Like all great sovereigns, the Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great, had an immense harem, but only a limited number of wives. Naturally, one of them was a Muslim. And his favourite was the Princess of Jaipur. She was a Hindu, and her marriage with the Emperor was a symbol of his tolerance and above all of the reconciliation he sought to establish between his Muslim and Hindu subjects, between the Indians and their conquerors.
She bore him the heir he dearly wanted, the future Emperor Jahangir. And so she earned the right to live in the grandest of all his wives’ palaces, a vast and truly sumptuous building.
Next to it stood another, more modest building, which was nevertheless very elegant and beautifully proportioned. This was the home of the Emperor’s Christian wife, and the walls were decorated with frescoes illustrating various tales from Christian lore. The wife was Julia Magallanes, a Portuguese woman who had been kidnapped by pirates and brought to court, where she became one of the Emperor’s favourites, before he married her.
The couple were very happy together and Julia was ultimately quite pleased with her lot.
She also had a sister…Emperor Akbar gave this sister to one of his closest and most trusted aides, the Grand Master of the Emperor’s artillery who had transformed and modernised his armed forces into the most powerful army. The Emperor was so pleased that in addition to his wife’s sister, he also gave him a good deal of land and even a small state, of which he became the Raja.
This man, who had presented himself to the Emperor’s court to offer his services, was called Philippe de Bourbon, and he introduced himself as a member of France’s ruling family.
I have researched his story and written a book about him. I am certain that he was the son of Charles III, the Constable of France, the richest and most famous and powerful member of the family. He was in disgrace, however, and to preserve his son from his enemies’ attacks, he had kept his birth a secret.
And so Philippe de Bourbon became the Emperor Akbar’s brother-in-law, and his descendants still live in India, in the town of Bhopal. Their Indian passports still proudly bear the name of their illustrious family: Bourbon.