BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Princess Salimah is a global force for good. I so admire her for her tireless commitment as SOS Children’s Villages International Ambassador for the past three decades. She is clearly passionate in her desire to protect the most vulnerable children, ensuring a foundation of family, love, community and security. What an honor for Christie’s to highlight this effort.—Cathy Busch, Christie’s Midwest Regional Office’s Managing Director.
Sometimes children call her “Granny Princess” but on her recent visit to Chicago to be honored by Christie’s she insisted that everyone call her Sally. The first wife of Aga Kahn IV, who became the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismailia Muslims while still a Harvard student in 1957, Sally travels constantly to 135 countries to visit children in the 571 SOS Villages. Founded in 1949, SOS is the largest non-governmental organization dedicated to caring for orphaned and abandoned children. She had visited earlier in the day the SOS homes in the Chicago area and spoke movingly of the children she has visited all around the world. Princess Salimah was accompanied by US and international SOS leadership.
Children hear that a princess is coming to visit and they expect a young lady with a crown. I tell them that they should think of me as a granny princess without a crown but with a grandmother’s love.
Born Sarah Crocker Poole in New Delhi, Sally lives currently in Geneva and London. She divorced the Aga Kahn with whom she had three children, in 1995. Known internationally for her beauty, she had a career as a fashion model before her marriage.
Following her divorce she sold her collection of dazzling 20th century suites from Boucheron, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels through Christie’s in Geneva. She appears as number six on the top ten list–along with Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Margaret, the Duchess of Windsor, Lily Safra and others–of the most expensive jewelry collections sold at auction.
She turned to fulltime social activism after her divorce and never looked back. Her children share her commitment to international aid and the Aga Khan, known principally for his race horses, funds development and educational projects in many neglected parts of the world.
I visited my first SOS village in French Polynesia and I had never seen children who had gone through so much. They were destitute, abused and abandoned, such a horrific contrast to the idyllic landscape. One little girl had been accused of being possessed by the devil and wouldn’t speak at all. When I returned a year later, thanks to her caregivers–she called me mademoiselle and hugged me.
All of the villages are very well built and there is a woman that each house calls mother, very nurturing and well educated. Each mother must go through a year and a half of training. They learn to live as families, and no children from a previous family are ever split up.
I write to many of them, and one child I met as a six year old now has two children. I told a little girl I met in Morocco when she asked me if I were really a princess and I told her I was her granny princess, and that title stayed.
The evening celebrating the Princess and her activism began with cocktails at Christie’s in the Hancock. Guests viewed highlights from the November Post War and Contemporary Art show alongside dazzlers from the December Magnificent Jewels auction, both held at the Christie’s Rockefeller Center flagship in New York.