“Prince Aly Khan was phenomenally alive,” Begam Mata Salamat once remarked in talking to a reporter.
Born in Turin, Italy on Tuesday, June 13th, 1911 to Cleope Teresa Magliano and Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, Prince Aly Salomone Aga Khan, is the brother of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, and father of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, Prince Amyn and Princess Yasmin.
Prince Aly Khan as he was popularly to be called, showed exceptional horse riding skills as well as linguistic talent – he spoke perfect Oxford English, fluent French, as well as Arabic.
Prince Aly Khan traveled extensively with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah to meet Ismailis in the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and East Africa and participated actively in the launch of many programs that targeted improving the quality of life of the Ismailis.
Sports & Racing
Prince Aly Khan’s adventurous spirit was reflected in his passion for racing horses, motor cars and planes, in addition to his interest in skiing and yachting.
As an amateur jockey he won several prestigious races at the Bar Steeplechase, Chantilly, French Amateur Derby, Le Trambley, Longchamp and Prix des Lions.
He drove and won in famous Grand Prix races in France, Italy and Monaco.
A man of exceptional stamina, in 1932 he flew from Bombay to Singapore via Karachi, Rangoon and Kuala Lumpur, flying over treacherous jungles in a single-engine plane with no radio. In describing the 10,000-mile round-trip flight – the longest civil flight ever out of India, he said:
“It was fabulous fun.
We flew from Bombay to Karachi to Delhi to Calcutta, then across the Bay of Bengal to Akyab and Rangoon, all across Malaya to Penang, Kuala Lumpur and finally to Singapore.
We then flew back again.
Naturally we didn’t have a radio; most planes didn’t in those days, you know, and we were all bundled up in heavy flying gear and wearing goggles. Major Vetch and I took turns at the controls, though at that time.
I didn’t have a flying license and didn’t get one until a couple of years later in Cairo.”
War & Peace
During the second World War in pursuit of global peace and freedom, Prince Aly Khan served with the British, French and American forces in Europe and the Middle East.
A war hero and in recognition of his exceptional military services Prince Aly Khan was awarded two honors by the French Government – the Croix de Guerre (1939) and Legend of Honour (1950).
The United States Government awarded him the Bronze Star Medal for his bravery, heroic achievement and meritorious service in combat zones, especially with regards to the Allied landing in the south of France with the United States Seventh Army.
In addition, in a military ceremony in 1957, Prince Aly Khan was installed as the 1st Colonel of the Regiment of the 4 Cavalry Regiment of Pakistan’s Army.
Known for his cosmopolitan outlook and gift for international diplomacy, following the second world war, Prince Aly Khan served as Pakistan’s permanent ambassador to the United Nations (UN) and represented Pakistan at United Nations Political and Security Committee (1958).
He was also appointed as the Vice-President of the UN General Assembly (1958) and served as Chairman of the UN’s Peace Observation Committee.
In a unique address while honoring His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan and Prince Amyn Mohammed for their contribution to France, it is inspiring to note France’s Minister of Culture and Communication, M. Frédéric Mitterrand remarks about Prince Aly Khan when he said:
“… Prince Ali Khan, Pakistani Ambassador to the United Nations … beloved by all, whom fate did not permit to deploy his extraordinary culture and spirit of civilisation to their full extent.”
Prince Aly Khan passed away in a tragic car accident in Suresnes, near Paris, France on May 12th, 1960. He was initially buried on the grounds of Château de l’Horizon, his home in the south of France, and 12 years later in 1972, he was reinterred in Salamiyah, Syria – the place and people that he loved dearly.
Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali