The whereabouts and the cause of death of Princess Pauline Duleep Singh is finally unearthed by historian and biographer Peter Bance The whereabouts and the cause of death of Princess Pauline Duleep Singh is finally unearthed by historian and biographer Peter Bance...!
Since the beginning of the Second World War, what happened to the eldest daughter from Maharajah Duleep Singh's second marriage was a mystery.
Princess Pauline Alexandrina Duleep Singh’s life in contrast was so different to her half- sibling who had been brought up on the grand Suffolk estate at Elveden, christened at Windsor and adorned by Queen Victoria. Pauline on the other hand was born in mid-winter Russia in a shabby boarding house in Moscow in 1887, as her father the Maharajah was plotting a rebellion with Russian agents against the British Rule in India.
After the tragic suicide of her youngest sister Princess Irene at Monaco in 1926, the relationship between Princess Pauline and her siblings from her father’s first marriage became most strained. Pauline’s half-sister Princess Bamba had contested the ‘Last Will and Testament’ of Princess Irene, claiming that her vast estate worth over £20,000 be distributed amongst all the remaining family members. Bamba even took Princess Pauline to court over the matter in a lengthy and expensive trial. The court favoured that Pauline be the sole recipient as per Irene’s will. From then on the relationship between siblings from two different mothers was irreparable.
In the late 1930s Princess Pauline decided to shift to Paris due to the family feud. Although her other half-sisters Princess Catherine and Sophia Duleep Singh did keep some contact with Pauline for a time, but when the Second World War began, Princess Pauline went completely off the radar, and was never to be heard of again.
Over the next 75 years, various stories and rumours were cooked up, as what happened to this Princess, from her being killed during the bombings in war-torn France, to dying in a German concentration camp.
In the 1950s when Patiala University historian Ganda Singh visited Princess Bamba in Lahore when he was writing his ‘ Maharajah Duleep Singh and his correspondence’, even she did not know what had become of her half-sister.
British-born Sikh historian Peter Bance has spent over 15 years tracing the family of Maharajah Duleep Singh, in which time he discovered the locations of the graves of Prince & Princess Victor Duleep Singh in Monte Carlo, and Maharani Jinda’s gravestone in London’s Kensal Green, but the whereabouts of Princess Pauline’s last years eluded him, up until now.
In October 2014, Peter Bance was contacted by a distant relative of Lieutenant JSA Torry, who had briefly been the husband of Princess Pauline and had died in the First World War at the Battle of Loos within a year of their marriage. The relative had an unconfirmed place of death of the Princess whilst tracing his own family tree.
Bance recalled, ‘this was a much needed piece of information to search for the Princess’s final moments, as I had exhausted every other avenue available to me.’ In the coming months Bance recovered Pauline’s French death Certificate, her last Will and also a ‘Death Report of a Foreign Subject in France’
After piecing together the information, the tragic story of a lone Sikh Princess was finally completed.
The Princess had shifted to Paris in the late 1930s. At the start of the War it was discovered that she had contracted tuberculosis. In those years this was a very serious illness and in most cases incurable. Bance added ‘Anyone diagnosed with such an illness in those times was placed in specially built quarantine units, known as Sanatoriums, and once in there one only left in a coffin.’
Pauline was placed at the Sanatorium in Pau, in France. Due to second world war and France being a partially occupied territory, she could not get word back to her friends and family in England of her condition. Not even her own sisters would know how her last months were spent. Pauline tragically died on the 10th April 1941 at Pau Sanatorium. She was buried by the officials in the nearby Pau Cemetery unknown to her family. Her remains were later moved to an unmarked grave to make space for further burials.
Today there is no gravestone to mark the Princess except an entry in the Pau Cemetery register to confirm that the grand-daughter of great Maharajah Ranjit Singh lies in this forgotten corner of France.
It saddens me to know that the grand daughter of Maharaja Ranjit singh died without a loved one near by away from home and family. The entire history of the Duleeps singh is heart breaking, Princes pauline the Descendant of a great leader passing away in silence. I hope this discovery keeps her soul at peace.
Will a tombstone be made now that she has been found. I hope so. No mention of children or heirs?