Utpal Borpujari

December 10, 2009

Duleep Singh’s jacket, shoes goes under the hammer

By Utpal Borpujari

How much would you pay for a jacket and a pair of shoes? Does £60,000-80,000 for the former and £15,000-20,000 for the latter sound too much?

Well, that is the estimated price one will have to pay if one wishes to own a ceremonial jacket and pair of shoes originally owned by Duleep Singh, the last Maharajah of Punjab and the youngest son of Ranjit Singh.

The two items are up for an auction on Wednesday at Lyon & Turnbull, Scotland’s oldest auction firm. Also going under the hammer will be a painting of Ranjit Singh, valued at £8,000-12,000.

The Edinburgh-based auction house says that the items would be part of its Fine Antiques auction which will also feature several other Indian artefacts, such as an 18th Century enamelled belt buckle reportedly worn by Saadat Khan, the founder of the Oudh dynasty of Nawabs, a painting of Mahrajah Jagat Singh II of Mewar and several Indian miniature paintings. 

To be sold under “Lot 124”, ruler-cricketer Duleep Singh’s jacket is described as “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”.

The jacket and the shoes were purchased from the Maharajah’s English estate Elveden Hall in the 1950s, representatives of the auction house say.

Duleep Singh was born on September 4, 1838 during the zenith of the Sikh Kingdom, and was made the king at the age of five.

Minor Duleep Singh was separated from his mother during two wars fought against the British, thanks to misleading ministers and irresponsible guardians. It resulted in surrender of the family-owned Koh-i-Noor diamond and his removal from power by the East India Company.

After that, he was exiled to Britain, where he became a favourite of Queen Victoria and spent his time with the crème de la crème of Victorian high society, 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 was known as a fine shooter and a fashionable man with a taste for the finer things in life, and his appearance in dazzling jewels and semi-European dress made him an eye-turner at every event he attended.

But later in his life, after trying his hand at writing a West End play, standing for Parliament, playing cricket, and remonstrating with the British Empire for the shortfall of his stipend, the deposed king became disillusioned and sought to make a stand against the British encouraged by the Fenians, the French underworld, and Tsarist Russia.

His plans for resurrecting himself failed and he died alone and penniless in a Paris hotel room on the October 22, 1893 far from the riches of the Punjab after suffering a stroke. 

(an abridged version was published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 08-12-2009)

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/40093/maharajahs-personal-effects-go-hammer.html

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