with gold braid raised work on a maroon velvet ground; and a 19th century print of Maharajah Duleep Singh wearing an almost identical jacket, engraved by D.J. Pound after a photograph taken in 1859 by John Mayall, 37.5cm x 27cm (2)
PROPERTY OF MAHARAJAH DULEEP SINGH (1838-93) THE LAST SIKH KING
Property of his Royal Highness the Maharajah Duleep Singh until 1893. In 1894 his executors sold Elvedon Hall and its contents to Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh.
Originally Purchased by John Bly Antiques in 1952 from Elveden Hall, Suffolk, England (the former residence of Maharajah Duleep Singh). The Bly family have been dealers in Hertfordshire, since the beginning of the 19th century. John Bly was the former chairman of the British Antique Dealers Association. He is a resident expert on BBC Television’s ‘Antiques Roadshow’ since it started in 1978. The jacket is now the Property of a Lady.
Born on the 4th September 1838, during the zenith of the illustrious Sikh Kingdom, Duleep Singh, was the youngest son of the legendary Ranjit Singh the ‘Lion-of-the-Punjab’, who ruled the region by the power of his sword and with the fear of his name, a contemporary of Napoleon, who adopted a very European style for his army with an array of Europe’s distinguished Generals.
In 1843, the infant Duleep Singh was thrusted as the Sovereign of ‘Land of the Five Rivers,’ at the tender age of five years, and found himself at the head of the one of the most powerful independent Kingdoms in the Indian sub-continent and a thorn in the advancement of the British Empire.
With misleading ministers and irresponsible guardians, two wars were fought against the British, resulting in the minor Duleep Singh being separated from his mother, surrendering the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond and removed from power by the underhand-means of the East India Company.
He was effectively exiled to Britain, where he became an instant favourite of Queen Victoria and the ideal party accessory. He passed his time with the crème de la crème of Victorian high society; regularly shooting game with the Prince of Wales at his numerous Highland and English estates, and led a most extravagant and lavish lifestyle often above his means.
Duleep Singh in the height of his days as a Suffolk Squire, was an untouchable shooter, and a fashionable gent with a taste for the finer things in life, be it canvases, sculptures, gems, or women. His appearance in dazzling jewels and semi-European dress were an essential part of him being the eye-turner at every event of its day. Invitations would flood from all over Britain and in some cases Europe too, to bring a touch of exoticness to the functions.
This lot is a fine example of the richly embroidered velvets worn by the Maharajah for his formal court events, showing the high quality of workmanship fit only for an Indian Prince. A similar style jacket is pictured in a lithograph of the Maharajah from a photograph taken by Mayall in 1859.
But after trying his hand at writing a West End play, standing for Parliament, playing the field, and remonstrating with the British Empire for the shortfall of his stipend, the deposed Sovereign became disillusioned by his surroundings and sought to make a stand against the tyrannical establishment under the watchful eye and encouragement of the disaffected Fenians, the French underworld, and Tsarist Russia. His plans for resurrecting himself failed and he was tragically struck down with a stroke, dying alone and penniless in a Paris hotel room on the 22nd October 1893 far from the riches of the Punjab.
Bance, Peter, ‘Sovereign, Squire & Rebel; Maharajah Duleep Singh & The Heirs of a Lost Kingdom’ Coronet House Publishing, 2009
Bance. Peter, ‘The Duleep Singhs; Photo Album of Queen Victoria’s Maharajah’ Sutton Publishing, 2004
We would like to thank Mr Peter Bance for his assistance in the catalogue description