Scottish independence: He masterminded the restoration of Harrods, owned the Ritz Hotel in Paris and used his wealth to buy an English Premiership football club and a Highland estate.
But now Mohamed Al Fayed has expressed his determination to gift a “statue of liberty” to Scotland in the event of a vote for independence.
The tycoon, worth an estimated £850 million, insists the Scots are descended from an Egyptian princess and has commissioned his official sculptor to create an image of the legendary Princess Scota, to symbolise national rebirth.
Al Fayed, who owns the 65,000-acre Balnagowan estate in the Highlands, said: “When Scotland becomes independent it will need a female symbol to personify its greatest characteristics – courage, foresight and intelligence. England has Britannia, France has Marianne and Scotland should have Princess Scota. Honouring Scota in the form of a statue is long overdue. She was a phenomenal leader and princess.”
The proposed sculpture has been designed by Bill Mitchell, who also created the memorial to Al Fayed’s son, Dodi, and Princess Diana at Harrods.
According to legend, Scota, the daughter of Pharaoh Chencres, took to sea 3,600 years ago after a quarrel with her father, taking with her two sons and the Stone of Destiny, on which Scottish kings would later be crowned. The princess is said to have died shortly after discovering a windswept land off the north-west coast of Europe, which became home to her sons and which was named in her honour.
Al Fayed also claimed his forebears brought the kilt to Scotland. He said: “At school in Egypt our teacher told us about Princess Scota and how she sailed to Europe with her soldiers and chose Scotland as the new frontier for her people to settle in; they named the land after her. Being Egyptian, Scota’s soldiers wore the kilt, a piece of traditional clothing.”
The former owner of Fulham FC, who has made no secret of his desire to apply for Scottish citizenship post-independence, added: “The Egyptians had incredible genes, which helped them create the strongest nation the world has ever seen.”
Mitchell also designed the controversial statue of Michael Jackson, which was erected outside Fulham’s Craven Cottage stadium in 2010.
He believes the statue of Scota could become a landmark. He said: “She would be 8ft high, stand on a reasonable plinth and be very imposing.
“My design is in the style of the 18th dynasty of Egypt where one foot of royalty was always forward.
Bill Mitchell’s autobiography; Self Portrait, The Eyes Within is published by Whittles.