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TAJUDAWLA, PRINCESS

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Joan Viscountress Camrose was born on April 22 1908, the eldest daughter of the 3rd Lord Churston and 7th Duke of Leinslter, the descendant of King Edward III of Great Britain. Her father was ADC to the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon from 1902 to 1903, and then to the Duke of Connaught, from 1904 to 1906. She had three sisters, Denise, who married the 5th Lord Ebury, Lydia, who married the 13th Duke of Bedford, and Primrose, who married the 7th Earl Cadogan. In 1946, their mother became the third wife of the 7th Duke of Leinslter.

On May 18, 1936, Joan Viscountress Camrose and Prince Aly S. Khan were married in Paris in presence of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, Andree and Lady Aly Shah. Following the civil ceremony, the bridal party was chauffeured across Paris to the Muslim Mosque for a religious ceremony. Persian carpet had been laid on the floor in the splendour of the Hall of Prayers where, according to Ismaili custom, the wedding couple sat on the floor. There were no guests or members of the press. Joan was given the name Tajudawla (Crown of the State), based on Qajar royal titles. Together they visited India and arrived at Bombay on January 27, 1937. They also attended the Silver Jubilee of His Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad. From India they traveled in Turkey, Egypt and Syria. By her marriage to Prince Aly Khan, she became the mother of Prince Karim Aga Khan, the Present Imam and Prince Amyn Muhammad.

During the Second World War (1939-1945), when Prince Aly Salomone Khan had offered his services to the Allies, the Present Imam with his brother Prince Amyn Muhammad, accompanied by his mother, Princess Tajudawla, had gone to Beirut, and thence to Nairobi on May 27, 1941 via Cairo, where they lived for four years. In 1943, the Present Imam led the Eid al-Fitr prayer amidst a large congregation of the Ismailis in the Jamatkhana in Nairobi. On that occasion, his mother remarked: "A great accomplishment for such a small boy."

When Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah returned from Africa and was staying in Lausanne, the boys were taken to see him: "An extraordinary relationship developed between my father-in-law and my elder son," recalls Princess Tajudawla, "Karim always talked to his grandfather as if they were contemporaries."

Unfortunately, Princess Tajudawla and Prince Aly S. Khan drifted apart. Difference developed between them and they were divorced, whose legal formalities completed on April 7, 1949, - though she continued to maintain excellent terms with Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah and the family members. In his Memoirs, the Imam also writes, "I took my daughter-in-law, Joan, to my heart; and I had and still have, a great affection for her." (The Memoirs of Aga Khan, London, 1954, p. 312).

Besides remaining close to her sons and her grandchildren, she devoted the remainder of her life to providing affection and companionship for Lord Camrose, a member of the Fleet Street dynasty founded by his father the 1st Viscount Camrose and his uncle Viscount Kemsley.

When her 20-year old son became the 49th Ismaili Imam in 1957, she accompanied him to his accession ceremonies in Africa and India, helping him to make the necessary arrangements and to deal with the world's leaders and media along the way. She also attended the ceremony in Karachi for the laying of the foundation stone of the Aga Khan University.

She never for one moment displayed boredom, intolerance or ill temper; nor, well-informed though she was, did she seek to dominate conversations. She listened, she interjected sensible comments and she made all with whom she talked feel that they were both attractive and intelligent.

At Hackwood Park, her house in Hampshire, she exercised to the full her skill in giving enjoyment to a great variety of people of all ages, and she provided food of an outstanding standard. Princess Tajudawla expired at the age of 89 years on April 26, 1997.

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