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The Fate of Princess Pauline Duleep Singh Finally Uncovered

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The whereabouts and the cause of death of Princess Pauline Duleep Singh has been finally unearthed by British historian and biographer Peter Bhupinder Singh Bance.

Since the beginning of the Second World War, what happened to the eldest daughter from Maharajah Duleep Singh's second marriage was a mystery. 

Princess Pauline Alexandrina Duleep Singh’s life in contrast was so different to her half-siblings who had been brought up on the grand Suffolk estate at Elveden, welcomed at Windsor and adored by Queen Victoria.

Pauline, on the other hand, was born in mid-winter Russia in a shabby boarding house in Moscow in 1887, as her father the Maharajah was plotting a rebellion with Russian agents for the liberation of Punjab and the subcontinent from the British occupation.

After the tragic suicide of her youngest sister, Princess Irene, at Monaco in 1926, the relationship between Princess Pauline and her siblings from her father’s first marriage became most strained.

Pauline’s half-sister Princess Bamba had contested the ‘Last Will and Testament’ of Princess Irene, claiming that her vast estate worth over £20,000 be distributed amongst all the remaining family members. Bamba even took Princess Pauline to court over the matter in a lengthy and expensive trial.

The court favoured that Pauline be the sole recipient as per Irene’s will. From then on the relationship between the siblings from the two different mothers was irreparable.

In the late 1930s, Princess Pauline decided to shift to Paris due to the family feud. Although her other half-sisters Princess Catherine and Sophia Duleep Singh did keep some contact with Pauline for a time, when the Second World War broke out, Princess Pauline went completely off the radar, and was never to be heard of again.

Over the next 75 years, various stories and rumours were cooked up as what happened to this Princess, ranging from the theory that she may have been killed during the bombings in war-torn France, to dying in a German concentration camp.

In the 1950s, when Patiala University historian Ganda Singh visited Princess Bamba in Lahore when he was researching his book, ‘Maharajah Duleep Singh and His Correspondence’, even she did not know what had become of her half-sister.

British-born Sikh historian Peter Singh Bance has spent over 15 years tracing the family of Maharajah Duleep Singh, in which time he discovered the locations of the graves of Prince and Princess Victor Duleep Singh in Monte Carlo, and Maharani Jindan’s gravestone in London’s Kensal Green.

The whereabouts of Princess Pauline during her final years, however, have eluded him.

Till Now.

In October 2014, Peter was contacted by a distant relative of Lieutenant LSA Torry, who had briefly been the husband of Princess Pauline and had died in the First World War at the Battle of Loos within a year of their marriage.

The relative had an unconfirmed place of death of the Princess whilst tracing his own family tree.

Peter recalls: “This was a much needed piece of information to search for the Princess’s final moments, as I had exhausted every other avenue available to me.“ 

Pursuing the new lead in the follwing months, Peter was finally able to recover Pauline’s French Death Certificate, her Last Will & Testament, and also a ‘Death Report of a Foreign Subject in France.’

After piecing together the information, the tragic story of a lone Sikh Princess was finally completed.

The Princess had shifted to Paris in the late 1930s. At the start of the War, it was discovered that she had contracted tuberculosis. In those years, this was a very serious illness and in most cases incurable.

Peter explains: “Anyone diagnosed with such an illness in those times was placed in specially built quarantine units, known as sanatoriums, and once in there one only left in a coffin.’

Pauline was placed at the Sanatorium de Trespoey in Pau, France. Due to the Second World War raging and France being a partially occupied territory, she could not get word back to her friends and family in England of her condition. Not even her own sisters would know how her last months were spent.

Pauline tragically died alone on the 10th of April, 1941 at Pau Sanatorium. She was buried by the officials in the nearby Pau Cemetery, her passing away unknown to her family. 

Her remains were later moved to an unmarked grave to make space for further burials.

Today, there is no gravestone to mark the Princess except an entry in the Pau Cemetery register to confirm that the grand-daughter of Maharajah Ranjit Singh lies in this forgotten corner of France.


January 23, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Ari Singh (Burgas, Bulgaria), January 23, 2015, 10:43 AM.

Well done, Peter Singh ji. I hope you will come out with another book soon with your latest research and findings.

2: Amir Rashid (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), January 30, 2015, 9:24 PM.

Quite fascinating story. Gives a glimpse into colonial India and how so many had fought for the subcontinent's liberation.

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