He died the way he lived — forgotten and alone. It was on September 3 — three days after police suspected that Prince Riaz Oudh was dead — that his body was discovered. There were no external injury marks or any suspicion of foul play. With no surviving relatives, and some phone numbers police tried calling switched off, the last prince of Oudh was laid to rest without anyone getting to know.
With the body being found outside his home — the 700-year-old dilapidated Malcha Mahal — the bizarre and macabre story of the royal family of Oudh also ended. His sister, Sakina, had died a few months ago, while their mother, the Begum of Oudh, had poisoned herself in 1993. Those who had visited the prince in the days before he died said he continued to pour water into a glass kept on the table, where his mother used to sit.
With no electricity, no doors, no windows and no water, it was less of a palace and more a reminder of the family’s fall. In May 1985, Malcha Mahal was allotted to the royals of Oudh, led by the imperious Begum who, for years, stayed at the VIP lounge at the New Delhi railway station, with her fast-depleting stock of antiques and her loyal pack of ferocious hounds.
The Begum had fought a lone battle with the government for return of their ancestral property in Lucknow, but instead got the Malcha Mahal and a paltry monthly allowance of Rs 500 in exchange. In an interview to The Indian Express in 1997, the Prince had spoken of his sister’s deep distress since their mother died, and her obsession with committing suicide. “My sister is in deep distress and since the Begum died, (she) has been wearing black. She has not combed her hair even once.” At the time, their mother’s ashes were being kept in a crystal vial in the middle of the large room.
According to the prince, his mother had died by consuming crushed diamonds, extracted from ornaments she never wore. Police said they had only been notified about the death after a police team from Nagaland, posted at the spot, told them that the prince had not been seen for a while. “The prince was living in a pitiable condition. He used to ask people for food and one person from the locality would feed him.
The prince would wander near the forested areas in Chanakyapuri and, for the past two-three days, there was no movement which was suspicious. When we looked into the matter, we found that he was lying on the floor inside his house on September 3,” said a senior police officer. He was taken to RML hospital for his post-mortem, where no external injuries were found on his body. Police claimed he died of natural causes, though the autopsy report is awaited.
Police later questioned locals to ascertain the man’s immediate family members . They were informed that a distant relative from Aligarh would visit him every few years. Police got three mobile phone numbers, reportedly belonging to family members, but found them switched off. The prince was laid to rest on September 5 at the burial grounds near ITO, after they informed the Waqf board.