An Indian-born polo-playing friend of the King who once said he was ‘happy’ to be nicknamed ‘Sooty’ has died suddenly aged 72, MailOnline can reveal.
Kuldip Singh Dhillon found himself at the centre of a race row after it emerged that the then Prince Charles and other members at Cirencester Park Polo Club used the nickname considered a racist slur by many.
The controversial name, which Mr Dhillon insisted he ‘enjoyed’, emerged in the Press in 2009, shortly after it was revealed Prince Harry had called an Army colleague ‘our little P*** friend’.
It is understood Mr Dhillon, a property developer who owned a large estate in the Gloucestershire countryside, died at a family wedding in India on Wednesday, but had reportedly been in good health.
Neighbours confirmed to MailOnline that he had passed away suddenly but his English-born wife Jacqueline and their four children are yet to comment. Mrs Dhillon is understood to have been in India with her husband at the time.
The manager of his 100-acre farm in Gloucestershire, Simon Cox said: ‘We can’t quite believe it. He was a fit man with no health problems we were aware of. It’s a real shock.’
Mr and Mrs Dhillon’s son Satnam, a professional polo player, has flown out to be with his grieving mother.
A gardener on the estate said: ‘His son managed to fly over to be with his mother. It must have been pretty awful for her. We had a call to say Mr Dhillon had died within hours of it happening. As far as we know he just went. No one can quite believe it.’
Prince Charles and his friend Kuldip Singh Dhillon in 1995 at Cirencester Park Polo Club. Mr Dhillon has died aged 72+5View gallery
Ignacio Archain, far left, Kuldip Singh Dhillon and Gachi Ferrari present Prince William with the La Martina Pro Evolution helmet for the most valuable player of the match in 2014+5View gallery
Prince Harry with Kuldip Singh Dhillon. His nickname ‘Sooty’ emerged after Harry was accused of racism himself when he called an Army colleague ‘our little P**i friend’
Mr Dhillon had served as chairman of the historic Cirencester Polo Club, formed in 1894, and was friendly with Camilla, the Queen Consort, and later Charles and his two sons. Harry and William were particularly close to his son Satnam, who is a professional polo player and businessman.
Mark Hayden-Kellard, 60, general manager of Cirencester Polo Club, told The Sun: ‘We’re extremely sad – he will be missed enormously. He was a huge character around here and we all loved him dearly.
‘We’ve all been really affected by it. He was only 72 and in good health so it’s come as quite a shock to all of us here at the Polo Club.
‘We’ll certainly be doing something in the coming days to honour his memory.’
MailOnline has approached the club for comment.
Described by friends as ‘genial’ and ‘utterly charming’, Mr Dhillon – who used the name Kolin socially – had known Charles for more than 30 years.
According to club members, Mr Dhillon was ‘affectionately’ known as Sooty ‘for as long as anyone can remember’.
‘I have to say that you know you have arrived when you acquire a nickname,’ Mr Dhillon had said.
‘I enjoy being called Sooty by my friends who I am sure universally use the name as a term of affection with no offence meant or felt.
‘The Prince of Wales is a man of zero prejudice and both his sons have always been most respectful.’
One member of the polo club said at the time: ‘To be honest when I first joined I was rather taken aback – particularly as Kolin was, how can I put it, our only black face – but it was a nickname he used personally so I, along with many others, thought there was no harm whatsoever in it.
‘Kolin is certainly happy with the moniker and, to be honest, it rather amuses us. It has become something of a running joke at the expense of the politically correct brigade. A sort of two fingers to the PC mob.’
Among those frequently heard referring to Mr Dhillon as ‘Sooty’ were Charles and his sons, who all played polo on the private field their friend had built in the grounds of his home.
Mr Dhillon and his English-born wife Jacqueline have four children. He was also a former chairman of the Schools and University Polo Association.
William and Harry were particularly good friends with Mr Dhillon’s youngest son, Satnam, who keeps ponies in his father’s stables.
A friend said: ‘I remember being at a tea there in, gosh, the late 1990s at which Charles was present. When it was time for him to go he stood up and said loudly, “I must just go and say goodbye to Sooty”. No ibe even blinked.’
Clarence House declined to comment at the time on what they described as a ‘private nickname allegedly used at a private club’, but a source said: ‘To imply that any of the princes are racist is ridiculous.’
The row broke out at a time when royal aides had to defend Harry after it emerged that he had videotaped himself calling a fellow Sandhurst cadet a ‘P**i’ and using the word ‘raghead’.
Harry referred to former Pakistani platoon member Ahmed Raza Khan as ‘our little P*** friend’.
In his book, Spare, Harry claimed he ‘didn’t know P*** was an insult’. The Duke of Sussex said he ‘heard many people use the word’ as a child and ‘had not seen anyone wince or get upset’ and that he had not considered them to be racist.
He added: ‘And I didn’t know anything about unconscious biases either. I was 21 years old, I had grown isolated from the real world and wrapped in privilege, and I believed that word was the same as Yankee. Harmless.’+5View gallery
Prince Harry and Ahmed Raza Khan during The Sovereign’s Parade at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, April 2006. Prince Harry has now claimed he ‘didn’t know P*** was an insult’ when he notoriously used the racial slur to
describe his fellow soldier +5View gallery
Harry writes in his book: ‘I was 21 years old, I had grown isolated from the real world and wrapped in privilege, and I believed that word was the same as Yankee. Harmless.’ (Pictured: Harry at Eton wearing his traditional school dress)
The Duke said people accused him of learning nothing from the Nazi debacle in 2005, saying that he was ‘worse than stupid’ or a ‘partyboy,’ and that he ‘was racist.’
He said he was in Highgrove watching the scandal unfold as leading politicians blasted him on national television, and that he was unable to process it.
Harry claimed that his father’s office issued an apology on his behalf and that he had wanted to issue another one, but palace aides advised against it.
‘Not the best strategy, sir’, he claims they told him, to which he said: ‘F*** the strategy.’
Harry said he contacted Ahmed directly and apologised. He said his comrade told him he knew he was not racist and that ‘nothing happened’.
However the Duke writes that ‘it did happen’ and that his friend’s forgiveness only made him feel worse.