse to help the injured during the war. In the year 1947 when India became independent, the State of Hyderabad became a part of the Indian union. Princess Niloufer, who was travelling at that time with her husband, decided to stay in Europe. Her lavish lifestyle and glamorous princess image were a facade to hide her yearning for a child, and she was unhappy. In 1948, he took a second wife who gave him three daughters in quick succession. Her marriage suffered as a result, and they eventually divorced in 1952. She stayed in France with her mother, and she remarried to an American named Edward Pope in 1964.

She passed away in 1989 and was buried in a grave in Bobigny near Paris next to her mother’s grave. Her beautiful sarees are more of a work of art and 34 of these sarees – which she also helped design – found a place in The New York Institute of fashion technology. Her life was a rollercoaster ride, and she went from a poor Princess in exile whose family was supported by the Nizam financially to becoming a daughter-in-law of one the richest me. She is known as much for her glittering lifestyle as she is for her philanthropic work for the people of Hyderabad, especially the women. Her fundraising events organised through the Hydari club contributed to her charitable work. Princess Niloufer is remembered by the people of Hyderabad until today.






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