Glorious Parasites

The world's richest man in 1937 was His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad, an Indian potentate. TIME featured him on its cover that year, estimating his fortune at $1.4 billion, including "$150,000,000 in jewels [and] $250,000,000 in gold bars." Such fabulous wealth enabled free-spending Indian princes like the nizam to fill the best hotels in London and Paris with massive entourages that made impossible demands and gave outrageous tipsólong before Arab sheiks got into the habit. The nizam and his ilk have disappeared from the world's glamour magazines and gossip columns, but a new coffee-table book, The Unforgettable Maharajas, reminds...

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