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Prince Aly Khan

Prince Ali Solomone Aga Khan (June 13, 1911 – May 12, 1960), known as Aly Khan, was a vice president of the United Nations General Assembly representing Pakistan, for which he served as U.N. ambassador (1958-1960). Best known as a racehorse owner and jockey, he was a son of Aga Khan III, the head of the Ismaili Muslims, and the father of Aga Khan IV. He was also the third husband of actress Rita Hayworth.

His first name was typically spelled Aly in the popular press. The titles of prince and princess, which are claimed by children of the Aga Khan by virtue of their descent from Shah Fath Ali Shah of the Persian Qajar dynasty, were recognized as courtesy titles by the British government in 1938.[1]


Birth and education

Born in Turin, Italy of a Pakistani father and Italian mother, he was the younger son and only surviving child of The Aga Khan III and Cleope Teresa "Ginetta" Magliano, a dancer with the Ballet Opera of Monte Carlo.[2] He had two brothers: Prince Giuseppe Mahdi Aga Khan (who died in 1911) and, by his father's third marriage, Sadruddin Aga Khan.

Aly Khan was educated by private tutors in India and France during his childhood and later trained in England as a lawyer.

First marriage

He married as his first wife the Hon. Joan Guinness (née Yarde-Buller, 1908-1997). She was the former wife of Group Capt. Loel Guinness, a Member of Parliament, and a daughter of the 3rd Baron Churston. The wedding took place in Paris on May 18, 1936, a few days after Joan Guinness's divorce became absolute. Before the wedding, the bride converted to Islam and took the name Tajuddawlah.

"I had been involved with several women", he said of this period of his life, which included high-profile lovers such as the British debutante Margaret Whigham and Thelma, Viscountess Furness, an American who was simultaneously involved with the Prince of Wales.[3] "I was tired of trouble. Joan was a sane and solid girl, and I thought if I married her, I would stay out of trouble."[4]

He had been named co-respondent in the "Guinness vs. Guinness and Khan" divorce suit, with Loel Guinness citing as evidence that his wife and the Prince had occupied a hotel room together from 17 May until 20 May 1935 and that his wife had told him that she "had formed an attachment for him and desired her husband to divorce her". The case was uncontested, and Aly Khan was ordered to pay all costs.[5]

The couple's first child, Prince Karim, was born in Geneva, nine months later; they also had a second son, Prince Shujah Uddin Amyn Mohammad Aga Khan. By this marriage, he had a stepson, Patrick Guinness.

They divorced in 1949, in part due to his extramarital affairs with, among others, Pamela Churchill.[6] After the divorce, Joan Aly Khan (as Princess Tajudowlah was popularly known) became the longtime mistress and eventual wife of the newspaper magnate Seymour Berry, 2nd Viscount Camrose.

Military service and honors

In 1939, Prince Aly Aga Khan joined the French Foreign Legion and served with its cavalry division in Egypt and the Middle East. In 1940, he joined the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, becoming a lieutenant colonel in 1944. That same year, he participated in the Allied landing in the south of France with the United States Seventh Army, serving as a liaison officer with the rank of captain; for this, he was made an officer (military division) in the Legion of Honor in 1950.[7]

He also was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the United States Bronze Star.[8]

Second marriage, divorce and engagement

On 27 May (civil) and 28 May (religious) 1949, in Cannes, France, Aly Aga Khan married the American movie star Rita Hayworth. She was then pregnant with their only child, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, who was born seven months later. (Hayworth also brought Aly a stepdaughter, Rebecca Welles, by her previous marriage to Orson Welles.)

At the wedding, "500 guests from the United States and Europe feasted on 50 pounds of caviar, 600 bottles of Champagne and other gourmet delights around a swimming pool scented with 200 gallons of eau de Cologne."[citation needed] The couple intended to have another marriage ceremony in India, but the plan was cancelled because Hayworth's pregnancy had become too obvious.[1] Aly Khan and Rita Hayworth separated in 1951 and filed for divorce the same year; the suit was dropped in 1952. Eventually, however, the couple were divorced in April 1953, due in part to his infidelities.


The U.S. divorce, which was acquired in Reno, Nevada, was not recognized by either Britain or France,[9] and in 1957—by which time Hayworth had already married and divorced the singer Dick Haymes and Aly Khan had announced his intention to marry the French fashion model Bettina[10] -- an internationally valid Swiss divorce was granted.[11]

The Aga Khan protested his son's divorce from Hayworth as well as the settlement, which included $48,000 a year for the support of Princess Yasmin, saying, "Aly need not pay one penny of that, as the order applies only to Nevada."[12] The following September saw the finalization of the divorce settlement, which was revised to include the establishment of a $1 million trust for Hayworth and the couple's three-year-old daughter, who was required to be "exposed to the teachings of the Ismaili sect of the Moslem religion when she reaches the age of 7 — the age of reason according to the Moslem religion."[citation needed] Until then, the child could be raised as a Christian.[13] The settlement was increased to $1.5 million in 1954, which included trust-fund payments of $100,000 a year for 14 years for Princess Yasmin, plus $8,000 a year maintenance.[14]


Among his loves were the American film and stage actress Gene Tierney, whom he was engaged to marry in 1952 although his father strongly opposed the union. After a year-long engagement Tierney separated from the Prince and moved back to the U.S.[15][16]

Inheritance denied

On 12 July 1957, upon the reading of the will of the Aga Khan III, Aly Khan's eldest son, Karim Khan, then a junior at Harvard, was named Aga Khan IV and 49th Imam of the Ismailis. It was the first time that the descent from father to son was circumvented in the sect's 1,300-year history.[17]

According to the Aga Khan's will, a statement of which was presented to the press by his secretary, "In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes that have taken place, including the discoveries of atomic science, I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Shia Muslim Ismaili community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age, and who brings a new outlook on life to his office."[17]

United Nations posting

"In November, 1957, Aly Khan met President Iskander Mirza of Pakistan and was offered a service as the country's permanent spokesman in the United Nations, whose formal announcement was made on February 6, 1958."[18]

As a member of the United Nations Political and Security Committee representing Pakistan, Aly Khan's brief U.N. posting was viewed with surprise by many observers, some of whom considered him "the Asian-African answer to Irene Dunne". An American movie star not known for her political skills, Dunne had recently been designated a member of the United States delegation at General Assembly, largely in recognition of her Republican fundraising efforts.

As The New York Times reported, "For most of the last twenty-five years Aly Khan has been busy building a name as a fabulously wealthy, hard riding, fast driving, restless man of the world with a liking for parties and beautiful women."[19] News of Aly Khan's being named a diplomat was considered a startling enough departure in his history to result in a cover story in Sports Illustrated.[20]

On 19 August 1958, Aly Khan gave his first speech before the United Nations. The Washington Post noted, "Prince Ali Khan, more commonly known as Aly, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Representative to the United Nations from Pakistan, stood up in the General Assembly and made his first speech. It was a momentous occasion, since the ambassador's previous public utterances had been largely limited to shouts of, "Wine for everyone!" and "Where are the girls?"[21]

He was elected a vice president of the United Nations General Assembly on 17 September 1958 and also served as chairman of the U.N.'s Peace Observation Committee.


Little more than two years after his involvement with the U.N. began, Aly Khan sustained massive head injuries in an automobile accident in Suresnes, France, a suburb of Paris, when the car he was driving collided with another vehicle while he and his pregnant fiancée, Bettina, were returning home from a party. He died shortly afterward at Foch Hospital (in Suresnes). Bettina survived with a minor injury to her forehead, though the shock of the accident would result in a miscarriage. The prince's chauffeur, who was in the back seat, also survived, as did the driver of the oncoming car.[22]

Aly Khan was first buried on the grounds of Château de l'Horizon, his home in the south of France, where it was intended that he would remain until a mausoleum was built for him in Syria.[23] His remains were removed to Damascus, Syria, on July 11, 1972, and he was reinterred in Salamiyah, Syria.

His fortune went almost entirely to his children, though Bettina received a $280,000 bequest.[24]

Icon of popular culture

Due to his well-publicized romances, Prince Aly Khan was mentioned in a verse of Noel Coward's new 1950s lyrics for Cole Porter's 1928 song "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love": "Monkeys whenever you look do it / Aly Khan and King Farouk do it/Let's do it, let's fall in love."

Lucille P. Markey, owner of Calumet Farm Thoroughbred racing stable in Lexington, KY, named one of her outstanding colts, "Alydar" in his honor because she always addressed the prince as, "Aly Darling".


Inline </dt>

  1. 1.0 1.1 Edwards, Anne (1996). Throne of Gold: The Lives of the Aga Khans, New York: William Morrow. ISBN 0-00-215196-0
  2. "Memoirs of Aga Khan: World Enough and Time" (London: Cassel & Company, 1954) states, "In the year One thousand nine hundred and eight I was married to CLEOPE TERESA MAGLIANO according to the Muta form of marriage", which is a temporary union of typically limited duration practiced by some members of the Shia faith. According to the Aga Khan's memoirs, he legally married Teresa Magliano in 1923, after the death of his first wife. Anne Edwards' history of the Aga Khans states that Ali Solomone Khan's birth certificate records that his mother was considered single at the time of his birth according to Italian law. However, Islamic law states that a child born from a Muta marriage is considered legitimate.
  3. Thelma Viscountess Furness and Gloria Vanderbilt, "Double Exposure: A Twin Autobiography", NY: David McKay, 1958.
  4. "Joan Viscountess Camrose", The Daily Telegraph, 3 May 1997; retrieved from Ismaili.net).
  5. "London Divorce Suit Names Indian Prince", The New York Times, 20 June 1935, p. 7; "Guinnesses Are Divorced", The New York Times, 5 November 1935, p. 20; "Guinness Divorce Is Absolute", 12 May 1936, p. 11; and "Prince Aly Khan Weds Briton", The New York Times, 19 May 1936, p. 6.)
  6. "Lives and Loves: Pamela Harriman", The Scotsman, 30 May 2005, p. S2.
  7. "France Honors Aly Khan", The New York Times, 13 July 1950, p. 7
  8. "Playboy to Statesman", The New York Times, 7 February 1958, p. 4
  9. "Aly Khan Seeks Swiss Decree", The New York Times, 9 January 1957, p. 26
  10. The couple's impending marriage was announced in Time on 16 January 1956
  11. "2d Divorce Granted", The New York Times, 23 May 1957, p. 38
  12. "Khan Divorce 'Unacceptable'", The New York Times, 26 April 1953, p. 3.
  13. "Hayworth Lawyer Here: Crum Tells of Proposed Terms of Settlement With Aly Khan", The New York Times, 10 September 1953, p. 22.
  14. "$1,500,000 Offered To Yasmin Khan, 4", The New York Times, 28 April 1954, p. 24
  15. "The Private Life and Times of Gene Tierney"
  16. Tierney and Herskowitz (1978) Wyden Books, Self- Portrait p.157-158
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Aly Khan's Son, 20, New Aga Khan", The New York Times, 13 July 1957, p. 1
  18. Ismaili.net
  19. "Playboy to Statesman", The New York Times, 7 February 1958, p. 4
  20. "Aly Khan, Sporting Prince: His Fast Horses, Dazzling Women, New Career", Sports Illustrated, 28 March 1958.
  21. Richard Gehman, "Aly Khan -- Playboy Diplomat", The Washington Post, 17 May 1959, page AW4.
  22. "Aly Khan Is Killed In France In Crash", The New York Times, 13 May 1960, p. 1.
  23. "Aly Khan Is Buried At French Chateau", The New York Times, 21 May 1960, p. 23
  24. "Aly Khan's Will Is Read", The New York Times, 14 September 1960, p. 9

General </dt>

  • Gene Tierney and Mickey Herskowitz "Self-Portrait". New York: Peter Wyden Books, 1979. ISBN 0-883261-59-9.
  • Gordon Young, "Golden Prince: The Remarkable Life of Prince Aly Khan", London: R. Hale, 1955 ASIN B0007IXHCS.
  • Bettina (Simone Micheline Graziani), "Bettina by Bettina", London: Michael Joseph, 1965.
  • Edwards, Anne (1996). Throne of Gold: The Lives of the Aga Khans. New York: William Morrow, 1996. ISBN 0-00-215196-0.

See also

  • Aga Khan


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