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Maharajah's treasures up for sale

PUBLISHED: 11:00 01 December 2009 | UPDATED: 21:48 07 July 2010

A ceremonial jacket that once belonged to the last Maharajah of the Punjab, Duleep Singh,

A ceremonial jacket that once belonged to the last Maharajah of the Punjab, Duleep Singh,

Rebecca Gough

He was a young Indian King exiled to Norfolk in the 19th century.

Maharajah Duleep Singh bought the Elveden Estate, near Brandon in Suffolk, in 1863 and lived the life of a country gentleman with a taste for the finer things in life.

The Maharajah Duleep Singh in his wedding robes.

He was a young Indian king exiled to Norfolk in the 19th century.

Maharajah Duleep Singh bought the Elveden Estate, near Brandon in Suffolk, in 1863 and lived the life of a country gentleman with a taste for the finer things in life.

Now items he once treasured are expected to fetch hundreds of thousands of pounds when they go under the hammer in Scotland next week.

Born in 1838, Duleep Singh was the youngest son of the legendary Ranjit Singh, the 'Lion of the Punjab', who ruled the region.

But in 1843, five-year-old Duleep Singh found himself as sovereign and a hindrance to the British Raj.

Two wars were fought against the British, resulting in Duleep Singh being separated from his mother and removed from power by the underhand means of the East India Company. He was effectively exiled to Britain where he eventually settled in Elveden and became a Suffolk gent.

A richly embroidered jacket, worn by the maharajah at formal court events, is now expected to fetch between £60,000 and £80,000 when it goes under the hammer at auctioneer Lyons and Turnbull in Scotland on December 9.

It will appear alongside a crimson pair of shoes which are expected to reach between £15,000 and £20,000, and a photo of the maharajah which could go for between £400 and £600.

Lyons and Turnbull spokesman Philip Gregory, said there had already been significant interest from India and America, where there are a large number of wealthy Sikhs.

"The jacket is a one-off item and is unique as far as I can tell in that it belonged to a very important and significant person in the Sikh community," he said.

"I think to the Sikhs it's what the Shroud of Turin is to Christians because, in the belief of the Sikhs, a maharajah is almost a deity so it's a very important object.

"It's richly embellished and it's a beautiful thing and worn by him and that's why it's so significant. I think also it was one of his most favourite pieces and we've got a picture of him wearing it."

The maharajah's son, Prince Fredrick, was born in 1868 and in 1921 bought the Ancient House in Whitehart Street, Thetford. He gave it to the town for use as a museum, contributed objects for display and also bequeathed 90 portraits of East Anglian worthy citizens dating from the 17th century.

Duleep Singh tried his hand at writing a West End play, standing for parliament, and eventually sought to make a stand against the establish-ment but his plans failed and he died of a stroke, alone and penniless, in a Paris hotel room on October 22, 1893.

The maharajah's body was brought back to Elveden churchyard and is now a site of cultural pilgrimage for Sikhs worldwide.

Mr Gregory added: "It's been fantastic researching him. I didn't know anything about it until last week and I think it's quite amazing and quite sad that he died a rather sad and lonely person."

Earlier this year the EDP reported that a necklace once worn by the maharajah's mother, Maharani Jindan Kaur, was sold at Bonds in London for £55,200.


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