Maharajah Duleep Singh was born in Lahore in 1838, and came to the throne of the Punjab at the age of five years. After the annexation of the Punjab to British territories, the young Duleep Singh was brought to England in 1854. Her Majesty Queen Victoria showered affection upon the turbaned Maharajah, as did the Prince Consort. The unlikely of alliances saw the start of a relationship of love, loyalty and later hostility. The Maharajah was looked upon as an adopted son of Her Majesty, encouraged to mingle with the Royal household, play with the younger Princes and holiday with them at Osborne House. His princely appearance and native ways were a sheer joy for the Royal Family. Even Queen Victoria attempted her art skills by drawing sketches and watercolours of the handsome Sikh king in her sketchpad. The Maharajah's fondness of the weak Prince Leopold was touching, whilst his friendship with the Prince of Wales remained until the end. The committed Queen and Prince Consort became the godparents to Duleep Singh’s eldest son Prince Victor, who the Maharajah named after the Queen. Invited to almost every Royal gathering and wedding of his day, the Maharajah's presence added a zest to every occasion. The wild-spending Maharajah had all the ingredients of a Victorian Prince, besides being a serial playboy, he was an avid shooting squire who knew how to throw a party. His fondness of the highlife was a contributor to his demise if the injustice of the British establishment was not entirely to blame. Their inability to keep their promises drove the Maharajah to foreign meddlers, but his allegiance to other European superpowers proved less successful. He died alone and in poverty in a hotel room in Paris in 1893.
Ranjit Singh was born on the 13 November 1780 in the village Badrukha. At the time of his birth Mahan Singh was away at war. On hearing from a messenger that his wife had given birth to a son and had decided to name him ‘Budh Singh’ after his great-great-grandfather, Mahan Singh overruled and stated ‘He will be called Ranjit’ the name meaning ‘the victor of battles.’ Ranjit Singh suffered ill health at a young age, which left his face pot marked and blind in the left eye. This setback did not deter the young Ranjit Singh, who at the age of 14 years took part in his first battle.In 1799 with the help of Sada Kaur, Ranjit Singh took Lahore, the capital city of the province of Punjab, from its weak rulers Gujjar Singh, Lehna Singh and Sobha Singh.[i] The people of Lahore had become tired of the bad administrating and rule in the city, and had voiced over their grievances to Ranjit Singh. At night-fall Ranjit Singh fell upon the city, when the city gates were spurned open by the citizens. He now controlled the capital and this was the start of his legendary journey to conquer the entire Punjab. In 1801 he was crowned ‘Maharajah of Lahore’, and made further acquisitions of Kasur and Kangra in the same year, followed by the holy city of Amritsar in 1805. The British East India Company thought it time to consult with Ranjit Singh of his future plans. An agreement of friendship was reached and made in 1806, followed by the Treaty of Amritsar three years later, whereby the border between the two powers would be the River Sutlej.
After a series of strokes, Maharajah Ranjit Singh was pronounced dead on the 27 June 1839. His reign fast became a legend in Indian history and his son Kharak Singh was proclaimed the next Maharajah.
[i] The former two men being from the Bhangi Misal
Jind Kaur was born in 1817 in the village of Chhahar, District Sialkot, Punjab, now in Pakistan (Singh, T, 1959). She was the eldest of three sisters and two brothers of Manna Singh Aulakh, a Sikh of the Jat caste.
Jind Kaur’s father came to Lahore, where he became the Royal kennel keeper in the service of Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), the Maharajah of the Punjab and sovereign of the Sikhs.
The Maharajah was said to have been pestered day and night by Manna Singh, who told him that his daughter was the most beautiful creature in the world, whom he would give to the Maharajah as his wife and that she would make the old Maharajah young again.
The Maharajah married Jind Kaur in 1835, by the ceremony of Karewa. In 1838 she gave birth to a son, Duleep Singh, who became the Maharajah in 1844 after the death of three successive monarchs following the death of his father Ranjit Singh in 1839. Jind Kaur was appointed the Regent.
During this period of internal politics and unrest, the Maharani’s illicit affairs and flirtations with her ministers came to light, and whilst her power began to slip, the Sikh Army became increasingly powerful and out of control. In November 1845 The Maharani despatched the Sikh Army to the borders of the River Sutlej, to confront the British, who were camped provocatively on her southern border. Unknown to her, her two treacherous generals had sold themselves to the British. The result being, two hard fought Wars, the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1845-46 and the Second Anglo-Sikh War 1848-49. The finale being the annexation of the entire Punjab and the dethronement of her son Duleep Singh in 1849, who became a ward of the British under the care of John Login, and exiled to England five years later.
Jind Kaur met a very different fate. After the First Sikh War she had lost complete power, as a Council of Regency was set up under the British Resident, Henry Lawrence, who found the Maharani’s attitude rebellious and threatening to the British Empire, and ordered her to the Summan Tower of the Lahore Fort.
She called for an enquiry and appealed for justice, including the separation of her nine year old son Duleep Singh from her, and the non-payment of her allowance of one and a half lakh rupees as laid down in the Treaty of Bhyrowal (1846). The resident could not tolerate her pressure in Lahore. On the 19th August 1847, Duleep Singh was sent away from the palace, the same night the Maharani was removed from Lahore and incarcerated in the Fort of Sheikhapura. She was later transferred to Ferozepur on the 15th May 1848 and her income was reduced to Rs.1,000 per month (Punjab Papers, 1849). In 1849 after the annexation of the Punjab she was shifted to Fort Chunar but on the 18 April of that year she escaped, disguised as a slave girl, and arrived at Kathmandu ten days later, under the protection of the Nepalese Government. Lady Login described her as a ‘practical prisoner in Nepal, under Jung Bahadur, who grudged her of her every penny of the pension he said he allowed her.’
In 1860, her son, now an English aristocrat, sought to make contact with his mother through the resident at Kathmandu, Col Ramsay, who remarked that ‘The Rani had much changed, was blind and lost much of the energy which formerly characterised her, taking apparently but little interest in what was going on.’
Jind Kaur and her son met at Spence’s Hotel, Calcutta, on the 16th January 1861, after some thirteen and half years apart. She was granted permission to come to England. A residence was taken up at No. 1 Lancaster Gate (Now No.23). Lady Login remarked on meeting Jind Kaur in 1861, ‘Jinda Kour was truly an object of commiseration when one contrasted her present with her former state…Health broken, eye sight dimmed, her once famed beauty vanished, it was hard to understand the power she had wielded through her charms, It was only when she grew interested and excited in conversation, that one caught glimpses, beneath that air of indifference and the torpor of advancing age, of that shrewd and plotting brains which had distinguished the famous ‘Messalina of the Punjab’
After a short spell at Mulgrave Castle, she was placed in the charge of an English lady at Abingdon House, Kensington. On the morning of the 1 August 1863, Maharani Jind Kaur passed away peacefully, her estate on her death valued at a mere £12,000 (Probate Registry) Her body was temporarily housed at London’s Kensal Green Cemetery, and in the Spring of 1864, Duleep Singh left for India and arranged for the cremation of her body.
Jind Kaur was cremated at Nasik in Bombay on the Panchvati side, on the left bank, where a small samadh (memorial stone) was built. For a number of years the Kapurthala State Authorities maintained the memorial until 1924, when her remains were dug out and brought to Lahore by her grand-daughter, Princess Bamba Sutherland and deposited at the Samadh of Maharajah Ranjit Singh.
Maharani Bamba Duleep Singh
Bamba Muller was born in Cairo in 1847, and grew up at the missionary school. She was the only daughter of Sophia, an Abyssinian lady, and Thomas Ludwig Muller, a German merchant banker and shipping merchant. Ludwig Muller was the only child of a German family, and was brought up by an adopted parent and taken to Egypt for employment.[i] It was during his time here that Ludwig Muller became involved with Sophia, who became his mistress.[ii] A child was born out of wedlock who they named Bamba. Ludwig was a married man and decided to place the baby at the local missionary school where he enabled Sophia to obtain employment as a teacher so that she could be close to their daughter. [iii] .
In the spring of 1864, Maharani Jind Kaur was cremated at Nasik in Bombay on the Panchvati side of the River. The authorities would not allow him to cremate his mother in the Punjab. On the left bank the Maharajah erected a small samadh built as a memorial in the memory of his mother. On leaving India, Duleep Singh wrote to his great friend Ronald Lesley-Melville, that ‘he had met a young lady at the mission school who would prove all he wished for as a wife,’ announcements were also sent to Lady Login and Mr Oliphant. On returning to England, one of the first people to see the new Maharani of Lahore was Mrs Leven, wife of the Earl of Leven. Dressed in her native costume, in a full skirt and traditional Turkish jacket, on her head was a jaunty cap made of large fine pearls, worn on one side with a long tassel of pearls hanging almost to her shoulder. Mrs Leven quickly wrote to Lady Login of her finds, ‘She is remarkably nice looking, with very fine eyes and a sweet expression.’ The obvious comparison was made to Queen Victoria’s Indian goddaughter, Princess Gouramma of Coorg ‘she is better looking than Gouramma, and a size bigger’, she added; ‘Bamba means pink, and she was pink till six weeks ago when she had jaundice.’ The Maharajah was totally besotted with her, showing her off like a prized trophy to all of his friends. He would fuss around her and doctor her on the slightest whim. He would even interfere in everything concerning his wife’s attire on which he had some absurd notions. He married Bamba Muller on the 9 June 1864.
After settling down in the confines of their lavish Elveden estate, Duleep Singh and Maharani Bamba decided to try for a child again. In the summer of 1866 the Maharani gave birth to a healthy boy whom they named Prince Victor in appreciation to the Queen. The Maharani was soon kept busy with the arrival of another child, Prince Frederick in 1868. The house suddenly began to fill with children as three daughters and a son followed, Princesses Bamba, Catherine and Sophia, and Prince Edward Albert. On the 17 September 1887 her youngest daughter Princess Sophia caught typhoid, the Maharani prayed beside her little girl and she herself fell in to a coma and died the following morning.
Maharani Ada Duleep Singh
Ada Douglas Wetherill was born on the 15 January 1869 at 10 Oval Road, Kennington in Surrey to Charles Douglas Wetherill, and Sarah Charlotte of Bishopstoke, Hampshire. Charles was a Civil engineer whilst his wife Sarah worked at the Phoenix gasworks at Kennington. The family moved to 41 Great Ormond Street in Holburn, London in 1881, whilst Ada, aged 13, took employment as a domestic servant at a house in Easingwold, Yorkshire.Ada later carried on her domestic work at Cox’s Hotel, in West London, where she was first acquainted with Duleep Singh. She would have been around 17 years old. In 1886 Ada met up with the Maharajah in Paris, her mother Sarah had moved to Greeminorm, and her father Charles had died leaving behind a second daughter.
The Maharajah and Ada became lovers when he was acquainted with her in London. When the Maharajah left Britain for Europe via Aden, he was met with Ada in Paris, and in 1889, the Maharajah proposed to Ada, as she was expecting their second child. Maharani Bamba had died and it only seemed right that his relationship with Ada was made legal as they already had one child born out of marriage. Ada duly accepted. Tevis mentioned to the Foreign Office in Whitehall that ‘Duleep Singh was married to this woman according to the forms of the Sikh religion some time ago…this marriage has been coming on some time’.[ii] The wedding took place at the town hall of the huitieme in Paris on the 21 May 1889
[i] PRO, OC to Foreign Office, dated 2.5.1889, f. 26/3
[ii] PRO, OC to Foreign Office, dated 2.5.1889, f. 26/3
Prince Victor Albert Jay Duleep Singh
Prince Victor was Maharajah Duleep Singh's eldest son, born on the 10 July 1866. As a young man Prince Victor Duleep Singh studied in Eton[i] before beginning his higher education at Cambridge University where he met his first and true love, Lady Anne Blanche Alice of Coventry, his good friend George’s sister. Family matters took their toll and Prince Victor with his younger brothers and sisters was brushed off to India via Aden. In a confidential memorandum, dated 11 February 1886, W.M.Young the secretary to the Punjab Government wrote to the Foreign Secretary in India, H.M. Durand, that one of the reasons Duleep Singh was coming to India was to arrange the marriage of his eldest children. Prince Victor felt distraught; he never quite understood his father or his quarrels with the British Government. On the P & O en-route to India, he openly objected to his father’s proceedings, and spoke of him as ‘my idiotic father’.[ii]On his relieved journey back to England in 1886, the children settled at their London residence at Holland Park with their mother, Maharani Bamba. The following year Prince Victor joined the Royal Military Academy, getting a special cadet-ship. The children of Indian extraction were disqualified by parentage from the army under the existing rules, but Queen Victoria bent the rules for her godson. Prince Victor scraped through two terms at Sandhurst, his place in order of 155 in the merit list. He left Sandhurst the following December and was made a Lieutenant in the 1st Dragoon Guards. He was honourable A.D.C. to Halifax, and was promoted to Captain in 1894, but his military career, however, was a shamble, his interest lied in other things and he resigned in 1898. During the First World War, he was ordered to remain in Paris and not to leave, but shortly after the war ended, Prince Victor died on the 7 June 1918, without any issue.
Prince Frederick Victor Duleep Singh
Prince Frederick was born on the 23 January 1868, at Rutland Gate, Knightsbridge. He was baptised four months later at Elveden church on the 2 May 1868 as Frederick Victor Jay Duleep Singh, being named after the German crown prince, later Emperor Frederick. But all his interests had to be put on hold, as he had to leave for India at his father’s persistence. On his return from that exhaustive journey, Prince Frederick’s first task was to complete his education, going first to Eton and then to Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he gained a masters degree in history in 1890. He was allotted an allowance of £2,000 from the India Office, so he could live a considerably noble life, but not an extravagant one as his father’s. In 1897, Prince Frederick purchased the Georgian country house, Old Buckenham Hall, but by 1906 he was house hunting again, putting the sporting country estate on the market with the auctioneers ‘Messrs. Lumleys’, who advertised it as a ‘A Miniature Mansion in a Miniature Park’,[i] and boasted ‘for its size the property affords some really excellent shooting and adjoins some of the best shootings in the county, and a large extent of sporting adjoining may be hired’. After the sale of Old Buckenham Hall, Prince Frederick took temporary residence at ‘Breckles Cottage’ as a tenant of Charles Bateman Hanbury, and renamed it ‘Breckles House’. It was a modest house in the tiny Norfolk village of Breckles, north of Thetford, compared to the grandeur of Elveden, which he had been accustomed to. In 1909, Prince Frederick finally found the home of his dreams; the sixteenth-century moated Blo Norton Hall, off the main road from Thetford to Diss. His love for his beloved Blo Norton Hall inspired him to write a lengthy article in the Norfolk & Norwich Archaeological Society Journal,[ii] of which he was an avid member. He made a chapel at the end of the attic wing at Blo Norton Hall and furnished it with old benches, hangings and other suitable ornaments, placing ancient stained glass in its windows and had it dedicated ‘to the blessed martyr, King Charles the first’. As well as being a keen collector, he was an enthusiastic archaeologist and historian. After his military career he had much time to pursue his interests, re-listing only during the First World War. He belonged to many historical societies and organisations, but was best associated with the ‘Norfolk & Norwich Archaeological Society’. As years passed he added to his collections, including old books, china, glass, stained glass, deeds and coins.[iii] On the 4 February 1897 he was elected member of the ‘Norfolk & Norwich Archaeological Society’ paying his years subscription of 7s 6d. On the 27 May 1903 he was elected vice-president, a post that he held also in 1905 and 1909, and finally became the president in 1924 being re-elected in June 1926.[iv] He wrote articles for the Burlington Magazine[v] and Connoisseur, [vi] and another seven Norfolk publications. Interested in all things ‘East Anglian’, he placed his names on many committees. He was vice-president for the ‘Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History’; ‘Fellow of the Society of Arts’; ‘Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association’ and ‘Norfolk Archaeological Trust.’ He was one of the founders of the ‘Pre-Historic Society of East Anglia’, president of the ‘London Society of East Anglians’, and a committee member of the ‘Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’, including the local ‘Advisory Committees for the Protection of Churches’. The Prince also put his name to the newly formed ‘Operatic Society’ in 1925 as a vice-president, and was governor of the Thetford Grammar School. Socially he was a member of London’s exclusive ‘Whites’ and ‘Carlton Club,’ and was a ‘Fellow of Society of Antiquaries (FSA)’.
While in the country and travelling through small villages, Prince Frederick would visit local parishes and churches, strongly urging them to preserve their buildings. He was wholly against the closure of places of worship, and encouraged the restoration of many neglected churches, such as the restoration of the old church at Thompson where he was largely responsible for persuading the Bishop of Norwich against its closure. He saved Bury town hall, a fine example of ‘Adam’ architecture from mutilation, and took a generous interest in the repairs of the churches at Wymondham and Bradley. These being just some of the many buildings he saved. Prince Frederick was a good churchman, and a rather obstinate Protestant who disliked discussions on religion. He was a great lover of music, having a charming tenor voice. In dressing gown and slippers, he would walk about his garden long before his guests were up and then proceed upstairs to the drawing room and play the piano and sing to himself, while in the evening he would slip away and play soft music. The local folk affectionately called him ‘Prince Freddy’ and in some cases he inherited his father’s name tag of ‘The Black Prince’. His generosity was second to none, as one villager recalled, ‘Prince Frederick was a charming man, I had the pleasure in speaking to him on many occasions, he was a frequent visitor to my aunt’s shop on 144 Victoria Road in Diss. The reasons for his visit was because my cousin was in a spinal chair, the Prince was very kind and interested in him, in fact he made the arrangements for him to go to the orthopaedic hospital for which he paid the expenses.’[vii] As his old friend Walter Rye quoted ‘He was never happier than when helping others.’[viii]
[i] Country Life, 12 May 1906
[ii] Prince F. Duleep Singh, ‘Blo Norton Hall’, Norfolk & Norwich Archaeological Society Journal, Volume XVIII, Part 3 (19) pp. 211-261
[iii] The Book Collection was donated to Thetford library.
[iv] Barbara Green, from the Norfolk & Norwich Archaeological Society
[v] F. Duleep Singh, Burlington Magazine, Volume XI, (1907)
[vi] F. Duleep Singh, ‘A County Collection’, Connoisseur, September (1905)
[vii] Letter from Mrs E Ward to Author (1997)
[viii] Norfolk Chronicle, ‘An Appreciation by Walter Rye’, 20 August 1926
Prince Albert Edward Duleep Singh
Maharajah Duleep Singh had three sons. The eldest Prince Victor was born on the 10 July 1866, followed by Prince Frederick in 1868, and then Prince Albert Edward Alexander Duleep Singh, who was born on the 20 August 1879. Prince Albert Edward was the youngest of all the Maharajah’s six children with Maharani Bamba, and was affectionately called ‘Edward’.
After his mother’s death, the youngest son Prince Edward and his sisters were removed and placed under the care of Mr and Mrs Arthur Oliphant at 21 Clifton Street, Folkestone, whose father had been the Maharajah’s equerry at Elveden.[i] Prince Edward became awfully lonely, his father had deserted him at a tender age and his mother had passed away. It seemed almost too much for a boy of his age. He had been brought up as a king’s son, surrounded by servants and the plush open spaces at Elveden. His memorable times at Elveden were not to be forgotten, playing merrily with his younger sister Princess Sophia on their ponies and being dressed and groomed, and sent off to extravagant kiddies parties with the children of his father’s socialites. Prince Albert Edward was a bright child and the Oliphants’ sent him to Sandroyd, a private school in Sussex. His form-master remarked ‘Edward has worked consistently well, he is a most satisfactory pupil’, while his school report for Christmas 1891, showed the young Prince achieving the top marks in classics and Latin, history and modern studies, and divinity in his form. For mathematics he was third, and his warden concluded ‘he is a hard worker and a most excellent boy’.[ii] But a few weeks later he contracted pneumonia. He was due to go to Eton in April. Although Prince Edward showed some improvement, the doctors said there was no chance of him going to Eton. In late April his condition became worse, the tubercular swellings in his stomach would not subside. At the time, his brothers had gone over to France to visit the equally ill Maharajah who had suffered a heart attack.
On the 21 April 1893, Prince Victor brought the Maharajah back from Paris to see the fragile little Prince Edward. The Maharajah made his emotional trip back to the shores of England and spent the weekend at a hotel in Hastings. The Maharajah was overjoyed to see his little boy, but was prevented by Prince Victor from his loud crying and bitter weeping. Before leaving he gave Prince Edward a piece of paper on which he wrote: ‘The Lord is my shepherd’. He kissed his little son and returned to Paris on the 24 April. A week later Prince Edward died. He was only thirteen-years-old.
[i] The former red marble grave stands at Worlington Church, inscribed ‘James Oliphant, Lt-Col to the Royal (Late Madras) Engineers and Equerry to Maharajah Duleep Singh’
[ii] Author’s Collection, Prince Edward’s Sandroyd School Report
Princess Bamba Sutherland (nee Duleep Singh)
Princess Bamba was born on the 29 September 1869 in London, a year after her brother Prince Frederick. She was baptised Bamba Sofia Jindan Duleep Singh, named after her mother and grandmothers respectively.
Her only known courtship was that with Lieutenant-Colonel David Waters Sutherland.[i] He was a doctor in the Indian Army, and he later became the principal at King Edwards Medical College, Lahore, from 1909 to 1921. In 1915, Princess Bamba at the age of 46, decided to tie the knot with David Sutherland. She frequently visited India during the days of the British Raj, and made several short trips to India, but was forced to settle at Lahore for longer than she had anticipated in January 1941, as she could not get passage back on account of the war. In 1942 the tragic news of Princess Catherine’s death arrived. Princess Bamba was stranded; she could not be present on her sister’s last rites. It was a terrible shock to her, especially as she had not been well herself for some months.[ii] As her stay was to be a long one, she bought a house in Lahore, which she named ‘The Gulzar’, at No. 16 Jail Road. She returned to England in September 1946, and a year later India became independent, which resulted in the formation of Pakistan. The Punjab suffered the greatest with the border between the two nations split right down the middle of the territory of the Punjab. Princess Bamba’s beloved Punjab and the kingdom of her forefathers was no more in existence.
After her husband David Sutherland’s death some years earlier, and her sister Princess Sophia’s death in 1948, Princess Bamba became very lonesome. Her health began to fail further after the death of her little sister but she kept herself going by keeping busy and moving from one of her homes to another. Princess Bamba gave up the ‘grace and favour’ home at Faraday House in Hampton Court[iii] and began to share her time between Penn and Blo Norton. She took Princess Sophia’s ashes to India as per her sister’s last wish, for burial. ‘A flight is quite easy to obtain but this time I came by land as I brought my darling sisters ashes with me, she did not like flights,’[iv] she told Pritam Singh on her arrival. Her next trip was to Kassel, where she arrived in 1949 unexpectedly at the house of Dr Schafer, an unmarried female medical doctor and relation of Fraulien Schafer. A fellow guest of Dr Schafer recalled ‘Bamba arrived from nowhere bringing in her luggage Princess Catherine’s urn, telling us it had been Catherine’s last wish to be buried in Kassel.’
Back in England, Princess Bamba began styling herself as the Queen of Punjab. She had her father’s rebellious nature and seemed the more aggrieved one.[v] On visiting a high Street bookstore in Norwich, she demanded her driver George Davey to park outside the store, which caused traffic. A policeman requested ‘Madam, please move the car’, she replied in her stern voice ‘Do you know who you are talking to? I am the Queen of the Punjab’.[vi] The grumpy Princess would dress in her finery when visited by her Sikh countrymen at Blo Norton, who had started migrating in the early 1900’s. She would sit and take in all the attention she could get from them.[vii] During this period she was also visited by her cousin Karl Wilhelm[viii], grandson of Ludwig Muller, at Hilden Hall, by which time she was already dreaming of going back to India in order to die there.[ix] In his memoirs Karl Wilhelm referred to Princess Bamba as ‘the true heiress of Ranjit Singh’ meaning that she was most conscious of the actual desperate situation of the whole family. ‘She considered the Punjab and Kashmir as the lost possession of her family and was absolutely furious when the border between Pakistan and India was drawn right across the Punjab.’ In Princess Bamba’s eyes, Pakistan or India did not exist, there was just the Punjab and its capital Lahore.
In-between her grievances, she would also call in at the municipal offices at the ‘Guildhall’ in Thetford, to inspect her brother’s portrait collection, and at the same time give an ear bashing to the staff. ‘I would walk with her to the Guildhall so that she could satisfy herself that the portraits were still on display’ remembers the town clerk. The staff would not look forward to her irregular visits. By the 1950’s the rooms where the paintings were displayed were being used for public functions, dances, and other events, and were not very safe there. Paintings were being damaged and in some case stolen from Prince Frederick’s collection. Around 1954 they were removed to an attic for safe storage because of damage from smoke pollution and vandalism, but this only further deteriorated them in the damp and unventilated store. In 1956 she unexpectedly visited the Guildhall. Princess Bamba was not amused. ‘My brother gave these portraits to the town on condition they are displayed so people can see them’[x] she fumed.
On the 10 March 1957 Princess Bamba died of heart failure at the age of eighty-nine. She had outlived her entire family and the final chapter of a tragic family was completed and finally laid to rest. Her funeral was conducted in a Christian ceremony in Lahore. Her rites witnessed by a select few Pakistani dignitaries. But due to the sensitive relations between India and Pakistan at the time, there were sadly no Sikhs present at Princess Bamba’s funeral.
[i] Lt-Col Sutherland MD.FRCP.MBC., was born in Buningyong, Victoria, Australia on the 18 December 1871, the son of John Sutherland, a miner at Allendale and his wife Wilhelmina.
[ii] Sandhawalia Family Papers, Letter from K Baksh to Pritam Singh, dated 18 November 1942
[iii] Faraday House at Hampton Court was given back to the Crown Estate Commissioners in 1955
[iv] Sandhawalia Family Papers, Letter from Princess Bamba to Pritam Singh, no date
[v] Bruce Reeves, (1997)
[vi] Bruce Reeves, (1997)
[vii] The Journal newspaper, ‘Temple in the Woods’, 18 October 1968
[viii] Karl Wilhelm Alexander Muller (1899-1999)
[ix] Karl Wilhelm Muller
[x] Ellis Clarke, Thetford Town Clerk 1950-74
Princess Sophia Duleep Singh
Princess Sophia, the youngest of the Maharajah’s three daughters with Maharani Bamba, was born on the 8 August 1876. She was christened Sophia Jindan Alexdrowna Duleep Singh, named Sophia after Maharani Bamba’s mother and Jinda after Duleep Singh’s mother.
It was during Princess Sophia’s illness in September 1887 that her mother, Maharani Bamba, passed away. The frail Maharani had spent all night praying beside her little girl and fell in to a coma herself and died the following morning. After the death of their mother, Princess Sophia was put under the care of Arthur Oliphant with her sisters and little brother Prince Albert Edward.
In 1906 Prince Frederick rented the lavish Blo Norton Hall, and around the same period he purchased the ‘Thatched Cottage’ in Blo Norton, for his sisters. The sisters conveniently named the cottage ‘Hampton House’ after Hampton Court Palace, which was located opposite the Princesses London home ‘Faraday House’. Hampton House was much like a mini-palace, having regal-like French doors, with steps leading up to the garden. As you went down the garden, the path had trellises of roses, going down like an avenue. Inside the house were beautiful Tudor beams, with a large warm fire, a ‘grand piano’ which the sisters joyfully spent many hours on,[i] elegant Mogul screens brought back from their visits from India and a mouth-piece telephone,[ii] only one of three in the village.[iii]
Princess Sophia joined the Suffragette movement and became a leading figure in the Women’s Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U.), fighting for the right for women to vote in Britain. On the 22 May 1911, Spelthorne Petty Sessions summoned Princess Sophia, for keeping a carriage, a manservant and five dogs without licences, and for using armorial bearings. Mr Leon Castello, who appeared for the Princess said she very much regretted that she could not attend the court herself. He admitted seven of the summonses, except that relating to the armorial bearing. The Princess had asked him to protest on her behalf against the injustice of making women, who had no voice in the management of the country, liable to taxation. The chairman said that they had nothing to do with that, and the bench decided to fine the Princess, £1 for not taking out dog licences, £1 for keeping a non-licensed male servant, and £1 for keeping an unlicensed carriage. The question of keeping an armorial bearing was reserved.[iv] She appeared in court again in December 1913, accompanied by fellow members of the league, for keeping two dogs and a carriage without licence. She made a stand stating that ‘taxation without representation’ was a tyranny. She added ‘I am unable conscientiously to pay money to the State, as I am not allowed to exercise any control over its expenditure, neither am I allowed any voice in the choosing of members of Parliament, whose salaries I have to help to pay. This is very unjust. When the women of England are enfranchised and the State acknowledges me as a citizen I shall, of course, pay my share willingly towards its upkeep. If I am not a fit person for the purposes of representation, why should I be a fit person for taxation?’[v]
During the First World War, Princess Sophia organised patriotic flag days for Punjabi troops of the Indian Army. She even went to lengths in visiting wounded Indian soldiers at Brighton Pavilion where they were being nursed. Many were honoured in meeting the granddaughter of the great Ranjit Singh, and requested mementos to take back home, for which she obliged, handing out signed photographs of herself. One such soldier of the ‘15th Sikhs’ was Kartar Singh, who wrote home to the Punjab from his sick bed at Milford-on-Sea in 1916, ‘My friend this is the photo of our king’s granddaughter – he who was King of the Sikhs, Ranjit Singh. She has distributed her photo amongst Sikh brethren at the depot [Milford] on the evening of the 23 February at five o’clock.’[vi]
Princess Sophia took part in the 10,000-strong ‘Women’s War Work’ procession led by Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst. She joined the ‘Suffragette Fellowship’ after the First World War, remaining its member to the end of her life. After Mrs Pankhurst’s death in 1928, Princess Sophia was appointed president of the committee.[vii]
On the 22 August 1948, Princess Sophia died in her sleep. Her solicitor Henry Charles Wanstall of Chancery Lane arranged for the cremation at Golders Green on the 26 August.[viii] It was her request that a full band shall play Wagner’s ‘Funeral March’ on her cremation, and that her ashes be taken to India for burial.[ix]
[i] The Piano remained in Hampton house for many years after, before it was shipped out in 1997 to the USA by the then owners
[ii] The directory listed the telephone under the name of Princess Sophia, number 2219.
[iii] Bruce Reeve, (1997)
[iv] ‘A Princess and her Taxes’: Votes For Women, 26 May 1911,
[v] Votes for Women, 2 January, p. 209.The Times, 30 December 1913
[vi] Letter dated 24 February 1916. Letter No 253, published in Omissi, Indian Voice of the Great War, p. 156
The Maharajah’s second daughter was born on the 27 October 1871, and was named Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh. On her family’s return from Aden without her father and the subsequent death of her mother, Princess Catherine and her sisters were moved to Folkestone, at 21 Clifton Street in the care of Arthur Oliphant. The Queen had originally desired Lady Login to take an interest in the charge of the three Princesses, but the India Office decided that the Princesses and the youngest boy Prince Albert Edward should be placed in the charge of Mr Oliphant, whose father James had been the Maharajah’s equerry.
It was under the care of the Mr and Mrs Oliphant, that Princess Catherine would meet her governess, a certain Miss Fraulein ‘Lina’ Schafer, who was twelve years Princess Catherine’s senior. The German governess from Kassel would become the Princess’s life long confidante and would change her life forever. In addition to the governess, violin and singing tutors were also employed, together with a swimming instructor. The following year Lina Schafer took the Princess to the ‘Black Forest’ in Kassel and Dresden. The odd-pair were forming a very special and intimate bond.
In 1903 Princess Catherine embarked on a tour of India, visiting Lahore, Kashmir, Dalhousie, Simla, and the holy Sikh city of Amritsar.[i] Here she recalled meeting old Sikh elderlies at the ongoing Diwali festivities who had fought under her grandfather, Maharajah Ranjit Singh. ‘The Diwali festival was yesterday; there were illuminations at the Golden Temple and at the Tank.[ii] The fireworks were let off from one side of the tank, the effect of the reflections in the water were very pretty.’[iii] She surprisingly knew much about her ancestral past and took much interest in it, ‘I visited the salt range, at Pind Dadun Khan,’ these were the very ones Maharajah Duleep Singh had talked about recovering from the Government in 1885, as he claimed they were his personal ancestral property. ‘There remains a strong fortress in a gateway built by Maha [sic] Singh, which was most interesting’.[iv] On her passage towards the Khyber Pass, she added, ‘Before the gates to the pass is the Fort of Jamrud, where Hari Singh[v] was, and where he died fighting.’ In February 1904 she visited the Sikh princely states of Kapurthala, Nabha, Jind and Patiala, ‘We met the Rajas in each case except Patiala, but we met the late Maharaja’s brother and President at dinner.’ She left India at the end of March 1904.
The Princess spent most of her life in Europe, shared between her family in Switzerland and the company of Lina Schafer in Kassel. Lina died on the 27 August 1937 at the age of 78 and Princess Catherine was much aggrieved by her death. In Germany, Nazism was on the increase, and war was just around the corner. The local Nazis disapproved of the old Indian lady. She now felt that Kassel had nothing to offer her, especially as Lina had departed. Her neighbour and accountant Dr Fritz Ratig warned her to leave the country. In November 1937 Princess Catherine sold everything and fled, arriving back in England via Switzerland.
Deep into the Second World War, with Nazi occupation spreading rapidly across Europe, Princess Catherine passed away peacefully in her bed on the night of Sunday 8 November 1942 at her home in Penn, aged seventy-one.[vi] The cause of death was said to be heart failure.[vii] It was her wish to be cremated and ‘Frank Perfect & Sons’ funeral directors had the responsibility for the delicate arrangements. On the 12 November her beautifully reefed coffin was placed at Coalhatch House so all her servants and friends could pay their last respects before the cortege was borne from Penn to Golders Green crematorium in North London.[viii]
[i] Other places visited were Peshawer, Rawalpindi, Indus, Kabul, Multan,
[ii] The Tank or Sarovar is the large body of water around the Golden Temple in Amritsar
[iii] British Library, India Office Section, Letter from Princess Catherine to Princess Sophia, dated 20 October 1903, f. MSS E377/4
[iv] British Library, India Office Section, Letter from Princess Sophia to Princess Catherine, f. Mss E377/4
[v] Hari Singh Nalwa was the bravest of Ranjit Singh’s Generals, who died at Jamrod
[vi] Shirley Phimister, (1999)
[vii] Sandhawalia family papers, Letter to Pritam Singh from Karim Baksh, dated 18 November 1942
[viii] Golders Green Crematorium, Register No. 55310.
Of the Maharajah’s children from his second marriage, Princesses Irene and Pauline, very little is known about them as they led very isolated lives. On the 26 December 1887 Maharani Ada gave birth out of wedlock to a baby girl. She was named Princess Pauline Alexandrina Duleep Singh.In the winter of 1892 the Maharajah and Maharani Ada took a holiday to the Algiers, with Prince Victor and Prince Frederick, where Princesses Pauline and Irene were baptised into the Christian faith. In 1914 Princess Pauline married J.S.A. Torry, 2nd Lieutenant of the 12th Battalion Rifle Brigade, but a year later he died of wounds in the Battle of the Loos on the 19 September 1915. She had befriended Princess Sophia, and would often visit the family in Norfolk. Her stays at Old Buckenham Hall were well recorded in the visitor’s book,[i] but her death was unknown for many decades, until 2014 when a distance relative of her husband discovered whilst reseraching his genealogy, that she had died from Tubercolosis in 1941 in war-torn France. She is buried in an unmarked grave in Pau, France.
A second daughter was born to Maharani Ada on the 25 October 1889, who they named Princess Ada Irene Helen Benyl Duleep Singh. Princess Irene married a Frenchman, by the name of Pierre Marie Villament in Paris on the 15 March 1910. However, the Princess led a very troubled life and according to the Nice correspondent of the Petit Pariser, she was a neurasthenic, and made an attempt to end her life in 1925 by throwing herself from a window after separating from her husband in August. A year earlier she had been treated in a nursing home in England for the same disorder, but later moved back to Paris where she had taken up painting. Tragically on the 8 October 1926 local fishermen dragged her body out from the sea, off Monte Carlo. She was apparently much aggrieved with the death of her half-brother Prince Frederick who had died two months earlier. The Morning Post quoted Princess Irene as being ‘tired of life’ and a verdict of suicide was given.[ii]
[i] Old Buckenham & Blo Norton visitors book
[ii] Morning Post, 9 October 1926