Some time in the late 1960s, David Cornwell received a letter from his father. He had arrived in Delhi. And in keeping with the captivating narrative of his life, he had won the trust of a “famous maharaja.” “His Highness asks me to assure you that you will be royally welcomed to the Palace whenever the winds of fate throw you on those lonely shores,” Ronnie Cornwell wrote to his son, the Cold War spy novelist who took his name. John the Square.
The Maharajah and Ronnie were so taken that he named him the manager of his estate. It was a small thing, a postscript – he also needed £ 1,000 in cash. David asked about the Maharajah at the Indian High Commission in London. It turned out that the sultanate for which Ronnie “worked” did not exist. It had not been since 1948. And a year later, the sole heir to the title had been killed in an accident in France, wrote Le Carré’s biographer Adam Sisman.