It’s royal gifts as usual amid the mystery of the sheikh’s missing daughters
The Queen has continued to accept gifts of racehorses from the ruler of Dubai, even after his wife fled to London in fear of her life.
Horses given by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum accounted for a sixth of those that carried the Queen’s silks during the flat season last year.
Some of the gifts were accepted after the sheikh’s youngest wife, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, 46, fled to London with their two young children in March 2019. Two months later the princess, a former Olympic equestrian, was invited to join the Queen for tea at Windsor.
The revelation of the continuing gifts comes after the Queen was urged to use her influence over the sheikh to secure the release of two daughters he had abducted. Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, spoke this weekend of her regret at failing to use her prestige as a former United Nations human rights envoy to intervene on behalf of Princess Latifa, 35.
Robinson had lunch with Latifa in 2018 and later described her as a troubled young woman.
Through a shared love of horses Mohammed has developed a friendship with the Queen that transcends normal royal protocol. He is regularly invited to join her at Royal Ascot.
Mohammed, 71, prime minister and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, has invested a fortune to make Godolphin in Newmarket, Suffolk, one of the premier racing stables.
John Warren, the Queen’s racing manager, declined to comment yesterday about the gifts from Godolphin since 2019 or on rumours that further horses had been accepted. A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said that it “would not comment on private matters”.
The Queen does not buy horses. All the 55 horses that carried her silks during the last flat season were from the royal stud, except the nine given by Godolphin. The age of some of the Godolphin horses meant that they must have been given after the princess fled to London. Mohammed is reported to have given the Queen four yearlings each year since 2009.
Six of the sheikh’s gifts won a race last year: Lightness, Just Fine, Inveigle, Wakening, Chosen Star and Desert Flyer. They collected £34,440 in prize money but cost the Queen about £270,000 in training fees. The previous year five other horses from Godolphin carried the Queen’s silks in flat races.
The Queen’s association with the sheikh is expected to come under the spotlight again this week as a new audio recording is released from Latifa, who the High Court found had been abducted by her father.
In the recording she recalls one of the sheikh’s senior aides saying that her father would take no notice of pleas to release her.
She says: “He is saying, ‘Nobody can make your father let you be free, nobody. Nobody is stronger than him.’ Yeah, it is all like brainwashing, they are trying to discourage me.”
Latifa was seized in 2018 by armed men while escaping Dubai on a yacht with Tiina Jauhiainen, a friend who had been her martial arts instructor. She has also appealed for her freedom in videos from her “villa jail”.
Concern about the princess’s plight has been spreading at the UN. Her supporters at first requested help from the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, overseen by the UN Human Rights Council, which has put her on its list of cases. Her ordeal has been referred to three more bodies: the special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the special rapporteur on violence against women; and the committee on the elimination of discrimination against women. UN officials attended an online conference where the new audio was played, alongside video testimony from the princess. “You could see they are taking it very seriously,” her lawyer, David Haigh, said. “You cannot fail to be affected by these videos.”
Jauhiainen has published an open letter to the Queen appealing for her to use “whatever influence” she has with the sheikh to secure the release of Latifa and her sister Shamsa, 39, who was abducted in Cambridge in 2000. She wrote: “Given you so obviously value justice, freedom and family and that you command universal respect, I truly believe your intervention could help bring the ordeal of these two women to an end.”