Nubar Gulbenkian: The Enigmatic Bon Vivant with a Secret Past

Nubar Gulbenkian, son of the famed oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian, is often remembered as a quintessential bon vivant in London’s high society. Known for his love of fine dining, exquisite wine, a penchant for Rolls-Royces, and a signature fresh orchid on his lapel, Nubar’s flamboyant lifestyle often overshadowed his more clandestine past. Behind the façade of a socialite lay the untold story of a British agent in Portugal during World War II, and a childhood marked by escape and survival.

Early Life: A Dramatic Escape

Nubar’s life began with an escape fit for a spy novel. Amid the persecution of Armenians in Turkey, Calouste Gulbenkian, foresaw the need to flee to ensure his family’s safety. In an extraordinary move, he hid young Nubar in a Gladstone bag, a bold act that epitomizes both the desperation and the resourcefulness of the time. This dramatic start to life set the stage for Nubar’s future endeavors, far from ordinary and always extraordinary.

London’s High Society and the Bon Vivant

In London, Nubar Gulbenkian cultivated an image that was both eccentric and endearing. His lavish lifestyle was the talk of the town. He was often spotted in his custom Rolls-Royce, which was as much a symbol of his wealth as it was of his unique character. The daily ritual of adorning a fresh orchid on his lapel became a sartorial signature, synonymous with his persona. Nubar’s indulgence in the finer things in life, however, camouflaged deeper layers of his persona and past.

The Secret Agent in Portugal

Few were aware of Nubar’s role as a British agent in Portugal during World War II. His work, shrouded in secrecy, was a stark contrast to his public persona as a bon vivant. This dual life highlights a complex character, capable of navigating the underground world of espionage while simultaneously embodying the flamboyance of a high society figure. His contributions during the war remain a lesser-known facet of his life, overshadowed by his socialite status.

Legacy and Remembering Nubar Gulbenkian

Nubar Gulbenkian’s life story is a tapestry of contrasts – from a dramatic escape in his infancy to his role in espionage, set against the backdrop of a lavish lifestyle. His narrative offers a glimpse into the complexities of a man who was much more than just a socialite. It sheds light on the often-hidden stories of those who lived through tumultuous times, playing significant roles in history while maintaining a facade that told a different story.

Nubar Gulbenkian’s legacy is a fascinating blend of opulence, intrigue, and resilience. His life journey from a concealed child in a bag to a British agent, and then to a celebrated figure in London’s elite, is a testament to the multifaceted nature of human life. It serves as a reminder that behind every public figure’s persona, there may lie untold stories of courage, survival, and secret contributions to the larger narrative of history.


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