ENTERTAINMENT

ROBERT HARDMAN writes about the billionaire crown prince of the party


The crowd lining up for the Panto at the Churchill Theater in Bromley had never seen anything like it.

In the parking lot, one powerful, darkened limousine after another growled in what would turn out to be nothing short of a royal command.

It was a few days before Christmas in 2008. Prince Azim of Brunei, then 26, was in London and wanted to take some of his younger siblings to a production of his favorite pantomime, Cinderella.

It was announced this week that Prince Azim had passed away unmarried at the age of 38 after a long illness was reported. He is pictured above with supermodel Naomi Campbell during London Fashion Week 2007

Prince Azim - the gentle, party-loving second son of the fabulously wealthy Sultan of Brunei - with Joan Collins in 2005

Prince Azim – the gentle, party-loving second son of the fabulously wealthy Sultan of Brunei – with Joan Collins in 2005

The Prince with Elizabeth Hurley at a book launch at Harry & # 39; s Bar in London in May 2016

The Prince with Elizabeth Hurley at a book launch at Harry & # 39; s Bar in London in May 2016

While Azim often tries to be the fun-loving Prince Charming character on the celebrity racetracks of London and Hollywood, this particular fairy tale wasn't meant for a happy ending. (Above with Michael Jackson in 2007)

While Azim often tries to be the fun-loving Prince Charming character on the celebrity racetracks of London and Hollywood, this particular fairy tale wasn't meant for a happy ending. (Above with Michael Jackson in 2007)

And if the only show available was in the capital's Kentish suburbs, the entire entourage would bypass the West End and head to Bromley.

It was a typically impulsive but good-natured gesture by the gentle, party-loving second son of the fabulously wealthy Sultan of Brunei.

But while Azim often tries to be the fun-loving Prince Charming character on the celebrity racetracks of London and Hollywood, this particular fairy tale wasn't meant for a happy ending.

It was announced this week that the prince had passed away unmarried at the age of 38 after an illness reported as a long illness.

He died in his homeland, mourning the sprawling, well-filled royal complex outside the Brunei capital of Bandar Seri Begawan, and was buried on the same day, according to custom.

His immediate family attended his funeral, but not the confusing constellation of coworkers he'd considered friends.

These ranged from actress Raquel Welch and supermodel Naomi Campbell to singer Mariah Carey and ex-Baywatch star Pamela Anderson (who sang at his 30th birthday party).

He was also a great buddy of the late Jade Goody, the sociable, one-off Big Brother contestant for a while.

Azim's funeral was attended by his immediate family, but not by the confusing constellation of coworkers he had considered friends. These ranged from actress Raquel Welch and supermodel Naomi Campbell to ex-Baywatch star Pamela Anderson (above, who sang at his 30th birthday party)

Azim's funeral was attended by his immediate family, but not by the confusing constellation of co-workers he'd considered friends. These ranged from actress Raquel Welch and supermodel Naomi Campbell to ex-Baywatch star Pamela Anderson (above, who sang at his 30th birthday party)

The Prince at the Dorchester Hotel in London in 2012 with singer Mariah Carey and actress Faye Dunaway

The Prince at the Dorchester Hotel in London in 2012 with singer Mariah Carey and actress Faye Dunaway

Azim's big goal was to make it as a film producer. In this regard he had some success under his industrial name Azim Bolkiah. (He is pictured above with model Caprice in 2007)

Azim's big goal was to make it as a film producer. In this regard he had some success under his industrial name Azim Bolkiah. (He is pictured above with model Caprice in 2007)

This was the milieu in which he seemed happiest, although it was not a world that won the approval of his family in the increasingly conservative Islamic sultanate.

It was only last year that the tiny oil-rich kingdom on the north coast of Borneo, protected with the help of the British Army, proposed introducing laws against homosexuality with the death penalty for repeat offenders.

The proposal was withdrawn by the Sultan after a global boycott of the country's business interests, including London's Dorchester Hotel, was demanded.

It was especially uncomfortable for Prince Azim, who had many gay friends.

It was a reminder of the contradicting lifestyles of other members of wealthy Islamic royal families.

Most recently, Azim was executive producer on The Happy Prince, Rupert Everett's bittersweet gay love story about Oscar Wilde's twilight years with Emily Watson and Colin Firth. (He can be seen upstairs with Jerry Hall at his 25th birthday party)

Most recently, Azim was executive producer on The Happy Prince, Rupert Everett's bittersweet gay love story about Oscar Wilde's twilight years, starring Emily Watson and Colin Firth. (He can be seen upstairs with Jerry Hall at his 25th birthday party)

Outside the studio, Prince Azim wanted to use his wealth and position to promote numerous good causes in the UK and elsewhere, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Fashion For Relief. (Above with supermodel Claudia Schiffer)

Outside the studio, Prince Azim wanted to use his wealth and position to promote numerous good causes in the UK and elsewhere, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Fashion For Relief. (Above with supermodel Claudia Schiffer)

When luck always seemed to shine on his older brother Billah - who even won £ 2,000 on the National Lottery (though some wondered why on earth he played it in the first place) - it always made Azim look for something else. (Above with actresses Stephanie Beacham and Joan Collins in 2016)

When luck always seemed to shine on his older brother Billah – who even won £ 2,000 on the National Lottery (though some wondered why on earth he played it in the first place) – it always made Azim look for something else. (Above with actresses Stephanie Beacham and Joan Collins in 2016)

His uncle, the younger brother of the Sultan, Prince Jefri, was the family's playboy for years, famous for his love for fast cars and for parties on board the motor yacht, which he liked to call "T * ts".

When Jefri was contained and ordered to live a quieter life, the next generation began to learn the ways of the world. In the case of Prince Azim, this consisted of a spell at the Berkshire public school, Leighton Park.

Former Labor leader Michael Foot's alma mater, run on Quaker lines, was certainly an interesting choice for a Muslim prince who, like his father and older brother, was destined for Sandhurst.

Perhaps the Sultan wanted his second son to avoid the same temptations as his own younger brother.

In this case, Prince Azim only spent a week in Sandhurst before stepping out. There were hopes that he might follow his older brother, Crown Prince Billah, who was taking a course in Islamic Studies at Magdalen College, Oxford.

However, Azim's motion, catastrophically approved by the Foreign Office, coincided with the excitement surrounding the college's refusal of admission to Laura Spence, a government-trained applicant with armfuls of A-grades.

Both Labor Chancellor Gordon Brown and the shadowing secretary, a Theresa May, got involved in an increasingly toxic debate.

Prince Azim (left) with one of his brothers in 2004 at the Nurul Iman royal palace - the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei

Prince Azim (left) with one of his brothers in 2004 at the Nurul Iman royal palace – the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei

He died in his homeland and was buried the same day according to custom. His immediate family attended his funeral

He died in his homeland and was buried the same day according to custom. His immediate family attended his funeral

For the case, Prince Azim enrolled at Oxford Brookes University to study politics and international relations.

When luck always seemed to shine on Billah – who even won £ 2,000 on the National Lottery (though some wondered why on earth he was playing it in the first place) – Azim always left it looking for something else.

His big goal was to make it as a film producer. In this regard he had some success under his industrial name Azim Bolkiah.

Among other things, he was the producer of You're Not You with Hilary Swank as a classical pianist with a debilitating illness.

Most recently, he was executive producer on The Happy Prince, Rupert Everett's bittersweet gay love story about Oscar Wilde's twilight years starring Emily Watson and Colin Firth.

Outside the studio, Prince Azim wanted to use his wealth and position to promote numerous good causes in the UK and elsewhere, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Fashion For Relief.

While some celebrities – Mariah Carey among them – became regular friends, others were more interested in the balance, title, and toy than their tiny owner. He was smart enough to know and admitted, "It comes with the territory."

Indeed, Azim sometimes joked about his ambition to be photographed with the likes of Kate Moss or Claudia Schiffer.

"I mean, I've met some of them before," he once said. "But I don't really hang out with them." Not so much a happy prince as a lost one.

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