Ataturk dissolved seven centuries
of the Sultanate and the British
cloaked-and-daggered the aging Sultan
by sea to San Remo and exile.
Ataturk made the Sultan’s middle aged
cousin, Abdülmecid II, Caliph.
He seemed to carry his descent, as it were,
from the Prophet as lightly as a Pope
from the Saviour. He liked the pomp
and the public circumstance of the role
so much Ataturk sent him packing too.
Classical composer, husband of four wives,
painter, lepidopterist, gardener,
a Victor Hugo fan and of Montaigne’s
Essays – especially perhaps ‘By
Divers Means Men Come To A Like End’ –
he went into exile on The Orient
Express en famille and lived in Paris
and Nice. ‘He may be seen strolling with a mien
of great dignity along the beach,’
wrote a foreign correspondent, ‘attired
in swimming trunks only, carrying
a large parasol.’ He died in his bed
in his house on Boulevard Suchet
as Paris was freed from the Nazis –
his beard, of which he was proud, still resplendent.
He was buried in Medina – Madinat
Al-Nabi, City of the Prophet –
as, officially, the last of the line.
It could have been worse. His seems to have been
a charmed, perhaps even charming, life –
with an enviable retirement, due,
in large part, to Ataturk’s shrewdness.
What would either of them have made of
caliphate proclamations from the deserts
of Syria and Iraq; stage-managed
beheadings broadcast worldwide; Semtex strapped
to the gut and the heart?