Sandsend and The Maharajah of Mulgrave Castle

In the decade following the death of Maharajah Ranjit Singh in 1839, the Punjab was thrown into turmoil with several successions to the throne and a threat of annexation by the British East India Company1Wikipedia Contributors (2021). First Anglo-Sikh War. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Anglo-Sikh_War#Events_in_the_Punjab [Accessed 17 Oct. 2021].2Wikipedia Contributors (2021). Second Anglo-Sikh War. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Anglo-Sikh_War#Aftermath_of_the_First_Anglo-Sikh_War [Accessed 17 Oct. 2021]..

In 1843, Duleep Singh, just five years old, was crowned King of the Punjab and head of the Sikh nation. He was now extremely rich and ruled under the regency of Ranjit Singh’s youngest widow, Jind Kaur3Wikipedia Contributors (2021). First Anglo-Sikh War. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Anglo-Sikh_War#Events_in_the_Punjab [Accessed 17 Oct. 2021].. His wealth included one of the largest diamonds in the world, the Koh-i-Noor, weighing in at 21.12 grms. (105.6 carats)4Wikipedia Contributors (2021). Koh-i-Noor. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koh-i-Noor [Accessed 17 Oct. 2021]..

War with the  British East India Company broke out, and, in 1848, the young Singh, now aged ten years old, was forced to sign papers that sacrificed his kingdom and forcing him to resign ‘for himself, his heirs, his successors, all right, title and claim to the sovereignty of the Punjab or to any sovereign power whatsoever, the confiscation of all state property, and the surrender of the Koh-i-Noor diamond5“Slavery and the British Country House”. Edited by Madge Dresser and Andrew Hann. Page 119. English Heritage. 2013. ISBN 978 1 84802 064 1.. The Punjab was now British territory.

In return, he was to be given a pension of £40,000 and granted the honour of the title Maharajah (I guess the equivalent to His Royal Highness). He was sent for exile in England where Queen Victoria was apparently quite taken with the young man. She wrote in her diary: ‘Osborne 22 August: A most beautiful morning. We breakfasted in the Alcove with the truly amicable young Maharajah, who is so kind to the children, playing so nicely with them6“Slavery and the British Country House”. Edited by Madge Dresser and Andrew Hann. Page 119. English Heritage. 2013. ISBN 978 1 84802 064 1.. I am sure she wasn’t at all influence by the latest addition to her crown jewels: the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

The Maharajah grew up into the life of an English squire, with a love of shooting, hawking, and other country pursuits and, in 1858, took up residency at Mulgrave Castle which he rented from the Marquis of Normanby, who was serving as British Ambassador in Florence. Queen Victoria was one of the many guests who dined with Singh during his tenure at Mulgrave Castle7Elliot, A. (n.d.). “The Maharajah of Mulgrave”. [online] Available at: https://www.nyma.org.uk/_webedit/uploaded-files/All%20Files/History%20Tree/14%201859%20The%20Maharajah%20of%20Mulgrave.pdf [Accessed 17 Oct. 2021]..

But he wasn’t happy, and frequently clashed with the Government over his financial compensation. His money slowly dwindled, he spent lavishly on his estate at Elveden, Norfolk, which he had brought after vacating Mulgrave in 1862. He made many fruitless attempts to regain the Koh-i-Noor diamond, and grew ever more disillusioned with Britain, developing an intent to reclaim his homeland in the Punjab, a direct threat to the Empire. On a trip to India in 1886, he was arrested and subsequently settled in exile in Paris from which he journeyed across Europe and to Russia in the search of allies in starting a rebellion in the Punjab8“Slavery and the British Country House”. Edited by Madge Dresser and Andrew Hann. Page 119. English Heritage. 2013. ISBN 978 1 84802 064 1..

The Maharajah Duleep Singh died in 1893 in Paris at the age of 55 and is buried at Elveden9Elliot, A. (n.d.). “The Maharajah of Mulgrave”. [online] Available at: https://www.nyma.org.uk/_webedit/uploaded-files/All%20Files/History%20Tree/14%201859%20The%20Maharajah%20of%20Mulgrave.pdf [Accessed 17 Oct. 2021]..

During his thirteen years at Mulgrave Castle, the Maharajah would often be seen fishing from a boat at Sandsend, using the Chinese method of hunting with specially-trained tethered cormorants. These had a ring fitted around their necks so they couldn’t swallow the fish. He also had a new toll-road constructed between Sandsend and Whitby, which formed the foundation for today’s modern road alongside the beach. Some say he had this road built as his elephants did not like walking through the sand, but sadly there is no evidence that there have ever been elephants at Mulgrave10Elliot, A. (n.d.). “The Maharajah of Mulgrave”. [online] Available at: https://www.nyma.org.uk/_webedit/uploaded-files/All%20Files/History%20Tree/14%201859%20The%20Maharajah%20of%20Mulgrave.pdf [Accessed 17 Oct. 2021]..

One Reply to “Sandsend and The Maharajah of Mulgrave Castle”

  1. Fascinating story. Thanks for posting. Watched an outstanding BBC4 programme about the Maharajah but never knew of his connection to this castle.

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