Tom Spender

Freelance journalist in London

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Art lover and exile: Libyan princess Alia al Senussi

March 22nd, 2010 · 9 Comments · Journalism, Middle East

My story in Dubai’s Brownbook magazine about Alia al Senussi, a member of the Libyan royal family in exile. According to her bio: “HRH Princess Alia Idris Al-Senussi was born in Washington DC to a Libyan father and American mother and moved shortly thereafter to Cairo, Egypt. Princess Alia’s father is a member of the Al Senussi family, who were exiled from Libya in 1969 when General Moammar Gaddhafi seized the throne in a coup d’etat and made himself Leader of the Libyan Jamaharriyah. Princess Alia’s grandfather, HRH Prince Abdallah Abed Al-Senussi, was a political leader in the government under King Idris.”

Now living in London, Alia has thrown herself into the world of non-profit art education and hopes one day to help bring Libya into the art boom currently being experienced by the rest of the Middle East, mainly driven by developments in the Gulf, where auction houses are setting up and big new museums are being built.

Alia was a joy to chat with and her story is well worth a read. (If you are living in China and cannot see the PDF please click here for the story).

Alia al Senussi

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • Michael Jones

    Im afraid that Alia’s claims to a royal title and rank even in exile is shaky to be kind.

    Her father Idris al-Senussi gained great notoriety in the United Kingdom in 1995 after it was revealed in court that he had duped forty-one Members of Parliament including Henry Bellingham and Jonathan Aitken in 1990 into signing an early day motion which described him as “great nephew of the late King Idris of Libya, and heir presumptive to the Libyan throne”.

    This was not infact true. This deception was apparently designed to gain political influence with Muammar Gadaffi, the ruler of his homeland according to the front page story of the Sunday Times.

    However, far from being the rightful heir to the throne, Idris has been described by the co-editor of Debrett’s Peerage as “the second son of the sixth son of the second son of the younger brother of King Idris’s father.”

    Since the abolition of the Monarchy all titles pertaining to the Libyan Royal House were abolished and are forbidden by law. At the time of the abolition Idris bore not title.

    Idris also unsuccessfully attempted to ingratiate himself with Prince Michael of Kent, Simeon II of Bulgaria and Terry Waite, among others. He was eventually exposed after unsuccessfully attempting to sue the Private Secretary to Prince Michael of Kent, and a Public Relations specialist Anthony Bailey for “blackmail” after receiving an invoice for payments due. Senussi’s case was thrown out of court by a magistrate who in refusing to commit the case to trial said Idris was “living in a world of make believe”.

    Idris then left the United Kingdom but continues to assert his claims to the leadership of the Senussi family in Italy and elsewhere.

    Prince Muhammad as-Senussi, son of the last Crown Prince and claimant to the Libyan throne, has said “I believe that it is important now, given the crisis that faces my country, that those individuals who have been mislead in the past, note the facts so that this type of confusion is not allowed to arise again”.

  • Tom S

    It’s perhaps worth pointing out that not everyone feels the same way as the commentator above. Regardless of the individuals involved, the Senussi clan still has a lot of support within Libya, according to a Feb 25 report by Gregory R. Copley, Editor, in GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs (subscription only

    An excerpt: “The Libyan situation was clearly, then, particularly tribal and non-religious. Despite attempts by the Mus-
    lim Brothers — the Ikhwan al-Muslimin — to project from their Cairo stronghold to create an understand-
    ing with Qadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, the bulk of Libyan society has rejected Islamism, and has remained
    loyal to the Senussi sect of Islam (which transcends tribalism), and sees the current conflict as tribal.
    Qadhafi, in a bid to appeal to Western sympathies, claimed that the uprising was supported by al-Qaida,
    the neo-salafist/Wahhabist extreme jihadist/terrorist group. In making this claim, Qadhafi was hoping that
    nobody would remember that the Sanussiyyah movement is the diametric opposite of the al-Qaida phi-
    losophy: it is moderate, pro-Western, democratic, and anti-terrorist in nature.

    “It is this movement which, with the support of most of the 140 tribes of Libya, is taking over.”

  • Kazx

    How come all the ‘princesses’ live in exile? Why not go back and help your ‘people’. We get all these stories of how well they are doing – having being educated abroad. Of course they are doing well – their home countries are a mess! Ruled by total despots and dictators – the only ones that can get out have MONEY – taken from the same despots and dictators. I despair, I really do.

  • Tom S

    I think it’s only fair to point out that the Senussi family was deposed as rulers of Libya by Muammar Gaddafi in a coup in 1969. As far as I know those Senussis and their immediate relatives would not have been welcomed back under Gaddafi’s rule, neither were they provided with any support from him.

  • Tom S

    Background on the Senussis in this BBC story: “Could Libya’s royal Sanusi name return to centre stage?”

  • Ali

    Well done mate, she’s nothing more than the great grand niece of the king. Cameron is related the EIIR in the same way. Big deal. Furthermore, she’s done nothing during the revolution. Preposterous article! Again, well done!!!!

  • Ghyda Senussi

    Bravo to Micheal Jones and Ali’s post. Being a senussi myself, I find the so called princes alia a fraud. She is nothing more than a glory grabbing, spoilt and highly delusional person who is claiming a title she is not entitled to. I’m rather incensed that she seems to think she has a right to such a title, what makes her a princess any more than any other senussi? As the first post noted, her father is an artful dodger whose claim to the throne is so obscure its embarrassing.

  • Tony Berenyi

    The business dealings with the Al-Senussi family have been less than favorable and honorable. As they say “if it’s to good to be true, it usually isn’t”

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