Sunday, March 4
God Save the Dauphin, Balthazar of Bhopal
Balthazar Napoleon de Bourbon, a jovial Indian lawyer and part-time farmer, has always been fascinated by France. Framed pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the palace of Versailles implausibly decorate his house in a dusty, bustling suburb of the central Indian city of Bhopal. He gave his children French names even though he has never set foot in France.
This Indian father-of-three is being feted as the long-lost descendent of the Bourbon kings who ruled France from the 16th century to the French revolution. A distant cousin of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, he is alleged to be not only related to the current Bourbon king of Spain and the Bourbon descendants still in France, but to have more claim than any of them to the French crown.
The Royal heads of Europe are excited at the possibility of new relatives, in part because it distances monarchy from colonialism:
"This is the cherry on the cake. Mr Bourbon is head of a decent, dignified, middle-class Indian family. They look so Indian and yet bear this name. When you look at them, it seems incredible. The more unbelievable it is, the more I believe in it."
[The Indian dauphin] has long had a brass plaque above his front door reading "House of Bourbon" with the fleur-de-lis crest of the French monarchy. His wife runs the neighbouring school for local children, called the Bourbon school. The family is Catholic and keeps Bourbon relics, including a sword, in their home. He said he felt "a sense of pride" when contemplating the picture of Versailles on his wall.