Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, the wife of the ruler of Dubai, has reportedly split from her husband and is in hiding in London “in fear for her life”.
The sixth and “junior” wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Princess Haya is believed to have come to London with their children, aged 11 and 7, after first seeking asylum in Germany.
According to the BBC, she is now said to be living in an £85m townhouse in Kensington Palace Gardens and after having filed for divorce is preparing for a legal battle in the High Court.
The daughter of the late King Hussein and half-sister of current Jordanian King Abdullah II, Princess Haya married Sheikh Mohammed – who is also the prime minister and vice president of Dubai – in 2004.
Sheikh Mohammed, believed to be the father of 23 children, owns Britain’s biggest racing stables, Godolphin, and is a regular at Ascot.
The 69-year-old billionaire has not commented publicly on the matter, but is an avid poet, publishing his work online in Arabic and English, with the assertion: “All my poems are a result of personal experience… I have never written any verse without it being a reality of my life.”
A recently composed a poem apparently about heartbreak sees him plead: “I have tried and tried again to meet you, but my efforts to approach were in vain.
“You have met my undying fervor with silence. Why would you respond, when you deny I exist?”
Another poem in Arabic translated by The Times states: “You betrayer, you betrayed the most precious trust, and your game has been revealed.”
Without naming Princess Haya, further verses bitterly urge: “Go to whom you get busy with.”
Princess Haya, who has not been seen in public since May, was educated at Bryanston School in Dorset and went on to Oxford University.
The 45-year-old is a former Olympic athlete who represented Jordan in equestrian events at the 2000 games in Sydney.
The matter comes after Sheik Mohammed was alleged to have forcibly returned one of his daughters to Dubai, after she attempted to flee in February last year.
Human rights organisations raised serious concerns about Princess Sheikha Latifa after she appeared in a 40-minute video saying she was being held prisoner and accused her father of abuse.
After executing a daring escape bid from the Emirates with the help of a former French spy and her martial arts instructor, Princess Latifa was said to have been brought back to the UAE after commandos stormed a yacht carrying her off the coast of India.
Ten months later, a state-run news agency carried a government statement saying the princess was “at home and living with her family in Dubai,” along with photographs of her having lunch with former Irish President and United Nations human rights chief Mary Robinson.
But her supporters continue to allege she was abducted against her will, with some claiming the pictures revealed Princess Latifa looking “dazed and sedated”.
Robinson herself described the princess as “troubled” and “vulnerable” and said she was receiving medical attention from her family.
Robinson told the Irish Times: “You have to bear in mind that this is a troubled young woman who has a serious medical situation. She’s receiving psychiatric care and they don’t want her to endure any more publicity.”
According to BBC sources, Princess Haya is said to have recently discovered “disturbing” details behind the return of Princess Latifa.
It claims Princess Haya has since then faced increasing hostility and pressure from members of her husband’s extended family “until she no longer felt safe there.”
It adds: “A source close to her said she fears she may now be abducted herself and ‘rendered’ back to Dubai.”
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai said: “The UAE is a male-dominated society, and Princess Haya’s husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, wields absolute power over Dubai. If she was abused, she could not go to the police; if she wanted a divorce, she could not go to the courts.”
The case is delicate given Britain’s close ties with the UAE and those between Princess Haya’s home country of Jordan and the Emirate.
Dr Raihan Ismail, from ANU’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, told ABC’s The World Today: “She is the half-sister of King Abdullah and she is seeking a divorce, and some have suggested it is causing diplomatic tensions between the UAE and also Jordan.”
A spokesman for the UAE Embassy in London said there would be no comment on what it described as “allegations about individuals’ private lives.”