The Maharajah's Box: An Imperial Intrigue

Campbell, Christy

Verlag: Harpercollins, 2000
ISBN 10: 0002570084 / ISBN 13: 9780002570084
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A colourful narrative history of Duleep Singh, the last Emperor of the Sikhs and protégé of Queen Victoria, and his bizarre attempts to regain his kingdom of the Punjab from the British Empire in the late 19th century.

In July 1997 the Swiss Bankers? Association, under international pressure to atone for wartime compliance with Hitler?s Germany, published a list of over 1,700 ?dormant accounts?, untouched for over fifty years. The names were supposedly those of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but among them was an Indian princess, ?last heard of in 1942 living in Penn, Bucks?.

Intrigued, Christy Campbell, a journalist on the Sunday Telegraph, started to search the records, and so uncovered the remarkable story of how Maharajah Duleep Singh, the last Emperor of the Sikhs, was made by the British ? as a nine-year-old in 1849 ? to sign away his kingdom of the Punjab and give Queen Victoria the Koh-i-Noor diamond (the most celebrated diamond in the world, and the jewel in Britain?s Crown).

Duleep Singh, a virtual prisoner of Queen Victoria in England, began to dream of regaining his kingdom, and so embarked on a series of adventures (involving Russia and the ?Great Game? of Central Asia) before finally begging Victoria?s forgiveness. He had six children and died in 1893. What he didn?t know was that different factions in Russia were making use of him ? and the British secret service were doing likewise.

Today the Sikhs still claim their inheritance, including the Koh-i-Noor and the now-divided Punjab. When the Maharajah?s box is opened in summer 1999 it is likely to reveal further secrets.

Rezension: In 1997, Christy Campbell, then a journalist on the London Sunday Telegraph, was following the story of Jewish victims of the Holocaust who were announced as having had "dormant accounts" in Swiss banks, and whose descendants were therefore entitled to compensation. However, among these names was one that rather stood out: one Princess Catherine Duleep Singh, last heard of residing in Penn, Buckinghamshire, in 1942. Like all good journos, Campbell immediately scented a scoop, and began to investigate. "I started out on a treasure hunt and found a love story". What he discovered was quite astounding: Princess Catherine was none other than the descendant of Maharajah Duleep Singh, the last Emperor of the Sikhs, and his story was every bit as glamorous and tragic as that of the last Emperor of China.

In 1849, at the age of 10, the Maharajah, his armies defeated in the field by the British, was brought to London. Oh, and with him came a certain rather famous diamond: the Koh-i-Noor, "acquired" by the East India Company and presented to Queen Victoria. The Maharajah settled down for a while as an English country gentleman, at Elveden Hall in Suffolk, and married an English chambermaid. But later in life he grew more and more obsessed with his lost inheritance, and the exchange of the majesties of the Punjab for a few acres of rural Suffolk did not seem to him quite fair... This is very much the territory of what Rudyard Kipling christened "The Great Game". Kipling himself wrote about it in his own masterpiece, Kim, as did Patrick French more recently in his prize-winning biography, Younghusband. Christy Campbell now joins this select band of chroniclers of the wilder margins of the British Empire, in a story that, one imagines, would make a brilliant film. Merchant-Ivory, where are you? --Christopher Hart

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Bibliografische Details

Titel: The Maharajah's Box: An Imperial Intrigue
Verlag: Harpercollins
Erscheinungsdatum: 2000
Einband: Hard Cover
Zustand: Very Good

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