As the Mughal Empire waned and the British came to control India in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Nizams profitably cooperated with their colonial oversights.
Mr. Jah’s predecessor as nizam, his grandfather Osman Ali Khan, saw an opportunity to expand the authority of the royal family in the 1920s, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern-day Turkey, overthrew the Ottoman caliph, Abdul Mejid, considered by many to be the leader of global Islam. The nizamate was Muslim, too, and Mr. Khan used his wealth to support Mr. Mejid’s family.
The bond was consummated in 1931 with the joint marriage of the nizam’s two sons to the deposed caliph’s daughter and niece — a union between “the mightiest houses of Islam,” The Washington Post reported at the time.
Barkat Mukarram Jah was born on Oct. 6, 1933, in Nice, France, to Azam Jah, the nizam’s eldest son, and Princess Durrushehvar, the caliph’s daughter.
It quickly became clear to Mr. Khan’s inner circle that Mr. Khan intended his illustriously pedigreed grandson, not his eldest son, to be the next nizam. And when Abdul Mejid, the ex-caliph, died in 1944, his will appointed Mukarram, though just a schoolboy, to inherit his claim to the mantle of his lost caliphate, according to “The Last Nizam,” a detailed history of Hyderabad’s royal family, by John Zubrzycki.
Growing up, Mukarram showed a strange mix of savoir faire and ineptitude. One of his tutors wrote in a memoir that, at 13, “he spoke English, French, Turkish and Urdu fluently but did not write any of them correctly; he could ride any horse with confidence, could dive from any height, had shot a tiger, could drive a Jeep and take an engine to pieces but could not catch a ball, and if you asked him the simplest question in arithmetic he had recourse to counting his fingers.”