The Lost Prince
Maharaja Duleep Singh, (6 September 1838 – 22 October 1893), also known as Dalip Singh and later in life nicknamed the Black Prince of Perthshire, was the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire. He was Maharaja Ranjit Singh's youngest son, the only child of Maharani Jind Kaur.
After the assassinations of four of his predecessors, he came to power in September 1843, at the age of five, he was kidnapped by the British Empire, later exiled to Britain at age 15 where he was befriended and much admired by Queen Victoria, who is reported to have written of the Punjabi Maharaja: "Those eyes and those teeth are too beautiful".The Queen was godmother to several of his children.
His mother had effectively ruled when he was very young and he managed to meet her again on 16 January 1861 in Calcutta and return with her to the United Kingdom. During the last two years of her life, his mother told the Maharaja about his Sikh heritage and the Empire which once had been his to rule.
He was a member of the Freemasons.
While in exile, he sought to learn more about Sikhism and was eager to return to India. Though previous efforts were thwarted by his handlers, he reestablished contact with his cousin Sardar Thakar Singh Sandhawalia, who on 28 September 1884, left Amritsar for England along with his sons Narinder Singh and Gurdit Singh and a Sikh granthi (priest), Pratap Singh Giani. He also brought a list of properties held by Duleep Singh in India. All this renewed his connection with Sikhism.
The British Government decided in 1886 against his return to India or his re-embracing Sikhism. Despite protests from the India Office, he set sail for 'home' on 30 March 1886. However, he was intercepted and arrested in Aden, where the writ of the Governor General of India began. He could not be stopped from an informal re-conversion ceremony in Aden, far less grand and symbolic than it would have been in India, done by emissaries sent by Sardar Thakar Singh Sandhawalia, who was earlier planning the Pahaul ceremony at Bombay. Duleep was forced to return to Europe.
Duleep Singh died in Paris in 1893 at the age of 55, having seen India after the age of fifteen during only two brief, tightly-controlled visits in 1860 (to bring his mother to England) and in 1863 (to cremate his mother's body).
Duleep Singh's wish for his body to be returned to India was not honoured, in fear of unrest, given the symbolic value the funeral of the son of the Lion of the Punjab might have caused and the growing resentment of British rule. His body was brought back to be buried according to Christian rites, under the supervision of the India Office in Elveden Church beside the grave of his wife Maharani Bamba, and his son Prince Edward Albert Duleep Singh. The graves are located on the west side of the Church.
A life-size bronze statue of the Maharaja showing him on a horse was unveiled by HRH the Prince of Wales in 1999 at Butten Island in Thetford, a town which benefited from his and his sons' generosity.
In an auction at Bonhams, London on 19 April 2007, the 74 cm high white marble portrait bust of Maharaja Duleep Singh by Victorian sculptor John Gibson RA in Rome in 1859 fetched £1.7 million (£1.5 million plus premium and tax)