20/04/2016

THE MAHARAJAH, DULEEP SINGH ~ QUEEN VICTORIA'S 'BEAUTIFUL BOY'...

Maharajah Duleep (or Dalip) Singh. Born 6 September 1838 - Died 22 October 1893)



Duleep Singh - who is a character in the VV's novel The Goddess and The Thief - had the most dramatic life. And yet, so few of us today know anything at all about the last Maharajah of Lahore.

Duleep was only eleven years old when, in 1849, at the end of the Second Anglo Sikh war, he was deposed from his Golden Throne - a throne that can be seen today in the Victoria and Albert Museum: The  Golden Throne of Ranjit Singh, who had been the father of Duleep.





The years that followed Ranjit's death were full of strife and turbulence with many royal claimants being openly slaughtered or meeting their ends in the most suspicious  of circumstances.



Duleep Singh


Duleep's mother's brother, Jawahar Singh, who acted as Prime Minister, was to aid the widow's regency during her son's minority. But he was also murdered in front of the little child's eyes when the two had been riding an elephant, when they were ambushed by some troops and Jawahar was bayonetted to death. Duleep was snatched to safety but a time of chaos had begun.


Jind Kaur  - the mother of Duleep Singh


There was much corruption and fighting going on within the Sikh army's ranks. The treasury was being drained, not to mention plans then being made to remove Duleep from his Golden Throne and to place one of Ranjit's grandsons there.

For that very reason, his mother, Jind - along with her lover, the general, Lal Singh - contacted the British in India and secretly plotted to instigate the first of the Anglo-Sikh wars. By doing that they prevented a coup being forced from within, with her enemies were forced to unite and fight against the British threat.


Raja Lal Singh


Jind's political scheming met success. The Resident appointed to act for the British in Lahore was a man called Henry Lawrence. He allowed the Sikh generals and aristocrats to work alongside him and his staff while running the court and territories. 


Henry Lawrence


But when Jind began to meddle again, wanting more power for herself, she only ensured her downfall. She was separated from her son while he was diverted with a toy and then taken to play in the Shalimar Gardens.

His mother was left to wail in distress, 'You have been very cruel...for ten months I kept him in my womb...in the name of God, your worship...restore my son to me. I cannot bear the pain of this separation. Instead you should put me to death.'



The Maharajah, Ranjit Singh


However, it may well have been that such intervention saved Duleep's life. There were many powerful men in Lahore who claimed that he had no right to the throne, never being a legitimate son of the Maharajah Ranjit Singh. 

In old age Ranjit was a diminutive man with a pock marked face and drooping eye. But the Lion of Punjab still dominated the kingdom he had ruled for years through his iron will and military strength. (That strength was partly based on the employment of European mercenaries, who - after Ranjit's death -  knew exactly how to fight the sikhs when another master paid them). He could be charming, but ruthless. It was a popular saying that Ranjit would cut off the ears and nose of any who looked at his harem of wives. It was also said that Duleep was born after a liaison between one of Ranjit's male lovers and his low-born, lovely wife, Jindan. It was also said that the elderly king preferred to watch than to 'do the deed'. But this could be a malicious lie. The sort of propaganda spread about during the time of war.


The Maharani, Jind Kaur at the height of her power and beauty - with her son, Duleep



However, before he died, Ranjit recognised Duleep as one of his legitimate heirs. A powerful faction supported that claim. And so, in 1843, Duleep was crowned Maharajah with his mother acting as regent. Such minority rule was perilous. Even before it had begun, Duleep's half brother Maharajah Sher Singh had died in an 'accident' with a shot gun. That end came after Sher himself had succeeded to the Golden Throne when another brother, Nau Nihal, had died on the day of his father's cremation, when some masonry 'fell' from the gate beneath which he happened to be passing.

The British found Jind to be corrupt, and when she fomented for yet more war things did not go so well for her. In 1849, at the end of the second Anglo Sikh war, the boy maharajah was forced to submit. Dalhousie, India's Governor General, refused to hear Henry Lawrence's plea that another Sikh government rule alongside the British one. Dalhousie's extreme solution was one of annexation, taking exclusive British control of the 80,000 square miles of the Punjab. Having deposed its ruler he claimed everything the state then owned as a debt incurred in the cost of war. He took as ransom the Koh-i-nor diamond, the kingdom's sovereign symbol. He auctioned off all the court's possessions. But he did allow the boy, Duleep, to retain his royal title, also receiving a pension from the British East India Company as a means of showing some recompense for the enormous wealth that he had lost.

At first Duleep remained in the Punjab, in the care of Doctor John Login, a British Army officer who had served with the Bengal Army. Login took the boy from Lahore to live at the Futteghar hill fort - well away from those who might yet seek to use him as political pawn. There, he was reported as being a most engaging young fellow who won the hearts of all he met. He enjoyed the past times of painting and hawking, and whenever becoming downhearted he could generally be diverted by trips to horse races, or firework displays; even magic lantern shows. When becoming great friends with an English boy, who went by the name of Tommy Scott, Duleep professed a keen desire to convert to Christianity. He also often requested to visit Queen Victoria.


Duleep sketched by Queen Victoria


Once such a visit was arranged Duleep then remained in England. Victoria and Albert became very fond of the pleasantly engaging youth. They even took the prince along on family trips to Osborne House where Duleep was said to be great friends with the other royal children - and was often painted by the Queen who doted upon her 'beautiful boy'.


Duleep Singh, as painted by Winterhalter


She also commissioned his portrait to be made by the artist, Winterhalter. It was while Duleep was posing for that in the White Room at Buckingham Palace that Victoria approached one day with her hands hidden behind her back, telling the young Maharajah to close his eyes and hold out his hands - the hands into which the Queen then placed the Koh-i-nor diamond. The Punjab's sovereign symbol.





Duleep was said to have been confused by such a demonstration. The diamond had also been reduced; its facets recut in the Western style, rather than the original Moghul design. As if this was not insult enough, the young prince felt obliged to show his loyalty to the Queen, or else be suspected of treachery. And so, he offered the diamond back, placing it in Victoria's hands, saying, 'It is to me, Ma'am, the greatest pleasure thus to have the opportunity, as a loyal subject of myself tendering to my sovereign, the Koh-i-nor.'



Illustration of the Koh-i-noor, before and after it was recut.


Thus, Victoria's guilt had been assuaged and Duleep retained his liberty, and the privileged English lifestyle that he had become so used to. However, as the time went on he called the Queen Mrs Fagin - the handler of stolen goods.



Duleep in western dress


Despite living in fine country houses and indulging his love for hunting, Duleep was disappointed when his wish to study at Cambridge was deemed to be unacceptable - even though Prince Edward went there and often regaled his Indian friend with tales of his freedoms in that place. But still, it was considered best to keep the Indian prince away from the influence of other men who might seek to corrupt his Christian faith, or to lure him into rebellion.

It was also  frowned upon when the young Duleep then fell in love and expressed an earnest desire to marry his guardian's daughter. The maharajah might well be the toast of society parties, but a mingling of races, that really was going a step too far!

Little wonder that the prince began to resent his loss of autonomy. Even in his twenties, at the time when his mother died (Jind by then having been allowed to come to London to live with her son), it was only after a long campaign of letters printed in The Times that he was finally allowed to return her remains to India, to scatter her ashes in the tradition of her Hindu faith.


Bamba Muller


It was while on this journey with Jind's remains that Duleep travelled to Egypt and visited a Christian mission school where he met the girl he was to wed. Bamba (the name means pink) was the bastard daughter of a German banker and an Ethiopian woman, rumoured to be a whore. But her origins meant nothing to Duleep (who perhaps was aware of the tales of his birth, and who - so all the gossips said - was also at that time engaged in a bet with Doctor Login's wife that he could not find a wife to wed within a six month period. Perhaps the doctor's wife presumed that this might be the safest way to divert Duleep's mind from her daughter).




When he returned to England, he brought a new wife upon his arm with the marriage reported in The Times. The popular young couple lived in great splendour in Elveden Hall, where the sumptuous interior was designed to echo Indian places. Also, the extensive Suffolk estate allowed the prince to thoroughly indulge his love of hunting.


Sepia photograph which was sold at Christies in 2004, which shows Duleep Singh in a shooting party along with his friend Edward, the Prince of Wales.


The couple's first child was to die, but Queen Victoria became god mother to the next - a boy who was named as Victor, who was christened at Windsor Castle, of whom the Queen wrote in her diaries, 'I never beheld a lovelier child, a plump little darling with the most splendid dark eyes, but not very dark skin.'

But Victor's father's skin was dark and beneath it his soul remained Indian. It was often remarked by those who were somewhat less than enamoured of the Prince that at the time of the Indian Mutiny, when many of those who had been his friends while he lived in the hill fort of Futteghar had been most horribly slain, the Prince did not utter one word of remorse. Even so, the Queen  defended him, asking how he could ever be seen to take sides.

But he was more biased than she thought. He no longer believed himself to be well-compensated for what he'd lost. He even began to write to the Queen requesting the return of the Koh-i-nor - not only for what the stone represented, but also because of its value, having been judged, even in those times, to be worth more than £3,000,000. Of course, that would be a much vaster sum by today's financial calculations.

Eventually he went so far as to renounce the Christian faith and re-embrace his Sikh beliefs. In these decisions he was influenced by Russian and Irish dissidents who also hoped to use the prince against Victoria's Empire. They planned a Russian invasion of the British who ruled in India, marching by way of Afghanistan which bordered the Punjab territories.


Duleep in middle years


All such plots were doomed to fail. Duleep's intentions were soon exposed when followed by British Government spies. The Maharajah was exiled from both England and from India - though Bamba and her children were allowed to remain in their English home while he took his English mistress to live out the disgraced last days of his life on the European continent.

He and Victoria did speak again when, before he suffered a fatal stroke at the age of fifty-six, she invited him to meet her when she visited the French town of Grasse. There, against the wishes of her political advisers she privately pardoned the middle-aged man with his bloated belly and balding head  - the man who she had once adored as being her most 'beautiful boy'. And no doubt she still felt some sense of guilt for the tragic fate of Prince Duleep - even being known to say, 'I always feel so much for these poor deposed Indian Princes!'



The sad and somewhat humble grave of the deposed Maharajah, Duleep Singh


When she heard of the prince's death, Victoria, the mother of Empire, reclaimed her prodigal Indian son. She insisted on having his mortal remains returned to Elveden again. There, she gave him a Christian burial, and that grave has now become a place of pilgrimage for all those Sikhs who wish to honour the memory of the last Maharajah of Lahore.




These days, those pilgrims have more to see than a stone in an English cemetery. There is, in the town of Thetford, a statue to honour Duleep Singh, shown in his full Sikh ceremonial dress, sitting astride a life-sized horse. And upon the plaque beneath it says -


"BRINGING HISTORIES AND CULTURES TOGETHER"

THIS PLAQUE COMMERORATES THE OFFICIAL UNVEILING OF THIS MONUMENT BY
H.R.H THE PRINCE OF WALES, K.G.K.T. ON 29TH JULY 1999.

IN 1843 MAHARAJAH DULEEP SINGH SUCCEEDED HIS FATHER TO THE THRONE OF THE
SOVEREIGN KINGDOM OF PUNJAB. HE WAS DESTINED TO BE ITS 
LAST RULER.

IN 1849 FOLLOWING THE CLOSELY FOUGHT ANGLO-SIKH WARS THE BRITISH
ANNEXED THE PUNJAB. DULEEP SINGH WAS COMPELLED TO RESIGN HIS SOVEREIGN
RIGHT AND EXILED. IT WAS AT THIS TIME THAT THE KOH-I-NOOR DIAMOND,
LATER TO BE INCORPORATED INTO THE CROWN JEWELS, PASSED TO THE BRITISH.
DULEEP SINGH EVENTALLY CAME TO BRITAIN AND SETTLED AT ELEVEDEN ESTATE IN 
SUFFOLK. HE WAS A CLOSE FAVOURITE OF QUEEN VICTORIA, AND BECAME A
PROMINENT LOCAL FIGURE IN EAST ANGLIA.

LATER IN LIFE HE ANNOUNCED HIS INTENTION TO RETURN TO HIS BELOVED
PUNJAB BUT WAS NOT ALLOWED TO DO SO. HE DIED IN PARIS ON OCTOBER 22ND
1893 HAVING RE-EMBRACED THE SIKH FAITH AND WHILST STILL ENGAGED IN A
STRUGGLE TO RECLAIM HIS THRONE.

TO THIS DAY THE SIKH NATION ASPIRES TO
REGAIN ITS SOVEREIGNTY



Today, the Indian government is still hoping to reclaim the stone as shown in this BBC article.

2 comments:

  1. How the British satanic cults took control of India through the Lions club, a branch of Freemasonry, by kidnapping the heir of Punjab, North West India, holding hi hostage in a religion and culture against his heritage and belief - how he was made to serve Queen Victoria's pleasures under threat of being accused of treachery...terrorised throughout his life - how he was arrested when he tried to escape to his homeland -

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