What I Found In My Old Storage Boxes: T. SHER SINGH
A Letter Dated December 20, 1871
I have umpteen boxes in storage -- a compendium of 67 years on this earth -- that I’ve recently started to sift through. I have found the process a mixture of tiresome labour and, at the same, an endless series of delights over the discovery of objects long lost or forgotten.
Some of the contents go back to my immigration to Canada in June 1971, and consist of things brought over for the value they held for me then, I being then about 21 years old. Others represent later phases of my life which have since receded in memory.
One by one, I’ll try and share with you some of the objects which have had some significance to the times and events they represent and still invoke interest all these years later.
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I acquired this letter, an original hand-written epistle in black ink in the hand of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the letterhead bearing the sender's address, ’Elveden Hall Thetford Suffolk‘ in blue, slightly raised print on the top right hand corner, dated December 20, 1871. It is a single piece of paper, 22.5 cm x 17.5 cm, folded at the middle, thus allowing four small pages/panels of writing. Each panel is filled with script, the last concluding with the Maharaja’s signature.
I was in London, England in 1999, I believe for the gala at the Victoria & Albert Museum marking the 200th anniversary of Ranjit Singh's conquest of Lahore and the establishment of the Sikh Empire. If I remember correctly, a recent acquaintance who knew of my obsession with Duleep Singh, surprised me during the course of a private lunch involving a dozen or so attendees at the gala, by presenting me with this unexpected gift.
Needless to say, I was bowled over and have cherished it ever since as one of my prize possessions.
For a while it hung in a double-sided frame in my study, allowing me to enjoy reading it on both sides of the paper whenever I wanted to feel close to the subject I had been researching for decades. At some stage, during a move of residences, it got packed in a box and thereafter remained ‘lost’.
Imagine my joy yesterday when I opened a box at random and suddenly found the missive in my hands again.
The following is the text of the letter; I‘ve tried to provide as accurate a transcript as I have been able to decipher the handwriting.
I’m still not clear who Lady Campbell is, the person to whom the letter is addressed. Considering that Duleep and the Prince of Wales had, for much of their youth, been close friends, and the nature of the sentiments expressed in the letter, it is possible that she is someone in either his household or in that of Queen Victoria.
The ’Maharanee’ is of course Maharani Bamba, Duleep Singh‘s wife. The reference to the newborn baby would be to Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh, born on October 27, 1871 -- that is, 24 days prior to the writing of this letter.
‘Sir Edward’ is Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria’s eldest son and successor, who was but three years younger than Duleep Singh. He succeeded his mother as Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India, on January 22, 1901, seven years after the death of Duleep Singh. Edward VII was the great grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.
Dear Lady Campbell
I take very great shame to myself for not writing sooner to thank you for the very kind letter of enquiries after the Maharanee’s health who I am happy to say has now quite recovered and the baby is doing as well as is possible for her to do. Thank you very much for saying that I may invite myself to pay you a visit in ?? and when we return to London for a short time in the spring I will write and offer myself and will come up for a night if convenient to you.
I am indeed very glad to hear that Sir Edward likes his work. He is very fortunate in getting some thing to do in this country that combines pleasure with occupation a thing by no means easy to attain.
How charming the news is of the Prince of Wales recovery now. At ? time there was very little hope - indeed great despair that he wouldn’t recover and I firmly believe that he owes his life to the nations prayers.
With kind regards to Sir Edward and the children.
December 20, 1871
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Now that I have tracked it down, I’ve promised myself never to lose sight of it ever again.
Februaty 7, 2017
Conversation about this article
1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), February 07, 2017, 5:45 PM.
What a happy coincidence. I have been working on Duleep Singh for a different forum and now your post has opened a delightful Pandora's Box. Please Google: "Religious Impulses of Maharaja Dalip Singh" by Swarn Singh Snehi. This is the research paper done in memory of the great scholar and historian Dr. Ganda Singh by Punjabi University. When Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) came into being in the mid 60's, Dr. Ganda Singh was invited as the first distinguished historian to give his blessings. We had the honour to host his stay with us on the Plantation for a week and have some delightful stories to share for another post.