Indian boy king's warm friendship with Queen Victoria

Indian boy king's warm friendship with Queen Victoria


17 Oct 2022 at 04:14
Indian boy king's warm friendship with Queen Victoria

An ongoing exhibition in the UK shines a spotlight on the remarkable life of the last Sikh emperor of the Punjab - Maharajah Duleep Singh.

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Duleep Singh was the youngest son of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, who founded the Sikh empire in the Punjab in 1799.

After the deaths of his father and brother, Duleep Singh became ruler of the kingdom at the age of five, but was removed from the throne after Britain annexed the Punjab in 1849.

At the age of 15, he arrived in England and ended up spending the rest of his life in the country. Over the years, a warm friendship would develop between Britain's reigning monarch - Queen Victoria - and the former king of the Punjab.

The exhibition at the Archive Centre in Norwich offers a glimpse into this unlikely friendship. It coincides with the last Sikh emperor's 129th birth anniversary, celebrated on 22 October.

"One of my favourite items in the exhibition is a signed journal by Queen Victoria which reads: To Maharajah Duleep Singh from his affectionate friend, Victoria, Windsor Castle, March 1868," says UK-based historian and art collector Peter Bance. "This is a really intimate and personal inscription [by the Queen] referring to the former King of the Punjab as her friend,'' he adds.

Mr Bance has loaned his personal collection of memorabilia on Duleep Singh and says that this is the first time that many of these historic objects are being displayed to the public. He hopes "visitors will enjoy seeing these [objects] as much as I did discovering them".

Through various artefacts, the exhibition traces the fascinating life of Duleep Singh. After the young maharajah was stripped of his sovereignty and his mother was imprisoned, he was put under the guardianship of army surgeon Sir John Spencer Login and his wife, Lady Login.