Monday, May 30, 2011

Hanging Out With The Aga Khan

The Aga Khan, a descendent of Ali--the first Imam, and leader of millions of Ismali Muslims

My grandfather, a former associate editor of the Saturday Evening Post, had written profiles of the Duke of Edinburgh, of Kate Hepburn and of Princess Margaret when he moved to France for three months in the early 1950's to work with the Aga Khan on his memoirs.

Inside the Aga Khan's villa in Le Cannet on the French Riviera

Charles Murphy, who co-wrote The Windsor Story with Grandpa Joe, continues the story:

The Aga, who had been President of the League of Nations, fancied himself a world statesman; and his autobiography, as he visualized it, would commemorate his accomplishments as an adroit international negotiator and astute political prophet--this despite his confident reiteration of the late 1930's of the same unfortunate prediction which he had voiced in 1914:the great powers would not fight each other. The Aga's activities in diplomacy proving insufficient to fill out a book, Bryan ventured to suggest that he would command a far wider audience if he were to discourse on his vast acquaintance with fine horses and beautiful women (topics where his authority is beyond dispute), and on the divinity that periodically moved his adoring subjects to match his not inconsiderable weight ( 220 pounds on a 5ft 5 in frame) with its equivalent in jewels and precious metals.

Sir Sultan being weighed in front of a stadium full of onlookers in Mumbai in 1946. The packets making up his weight are full of diamonds, donations which he converted to cash in order to fund charitable endeavors across Asia and Africa.

The Aga said this would be undignified ,and the collaboration dissolved amicably. Bryan explained, "The publishers and I wanted a portrait; the Aga wanted a statue".

The Aga Khan driven by his wife Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

The Aga Khan's "statue", World Enough & Time - The Memoirs of Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III, was published in 1954 without Grandpa Joe's input. Both he and Charles Murphy ( who had written The Duke's autobiography A King's Story and The Duchess's memoir The Heart Has Its Reasons)would be enlisted by The Duke of Windsor for two books, including a frank account of his miserable childhood. They were never to be written. The Windsor Story, was published in 1979.

Charles Murphy and J Bryan III

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