ਸਿੱਖ ਇਤਿਹਾਸ

Maharaja Duleep Singh (Son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh ) (1838-1893)

Maharaja Duleep Singh, also known as Sir Duleep Singh and later in life nicknamed as The Black Prince of Perth shire, was the last  Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, the youngest son of the Legend Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of Punjab) Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the only child of Maharani Jind Kaur.  The Sikh Kingdom, which had at its height included Punjab, the Northwest Frontier Provinces, Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh during the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, started crumbling down.

After the death of Maharaja Ranjit  Singh, Punjab had quickly descended into anarchy. A violent power struggle, a suspected poisoning, several assassinations, a civil war, and two British invasions later. Next four years that followed, Punjab lost three Maharajas, Khark Singh, Naunihal Singh. and Sher Singh and his son Pratap Singh, one Maharani Chand Kaur, and numerous aristocrats including Wazir Dhian Singh who was the main culprit behind all these royal murders.

After the assassination of Maharaja Sher Singh, the last man standing to become Maharaja was no man at all but a tiny doe-eyed child, Duleep Singh. Lahore Darbar desperate for the unity of the entire Khalsa sarkar united behind Ranjit Singh’s youngest son, a five- year- old infant.

Raja Hira Singh son of Dhian Singh with the support of the army and chiefs, wiped out the Sandhawalia faction who were responsible for killing his father. Lehina Singh and Ajit Singh were killed in the battlefield, Gurmukh Singh and Misr Beli were being murdered.   Heera Singh forfeited their jagirs and dismantle their houses. Shortly after, Hira Singh captured the Fort of Lahore, the army proclaimed minor Duleep Singh the sovereign of the State, Maharani as the regent and Hira Singh  as the wazir in the place of his father

Both Hira Singh and his adviser, Pandit Jalla, did not show Maharaja and the regent the courtesy and consideration they were entitled to. Their establishment was put under the control of Misr Lal Singh.  Jind Kaur became fiercely defensive of the rights of her son and pleaded with the regimental committees to protect his position asking ‘who is the real sovereign, Duleep Singh or Hira Singh? If the former, then the Khālsā should ensure that he was not a king with an empty title”.

The council assured the Rani that Duleep Singh was the real king of  Punjab. The army panchayats treated Jind Kaur with deference and addressed her as Mai Sahib or mother of the entire Khalsa commonwealth.

  Maharaja Duleep Singh was only 6 years old. Maharani being the Regent of Maharaja Duleep Singh has to run the administration. She cast off her veil and assumed full powers as a regent in the name of her minor son. To run the administration, she constituted a Council of Regency on 22 December 1844 and assumed control of the government with the approval of the army generals.

She reviewed the troops and addressed them, held court and transacted State business. She reconstituted the supreme Khalsa Council by giving representation to the principal Sardars and restored a working balance between the army panchayats and the civil administration. Though she has faced many problems and internal unrest but Maharani Jinda had applied herself to the solution of all these problems and secured to this end with the assistance of a newly appointed council of elder statesmen and military generals.

Heera Singh murdered  Kashmira Singh, Killing a royal blood was a big crime in the eyes of Sikh Army and was not tolerated, so they killed Heera Singh. When Pichaura Singh son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, challenged Duleep Singh with 70000 armed soldiers, Maharani Zinda tackled the situation peacefully but Jawahar Singh Jinda’s brother and Prime Minister of Maharaja Duleep Singh did the same mistake, thinking him as a threat to his power, murdered him. So in return, Jawahar Singh was also murdered by the  Sikh Army for killing a royal blood.

Hundred of miles away from the unfolding drama , the British East India Co., watching events and disturbances at the Punjab Court with more than a neighbor`s interest and were looking for an opportunity to strike and penetrate into  Punjab.

 By 1840 the British had become the undisputed masters of much of India. East India Co., once a small Multinational co., a small office in London with the strength of 35 workers only turned into most powerful and heavily militarized twice the size of that of Britain within a very short span in India. It has eyes on both Punjab as well as the diamond, Koh-i-Noor

In 1843 the very year Daleep Singh had anointed Maharaja, the East India Co., troops began to build up south of the Sutluj. Detecting tensions, British agents made tentative approaches to Jindan offering support to her regency with no intention to support but making their way to woo the most powerful men in the royal court offering to help them topple the regent. Rani Jindan and Maharaja Duleep Singh were surrounded by embittered and ambitious men and some of the most senior men proved easy to turn for power.

Relations of Khalsa Darbar with the British had already been strained by the refusal of the Sikhs to allow the passage of British troops through their territory during the First Anglo-Afghan War. Now matters were brought to such an extent by the Dogra Sardars, the traitors, that war between them and the Sikhs became inevitable. Hostilities, in fact, broke out in December 1845.

Three months after slaying Jawahar, with resentment between Jindan and Khalsa still simmering the British made their move, turning their small encampments by the Sutluj into a big army. The Sikhs interpreted this act as an aggression. On 11th December Sikh cavalry crossed south over the Sutlej river to push back the British encroachments. Two days later, The East India Co., claiming that their territory had been violated, British Governor General, Henry Harding declare war.

Jinda could forseek the situation and be never in favor of this war because of the lack of unity between the  Sikh Sardars and the insincerity of some of the nobles and army generals. But  Dogras, who had already planned to destroy the Sikh Fauz and power of Lahore Darbar, secretly designed with the British and were with the majority of short-sighted Sikhs,  Jinda could do nothing but had to wage two disastrous wars against the British that led to the annexation of  Punjab. First Anglo -Sikh (1845-1846) and Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-1849) She may have made huge strategic errors due to her military inexperience and young age but Jindan was a capable, fierce and sincere ruler that nobody could deny.

 In the first Anglo-Sikh War, The  East India Company army finally defeated Sikhs in two bloody battles of Chilianwala and Gujrat both in Pakistan. Following the defeat of the Khalsa Army in 1846, Duleep Singh’s kingdom was reduced to half its size. Despite the apparent generosity of the peace treaty, in reality, the British began to dismantle the Sikh State. They occupied a rich piece of the country between the rivers Beas and Sutlej under the peace treaty concluded on 9 March 1846.

More stringent terms were imposed under the Treaty of Bharoval A British resident was installed in Lahore to direct and control the entire civil and military administration of the State of Lahore with a council of ministers which was to be nominated by the resident unless Duleep Singh attained the age 16 and mature enough to handle the administration.

After the second Anglo-Sikh war (1848-49), after the victory of the British Army in March 1849, the whole army laid down their arms. Veterans ( old and experienced Armed persons  ) shed tears as they dropped their ancestral swords and Matchlocks on to an enormous pile of weaponry. One grey-beared old warrior saluted gravely and folding hands, exclaimed, ” aaj Ranjit Singh mar gia hai ” truly he died today.

The British entered Lahore and removed Duleep Singh into exile to a town called Fatehghar. The ten- year- old Maharaja whom, under the Treaty of Bharoval the government was committed to protect and maintain until he attained maturity, was deprived of his crown and kingdom and  Punjab as well.

 What a sad affair for Duleep Singh?   Now he was that big enough to understand the situation. He never forgot that day and remember it as the crimson day when he was surrounded by a group of grave-looking men wearing red coats and plumed hats, who talked among themselves in an unfamiliar language and among them he was made to sign the document of submission and annexation of his beloved Punjab.

 The frightened but dignified child finally yielded to the British pressure. In a public ceremony in front of what was left of the nobility of his court, he signed a formal Act of Submission. The document signed by the ten-year-old Maharaja, later known as Treaty of Lahore,1849 handed over to a private corporation, The East India Co. Within minutes, the flag of Khalsa was lowered and the British colors run up above the gatehouse of the fort.

With the intention of Maharaja Duleep Singh sending away from Punjab, on 6th April 1849, soon after the annexation, the deposed Maharaja Duleep Singh was formally introduced to his new `superintendent,` Dr. John Login, a native of Orkney, Scotland, who had started his Indian career as a medical officer in the Bengal army. Duleep Singh was removed from  Punjab to Fatehgarh, a small village in Farrukhabad district in the then North-West Province, where he arrived in February 1850.

He left behind his throne, his palaces, much of his personal fortune and his country, never to return back. Fatehgarh, an admired center of Christian missionary activity in Northern India, was where Duleep Singh, isolated from the influence of other Sikhs, became a Christian. He was even separated from his mother who was also moved far away from  Punjab to prevent her from becoming a rallying point for further troubles from the Sikhs of  Punjab.

John Login his new superintendent took a great liking to the Maharaja. It is said that Logins have treated him like a son. But the reality was far darker. The Maharaja was a war trophy, a political pawn and an effective prisoner of the state. Under the guardianship of a Scots couple – Sir John and Lady Login, who he referred to as his parents and who converted him to Christianity, as well as instilling in him a love of the Highlands – Duleep Singh had little choice but to become the man the British wanted him to be.

A year later Duleep Singh was spirited away to England.  He quickly gained a Royal audience and was an immediate success with Queen Victoria. Victoria loved him like his own son. He became a close friend of the royal family, visiting them at Osborne frequently. It is said that nobody in the world could meet Queen Victoria without prior permission but only Maharaja Duleep Singh was allowed to visit her anytime at her Palace like a family member. Queen Victoria has commissioned the best portrait Painter of the day, Franz Xavier Winterhalter, to paint Duleep Singh during one of his numerous stays at Buckingham Palace.

Winterhalter, who was born in the Black Forest in Germany, was the principal portrait painter at the court of Queen Victoria during the first half of her reign. He first came to London in 1842 and continued to work for Queen Victoria at intervals until his death, painting well over a hundred pictures. He was an artist of international status and managed to sustain a high level of productivity, amassing a substantial fortune in the process. Queen Victoria admired the light, fresh colors of his work, and frequently commissioned him to paint subjects of private significance.

Queen Victoria was captivated by Dalip Singh (1838-93) when first introduced to him in 1854, the year in which he was brought to England. She recorded in her journal on 10 July 1854 that ‘Winterhalter was in ecstasies at the beauty and nobility of bearing of the young Maharaja. He was very amiable and patient, standing so still and giving a sitting of upwards of 2 hrs’.This was recorded by her as the painting progresses over two sittings.

Victoria is equally captivated by the “grace and dignified manner” of the “extremely handsome” young man. “I always feel so much for these deposed Indian princes!”  ” those eyes and those teeth are too beautiful ” she used to say. Queen Victoria’s fascination with India and Duleep Singh continued throughout her life. She learned Hindi, employed Indian servants, entertained Maharajas at the Palace and forbade her courtiers to refer them as ‘these injunes’  or ‘ black men’. But Duleep has made a special place.  He became the favorite of the queen and was accorded the rank of European Prince and loved her as her family member.

She became god-mother of her several children even after his death. She did not accept Ada Wetherill out of the loyalty to Bamba Muller, first wife of Duleep Singh, as she thought that she was her mistress much before even when Bamba Muller was alive and was one of the reasons of her death.

It was during one of those sessions posing for the portrait that the young Maharaja got a chance to hold his once most precious possession the fabled Koh-i-nur diamond which had been recut to almost half its former size by Prince Albert in an attempt to improve its brilliance. After looking at the diamond for a few seconds Duleep Singh handed it back to the Queen. The story of this, his handling the diamond over to the Queen, made headlines all over the world. When Lord Dalhousie heard of the matter, it was reported that he flew into a rage.

Duleep Singh was as much a conquest of empire as the famed Koh-i-noor diamond he is claimed to have “gifted” to the crown. He is procured, coveted, treasured and locked away like a jewel.

In Osborn House where Duleep Singh spent many summers with Victoria, Albert and their children – is a masterpiece of imperial fantasy and colonial projection. Here is the deposed and exiled Sikh prince as an exotic romantic hero, placed in an imaginary landscape flooded with light, wearing full Indian dress, turban and a jeweled miniature of Queen Victoria. The Maharaja is shown wearing his diamond and star in his turban and a jewel-framed miniature of Queen Victoria by Emily Eden.

Duleep Singh was initially lodged at Claridge’s Hotel in London before the East India Company took over a house in Wimbledon and then eventually another house in Roehampton which became his home for three years. He was also invited by the Queen to stay with the Royal Family at Osborne, where she sketched him playing with her children and Prince Albert photographed him, while the court artist, Winterhalter, made his portrait.

He eventually got bored with Roehampton and expressed a wish to go back to India but it was suggested by the East India Company Board he takes a tour of the European continent which he did with Sir John Spencer Login and Lady Login. He was a member of the Photographic Society, later the Royal Photographic Society, from 1855 until his death.

Castle Menzies, Scotland

On his return from Continental Europe in 1855 he was given an annual pension and was officially under ward of Sir John Spencer Login and Lady Login, who leased Castle Menzies in Perthshire in Scotland, for him. He spent the rest of his teens there but at the age of  19, he demanded to be in charge of his household. Eventually, he was given this and an increase in his annual pension.

Auchlyne and Aberfeldy

In 1858 the lease of Castle Menzies expired and Duleep Singh rented the house at Auchlyne from the Earl of Breadalbane. He was known for his lavish lifestyle, shooting parties, and a love of dressing in Highland costume and soon had the nickname “the Black Prince of Perthshire”. (At the same time, he was known to have gradually developed a sense of regret for his circumstances in exile, including some inner turmoil about his conversion to Christianity and his forced departure from  Punjab). His mother stayed in Perthshire with him for a short time, before he rented the Grantully Estate, near Aberfeldy. Following the deaths of his mother and Sir John Login in 1863, he returned to England. In 1859. Lt Col James Oliphant was installed as Equerry to the Maharaja at the recommendation of Sir John Login.

Re-Union with his Mother:-

When he was 18, Duleep Singh wrote to his mother in Kathmandu, suggesting that she should join him in Great Britain, but his letter was intercepted by the British in India and did not reach her. He then sent a courier, Pundit Nehemiah Goreh, who was also intercepted and forbidden to contact the Maharani. Duleep Singh then decided to go himself. Under cover of a letter from Login, he wrote to the British Resident  in Kathmandu, who reported that the Maharani had ‘much changed, was blind and had lost much of the energy which formerly characterized her.’ The British decided she was no longer a threat and she was allowed to join her son on 16 January 1861 at Spence’s Hotel in Calcutta.

They met after 13 years It was such an emotional meeting. When she was caressing her son and her hand went on his head, she immediately parted away from him crying,” you are not my Duleep”, when Duleep assured her again and again, ” I am your Duleep”  she said,” I have lost my husband, lost his  Empire and lost everything I had loved,  with no regret  but today I am completely broken and shocked  to know that you let them take your Sikhi also  which Guru Gobind Singh Sahib has given us after sacrificing his Sarbans and everything he had. Duleep Singh promised his mother saying,” I can not give back your husband, your Empire and all the things you had but I promise that I will definitely return your  Sikhi back one day “..

This visit was particularly unsettling for the young man who had not expected the enthusiastic welcome from ex-courtiers and Sikh soldiers who were back from Chinese War whilst enduring the curtailment of the British Government. For Fear of unrest mother and son was requested by the British authorities to return to England by the next boat.

Duleep Singh took her to England where she died after about two years later on 1 August 1863. For the next four years they were a regular sight in the social scene, then in 1863 she suddenly died. She had, however, made him remember the past. In October the same year died the Maharaja`s most sincere and devoted guardian, Dr. Sir John Login, on whom he had come to depend a great deal for negotiations with the British government for the settlement of his affairs.

Maharaja Duleep Singh made another trip to India in the spring of 1864, this time with his mother`s ashes which, on being disallowed by the British to proceed to  Punjab, he consigned to the River Godavari. On his way back, the Maharaja married at the British Consulate at Alexandria in Egypt, on 7 June 1864, Bamba Muller, daughter of a German merchant, Ludwig Muller, and Abyssinian Egyptian mother, Sofia.

Elveden Estate

In his later years, Duleep Singh or Indian office purchased a 17,000 acre (69 km²) country estate at Elveden on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk, close to Thetford in 1863. On his return to England, the Maharaja and Maharani Bamba lived for the first few years at Elveden, a sporting estate, of which the Maharaja had got possession in September 1864.

 He fell in love with Elveden and the surrounding area and restored the church, cottages, and school. He transformed the run-down estate into an efficient game preserve and the house with the halls decorated in the fashion of a shish mahal and dominated by the huge oil paintings of Ranjit Singh in durbar or at the Golden Temple, of his brother Sher Singh in regal splendour and with sculptures of past glories and cases of jewels, the whole place was a powerful reminder of his former status. He lived into a quasi-oriental palace where he had his life of a British aristocrat, hunting with the High Society and Royals of Britain, and inviting the Prince of Wales to shoot parties on his estate at Elveden Hall in Suffolk who also used to enjoy hunting at his Estate as well as his company. He came to be known as one of the best shots in Britain. He also  loved art, he was an accomplished musician, was fond of the theatre, of hunting and of hawking

In Elveden, Maharaja Duleep Singh and Maharani Bamba had six children,   born between the years 1866 and 1979. However, Dalip Singh’s financial difficulties and disaffection with British politics led him to become involved in various international intrigues in an attempt to regain his throne

Living beyond his means, the Maharaja incurred heavy debts. The estate was sold after his death to pay his debts. The First Earl of Iveagh, Edward Cecil Guinness, purchased the Elveden Estate from the Executors of Maharajah Duleep Singh in 1894. Lord Iveagh’s main interest was in the Shooting and Elveden was reputed to be one of the best Sporting Estates in the country. Throughout the Edwardian period, the fame of the Elveden Shoot became widespread. Several English Kings and Princes are among those who have enjoyed the hunting at the Maharajas former Estate. Today, Elveden is owned by the 4th Earl of Iveagh, the head of the Anglo-Irish Guinness Family of brewing fame.

Re-initiated into Sikhism

He sought from the India Office enhancement of his allowances. At the instance of his mother Maharani Jind Kaur, Malika Muqaddisa (the holy queen mother) of the Regency days, he claimed from the British lands which belonged to the family prior to the installation of his father as king of Lahore. Under her influence, Duleep Singh was also gradually estranged from what had become his natural English style. The question of his private properties he pursued to the breaking point. To prepare a detailed list of his ancestral estates, Duleep Singh sent his solicitor, Mr. Talbot of Farrer and Co., to India.

While in exile, he sought to learn more about Sikhism and was eager to return to India. Though previous efforts were thwarted by his handlers, he reestablished contact with his cousin Sardar  Thakar Singh Sandhawalia, and invited him to England, who on 28 September 1884 left Amritsar for England along with his sons Narinder Singh and Gurdit Singh and a Sikh granthi  (priest), Giani Pratap Singh, who daily read out from the holy Guru Granth Sahib to instill and revive the Sikh faith in Maharaja .

He also brought a list of properties held by Sir Duleep Singh in India. Thakur Singh had also brought with him a document signed by the custodians of the Sikh Takhts (the highest ecclesiastical seats) in India confirming the prophecies about Duleep Singh`s restoration to the throne of  Punjab which was attributed to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, the 10th Guru of Sikhs.

Despite his English education and royal lifestyle amid European glamour, the rebellious Sikh spirit that had tasted sovereignty was hibernating in some remote recess of the sub-conscious mind of Maharajah Duleep Singh who on gaining self-awareness underwent a complete transformation that turned him into a rebel. In 1886 he made up his mind to return to India and place himself as the prophesized moral head of the Sikh people.

The British Government decided in 1886 against his return to India or his re-embracing Sikhism. Despite protests from the India Office, he set sail for ‘home’ on 31st March 1886. He invited Thakur Singh to meet him at Bombay and arrange for his reinitiation into Sikhism. With his innate political acumen, he glanced over the international horizon, established secret contacts with  Punjab, Irish revolutionaries, and the Russian government to liberate India.

The news of Duleep Singh`s likely return sent a thrill of expectation across  Punjab.

However, he was intercepted and the government warily stopped him at Aden and ordered to go back to England. Stung by this insult, Duleep Singh resigned his allowance and forswore fealing to the British crown. He joined the revolutionary group in France, traveled to Russia to seek help from Czar One favor he sought was that the government continue payment of pound 500 each annually to the widows, respectively, of his superintendent, Login, and Comptroller, Oliphant.

He could not be stopped from an informal re-conversion ceremony in Aden, far less grand and symbolic than it would have been in India, done by emissaries sent by Sardar Thakar Singh Sandhawalia, who was earlier planning the Pahul ceremony at Bombay, on 25th May 1886. from Panj Piare, Thakur Singh of Wagah, another cousin of his (son of his mother`s sister), Bur Singh of village Kohali in Amritsar district, Javand Singh of Barki in Lahore district, and two Sikhs brought for the ceremony from a transport ship which happened to touch at Aden.

 Punjab at this time was a stir with rumor. Anticipation filled the air. Reports were studiously kept in circulation that Maharaja Duleep Singh would lead a Russian invasion into India and overthrow the British. A network of secret communication was established. Duleep Singh`s emissaries kept filtering into India in spite of government vigilance. The most important of them was Ghulam Rasul, a wool merchant of Amritsar, who had lived for many years in the Sudan and Egypt, and Arur Singh of village Kohali (Amritsar), a Europeanized Sikh. The Maharaja`s statements and proclamations as from “the Sovereign of the Sikh nation and Implacable Foe of the British Government” were smuggled into the country for distribution. The Kuka Sikhs who had come into clash with the government in 1872 were the most enthusiastic in pro-Duleep activity.

The brain behind this entire movement for furthering the cause of Duleep Singh was Thakur Singh Sandharivalia who had implanted the seeds of rebellion in the mind of the Maharaja and who had finally persuaded him to renounce Christianity and rejoin the faith of his forefathers. From Pondicherry, where he had taken asylum to escape British authority, he masterminded the operations on behalf of Duleep Singh. To win support for him, he visited secretly the Indian princely states and the Sikh shrines. He maintained an active liaison with people in distant places through a chain of servants, dependents, and relations.  Pondicherry had become the seat of Duleep Singh attic government with Thakur Singh as his prime minister.

Thakur Singh hoped that his sovereign master would one day land in Pondicherry. Maharaja had in fact written a letter to The Tribune (3 July 1886) ” Although the Indian Government succeeded in preventing me from reaching Bombay, yet they are not able to close all the roads that there are in India; for when I return I can either land at Goa or at Pondicherry” Maharaja Duleep Singh left Paris on 21 March 1887 for St. Petersburg (Russia) where he tried to seek the help of the Czar. Arur Singh who had been with Duleep Singh in Russia brought from him secret documents including a circular letter for the ex-king of Oudh, Holkar, Scindia and the rulers of Patiala, Nabha, Faridkot, Jind, and Kapurthala.

The princes generally implicated in the cause of Duleep Singh were Raja Bikram Singh of Faridkot, Raja Hira Singh of Nabha, the Maharaja of Kashmir and Raja Moti Singh of Punchh. From Russia, Duleep Singh sent to Thakur Singh a seal and letter in token of his appointment to the office of prime minister. I appoint you my Prime Minister should Sri Satguru Ji one day replace me on the throne of Punjab. After Thakur Singh`s sudden death on 18 August 1887, his son Gurbachan Singh was invested by Duleep Singh with the title of prime minister. But returning from Russia to Paris, Duleep Singh had a stroke and remained bedridden for three years, the passion and grand designs of former day pathetically froze in his heart.

In the proclamations issued by him, he asserted himself to be “the lawful sovereign of the Sikh nation”. But the destiny willed it otherwise. His health broke down and he suffered an epileptic fit in a lonely room of the Hotel de la Tremouille in Paris. Drained financially and destitute of friends, he died in his humble hotel room in Paris on 22 October 1893. His body was taken to Elveden, England, by his son Prince Victor, where it was interred beside the graves of Prince Fredrick and Prince Edward.

It seems that his belated realization that his second wife Ada was, perhaps, a planted spy whose duties were to monitor his intentions and activities caused him a mental shock that hastened his “dark and mournful end”

Though he had requested to be returned to India to be cremated as a Sikh,  for fear of troubles his return might cause, led the authorities to bury him on his estate at Elveden.

He was never permitted to return to  Punjab, despite increasingly desperate attempts. His life was extraordinary: he became a Victorian gent, an English aristocrat,  the fourth-best shot in Britain, a dabbler in Tory politics, a dangerous threat to British imperialism, and finally, the disenchanted Sikh rebel who died alone and impoverished in a hotel room in Paris in 1893 at the age of 55. He could never see his Punjab after the age of 15, only two brief, tightly controlled visits in 1860, to bring his mother to England and in 1863 to cremate his mother’s body.

Sir Duleep Singh’s wish for his body to be returned to India was not honoured, in fear of unrest, given the symbolic value the funeral of the son of the Lion of th Punjab might have caused and the growing resentment of British rule. His body was brought back to be buried according to Christian rites, under the supervision of the India Office in Elveden Church beside the grave of his wife Maharani Bamba, and his son Prince Edward Albert Duleep Singh. The graves are located on the west side of the Church.

A British born Sikh historian writes about the tragic story of Maharaja Duleep Singh,

“  a man who surrounded himself with objects that somehow still encapsulated his identity. His life was filled with longing for his homeland, no matter how English and Christian he became. As British-born Sikhs, we can identify with that sense of loss, that pining for a heritage, that identity confusion. It’s why, for example, Duleep Singh kitted out his estate in Elveden in the classical Indian marble style. It’s beautiful and sad, as though he was trying to recreate his father’s court in the Suffolk countryside.”

He did two marriages.

            Maharani Bamba Muller:-

  She was an Arabic speaking part- Ethiopian part-German woman whose father was a German banker and mother Abyssinian Coptic Christian Slave. She and Duleep met in Cairo in 1863 on his return from scattering his mother ashes in India. They were married in Alexandria, Egypt on 7th June 1864. The Maharani died in London on 18th September 1887. They had six children:-

  1. Prince Victor Duleep Singh

  2. Prince Fredrick Duleep Singh

  3. Prince Albert Edward Duleep Singh

  4. Princess Bamba Duleep Singh

  5. Princess Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh

  6. Princess Sophia Duleep Singh

               Maharani Ada Douglas Wetherill:-

    Some sources describe her as a French princess. In fact, she was neither French nor princess. She was Duleep mistress before he decided to return to India with his family. When he was stopped in Aden by the British Authorities, he abundant his family and moved to Paris where she was waiting for him. They traveled together to Petersburg and  Russia and stayed together throughout his years in Paris.They got married in 1889 after the death of Bamba Muller. Queen Victoria and Maharaja reconciled their differences before he died. but out of loyalty to Maharani Bamba, Queen refused to receive Ada. They  had two daughters

    1.   Princess Pauline Alexander Duleep Singh

          2.  Princess Ada Irene Beryl Duleep Singh

 Maharajah Duleep Singh had eight children by two wives but have no grandchild – such a sad and surprising. 

Michael Alexander and Sushila Anand (Queen Victoria’s Maharaja Duleep Singh 1838-1893) write that so far as the record shows there are no living direct descendants of Maharaja Duleep Singh. Victor married Lady Anne Coventry in 1892 and died without issue; Fredrick died unmarried; Bamba married Dr. Sutherland, who was at one time in charge of the Lahore Medical School. Bamba died in Lahore, without issue, in 1957. Of Catherine and Sophia, little information can be found, except that neither had children, and Sophia died in 1948. As for the children of the second marriage, Ada married M.Villement and died without issue in 1926. Paulina married Lieut. Terry and was also childless. All the eight children died without legitimate issue, ending the direct line of the Sikh Royalty.

That is the curse of the tenth guru as explained by the historians and accepted by the Sikhs. It is said  ‘ Our greatest spiritual Guru and leader of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, had a golden box of treasure buried on his death. The line of whoever touched it would `vanish from the light,’ the guru had prophesied. `But Ranjit Singh dug it up, to build a monument to the holy man. That is why all Duleep Singh’s children died childlessly’. 

       Waheguru ji ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji ki Fteh




The Estate was designed as the spectacular backdrop for entertaining Kings, Princes and many illustrious personages over the past 150 years. Before 1896 part of it was the house of Queen Victoria’s favourite HH The Maharajah Duleep Singh.

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Nirmal Anand


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