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Maharaja Duleep Singh

(1838-1893), Maharaja of Lahore

Sitter in 6 portraits
Duleep Singh, the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, succeeded his late father Ranjit Singh at the age of five. The British conquest of the Punjab saw the passing of the 1846 Treaty of Lahore, which handed administration of the state and the 'protection' of the Maharaja over to the British government.. In 1848, aged ten years old, Singh was separated from his mother who was regarded as a threat to the British empire. He was removed from the Punjab, his title and power devolved. He was forced to surrender or 'gift' the world's largest cut diamond, known as the Koh-i-Noor diamond, to Queen Victoria. Without his family around him and living in a predominantly Christian household under the care of Dr Login, Singh's cultural identity was steadily erased. At the age of fifteen, he converted to Christianity. Granted permission to travel, he arrived in London in 1854, staying at Claridges Hotel before being invited by Queen Victoria to stay with the Royal family at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. A friendship of sorts ensued with Queen Victoria who eventually became godmother to Prince Victor Albert Jay Duleep Singh. His life was lived under scrutiny and prohibitions by the British, he was allowed to return to India only twice, both short, controlled visits; once to bring his mother out of exile to live with him in Britain and then to take her body back to be buried in India. He eventually became embittered by his exile and loss of sovereignty, converting back to Sikhism. He died in Paris; his last wish to be buried in India was not honoured, he was instead buried at Elveden Hall, his former family residence while in England.

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