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Maharajah Duleep Bassi dressed for a State function, c. 1875, oil painting by Capt. Goldingham of London.
1838 – 1893
Biographies

Duleep Singh (1838-1893)

Duleep Singh was the last Maharaja of the Sikh empire. He lived in England for most of his life and provided financial support for the Stranger's Home for Asiatics, Africans and Soutsea Islanders. 

Maharajah Duleep Bassi dressed for a State function, c. 1875, oil painting by Capt. Goldingham of London. (Public Domain).

Duleep Singh was the last Maharaja of the Sikh empire. Born in Lahore, India on 4th September 1838, he was the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), the founder of the Sikh nation, who controlled the Punjab for nearly 50 years.

At only 5 years old, Duleep Singh was proclaimed Maharajah of the Punjab. By 1849, however, he was forced to renounce his claims to the Kingdom following the second Sikh War. Singh lost his Kingdom and estates to the British, retaining the title of ?Maharaj Duleep Singh Bahadoor' and receiving a regular stipend from the East India Company. Aged only 11, he was separated from his mother and exiled to Futteghur were he was under the guardship and education of Scottish man Dr John Login and his wife.

Duleep spent most of his life in England, which he was first granted permission by the East India Company to visit in 1854, following his official embracing of Christianity the previous year. From age 15, he was acquainted with Queen Victoria, who was said to have been impressed by his youth, looks and embracing of Christianity.

Duleep Singh on the Lower Terrace of Osbourne, 1854.

Singh was nicknamed the 'Black Prince' as he acquired Elvden Hall in 1863. This home, which he transformed into an Indian style palace was located between Norfolk and Suffolk and provided Singh with space to host parties, receptions, fundraisers and game shooting.

Sing provided the largest donation of £500 to the Stranger's Home for Asiatics, Africans and South Sea Islanders. Opened in London?s Limehouse district in 1857, the Home provided lodging and evangelism to non-British men, particularly lascars. Missionary and writer Joseph Salter, who was also involved in the founding of the Stranger's Home, dedicated his first memoir to Singh, 'through whose earnest desire to ameliorate the condition of the helpless lascar in Great Britain, and princely liberality, the Asiatic Strangers' home was commenced, and has since been carried on'.

Singh renounced his Christianity in 1886 and embraced Sikhism. He died in exile in Paris in 1893.

References

Salter, Joseph. 1873. The Asiatic in England: Sketches of Sixteen Years' Works Among Orientals (London: Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday).

Visram, Rozina. 2015.  Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: the story of Indians in Britain 1700-1947 (London: Routledge). 

Citation for this article

Lucy Wray, 'Duleep Singh (1838-1893)' Mariners: Race, Religion and Empire in British Ports 1801-1914, https://mar.ine.rs/stories/duleep-singh/
Retrieved 22 February 2024