Prince Michael of Kent has a regal yet serene aura that instantly draws one in close to listen to him. And that’s exactly what we did when His Highness graciously obliged to chat with us at the 5th Cartier Concours d’Elegance, held at the Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad. We were quite sure that, being a senior member of the British Royalty, he would have many an anecdote to share about his well-lived life and his ties with India over the past 40 years. Prince Michael was educated at Eton College and then went on to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst – two royal rites of passage. He is the paternal first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, and the grandson of King George V, who was Emperor of India under the British Raj.
What’s it been like for you in India for the Cartier show? What are your thoughts on the event?
Hyderabad is a very beautiful city; however, this is not the first time I’ve been here. Staying at the Taj Falaknuma Palace is breath-taking, as one can imagine. I’m here for the 5th Cartier show, which was the brainchild of Mark Shand, who did a lot in India for the Indian elephant. The first Concours he did in India was about 10 years ago, in Delhi. I am very lucky to be a judge for each of these events now. The interesting thing about this one is that over time, we have seen how cars are now being restored in India with such a high standard, and more efficiently too. It’s much easier to do it here now. But in India, with the difference of not being able to export old cars, everything is more in-house. And with the interest generated in the old car movement, the whole feeling has changed. Now more than ever, we find that all cars have been restored with advanced skills. It’s very exciting.
Coming back to the event, I love it for the fact that it has tremendous character. And coming to Hyderabad is a huge joy for me. I’ve been coming to India for 40 years now, and I have a strong affection for the country. The weather is truly spectacular and utterly enjoyable.
Have you always had an interest in automobiles?
I have always had an interest in cars, and it’s developed over the years. I’ve taken part in many events of this kind. I used to be a rally driver 40 years ago. I’ve done some competing in England; my last competition was in the 70s. Since then, I have just done road rallies and nothing competitive. So, yes, you could say my interest in automobiles has been there from my formative years, and the appreciation has only grown.
You have a unique and historic association with India, since your grandfather King George V was the Emperor of India until 1936. What has your association with the country been, and what do you like most about India?
India has a very special place in my heart for a variety of reasons. I have been coming to this beautiful and spectacular country for over 40 years, and it always evokes a special feeling within my heart.
India has a tremendous flair; the colours, scents and ambience are completely unchanging no matter how developed and forward the country has become since my first visit 40 years ago. The best thing about India is undoubtedly its people; the warmth of the people here is very infectious, and this always stays with you. Indians are happy people and that’s the most beautiful part about the country. I find the essential qualities of hospitality, friendship and looking after people haven’t changed in the past four decades that I’ve been coming.
Since you have made numerous visits to India, is it safe to assume you’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country?
Oh, absolutely, and it has been truly fascinating and magical. My wife and I came here for our honeymoon and stayed in Rajasthan, then went on to Kashmir, and then to Delhi and Agra. We absolutely loved the beautiful cities of Jodhpur, Jaipur, Udaipur, and Jaisalmer. We also went to the Ajanta and Ellora caves during our visit to Mumbai. We have seen the majestic tigers at Ranthambore National Park, the spiritual city of Varanasi, and of course the backwaters of Kerala. We have certainly been around every corner of India and we absolutely love it. – as told to Suneela