|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Lost 'king' of France wants to live in India
March 05, 2007 13:44 IST
Balthazar, a 48-year-old lawyer and part-time farmer who lives in a nondescript bylane tucked away in Jehangirabad in Bhopal's old quarter, will soon travel to France and Greece at the invitation of his distant cousin, Prince Michael.
In his historical novel "Le Rajah de Bourbon", Michael has claimed that Balthazar is the long-lost descendent of the Bourbon kings who ruled France from the 16th century to the French revolution.
Balthazar, who was running a high fever and hadn't read news reports of his "changed status", told PTI, "Ever since I was a boy people have been contacting me to establish my French lineage. But this is the first time my lineage is being acknowledged in Europe.
"I am waiting for an amicable atmosphere there. I understand that a lot of people have not taken kindly to me," said Balthazar, who will take a DNA test either in France or India to prove his links to the Bourbons.
Asked what he would do if the link was proved, he said, "These are hypothetical questions. But I will continue to live here as an Indian citizen. I do not want to relocate to France or obtain French citizenship."
This is despite the fact that life in Bhopal has been "very difficult" for his family in the past few decades, Balthazar said.
Balthazar always knew his family was special as books on Bhopal's history contained references to the famous Bourbon title and heritage buildings here boasted a French connection -- but he said he was never impressed.
Authors, researchers and reporters who frequently dropped into his house -- to write about or seek proof of his lineage -- often irritated him because they did little to change his middle class status.
But after all those "interviews for fun which benefited the interviewers, but never him", Balthazar believes things may finally look up for his family whose slide from a position of power in Bhopal began around 1890.
"The Bourbons first came to India in 1560 during the time of Emperor Akbar. Around 1700, they came to Bhopal via Gwalior. They were advisors to the Nawabs of Bhopal. They were the ones who backed the move to make Begum Qudsia the Nawab of Bhopal," he said.
"Soon they had a lot of foes in the state. The Begums got influenced by their husbands, who did not favour the Bourbons, also perhaps because they were Catholics."
Balthazar still lives in part of the 'jagir' given to his ancestors in Jehangirabad. But all that remains of the large jagir is a Bourbon Church, a Bourbon school and Balthazar's home.
Prince Michael believes Jean de Bourbon, a nephew of the first Bourbon French king, Henry IV, arrived in India at the time of Emperor Akbar's reign after action-packed adventures across the world.
Jean survived assassination attempts and a kidnapping by pirates to be sold in an Egyptian slave market and went on to serve in the Ethiopian army. The Bourbons of Bhopal are believed to be descended from him.
Balthazar said his father's efforts to establish the lineage of the family -- whose members have light hair that always set them apart from locals -- have finally paid off.
"It was my father who wrote to the royals in Europe. In those days, there was no internet, so making contact was not as easy," he said.
All that Balthazar now looks forward to is "a peaceful life". "Elisha, my wife who runs the family school is very happy. So are my three children," he said.
Balthazar's eldest son Frederick, a student of business management, said, "I don't take too much interest in history. There have been several theories which connect us to the royals in Europe. Prince Michael came to Bhopal last November and then with a TV crew early in February, so I knew something serious was happening."
Balthazar's daughter Michelle is studying foreign trade in Indore and his younger son Adrianne is a student of Class 9 at St Xavier's School in Bhopal.