Nehru, a maharajah and a football program in Delhi: Le Carré’s impostor painted India for him

Sometime in the late 1960s, David Cornwell received a letter from his father. He had landed in Delhi. And, in keeping with the compelling narrative that was his life, he had earned the trust of a “famous maharajah.” “His Highness begs me to assure you that you will be royally welcomed to the palace when the winds of fate throw you onto these deserted shores,” wrote Ronnie Cornwell to his Cold War spy writer son who took the name John le assumed Carré.

The Maharajah with Ronnie was so impressed that he had appointed him manager of his estate. There was one little thing, a postscript – he also needed £ 1,000 in cash. David asked the Indian High Commission in London about the Maharajah. It turned out that the sultanate Ronnie “worked” for did not exist. It hadn’t been since 1948. And a year later, the only heir to the title had died in an accident in France, wrote Le Carré’s biographer Adam Sisman.

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