L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dispossessed children - two royal Indian portraits by Winterhalter

Princess Gouramma, 1852.

Princess Gouramma (4 July 1841, Benares - 30 March 1864, London) was the daughter of Chikka Virarajendra, the ruler of Coorg. The Raja was deposed by the British in 1834 and taken political prisoner. In 1852, stating that he wished his daughter to be raised a Christian and to receive a Western education, the ex-Raja was permitted to travel to England; while there, he would also go to court to demand that the East India Government restore his wealth. Arriving in England, the Raja was received by Queen Victoria with the respect due his royal status, and he put his daughter into her care. That same year, the Princess was baptised in a ceremony conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Chapel at Buckingham Palace and took the name "Victoria", with Queen Victoria as her Sponsor (godmother). She was later considered a possible bride for the Maharaja Duleep Singh [see below], but he declined to marry her. In 1860 she wed Colonel John Campbell - thirty-one years her senior - with whom she had a daughter - Edith Victoria Gouramma Campbell - born the following year. The Princess died of tuberculosis three years later - she was only twenty-two - and was buried at Brompton cemetery.

In Winterhalter's portrait, the Princess is holding a bible, an allusion to her conversion to Christianity.
Three photographs by Roger Fenton 1854.


The Maharaja Duleep Singh, 1854.

Maharaja Duleep Singh (also known as Dalip Singh; 6 September 1838, Lahore - 22 October 1893, Paris), the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire. He was Maharaja Ranjit Singh's youngest son, the only child of Maharani Jind Kaur. After the assassinations of four of his predecessors, he came to power in 1843, at the age of five. For a while, his mother ruled as Regent, but three years later, after the First Anglo-Sikh War, she was replaced by a British Council of Regency and imprisoned; mother and son were not allowed to meet again for thirteen and a half years. In 1849 the ten-year-old child was deposed and put into the care of a British governor who undertook a program of Anglicization; in 1853 he was converted to Christianity. (Something he later rebelled against, reconverting to his native Sikhism in 1886.) The following year, at the age of fifteen, he was exiled to Britain where he was befriended and much admired by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He quickly became a close personal friend of the Royal Family, visiting them at Osborne and attending court functions. He was granted an annual pension and lived lavishly in a series of leased estates in England and Scotland. In 1863 he purchased the Elveden estate in Suffolk, which he energetically restored, transforming it into an efficient game preserve, and it was here that he gained his reputation as the "fourth best shot in England". He married twice and had a total of eight children from his two marriages. Increasingly upset by the circumstances of his exile and his lack of personal freedom, though, he became involved in several intrigues to leave Britain and regain his throne. Continually thwarted by the British government, he was arrested in Yemen in 1886, during an attempt to return to India; it was there that he reclaimed his Sikh faith. He died in Paris seven years later, at the age of fifty-five. His wish that his body be returned to India was not honored, and his remains were brought back to Elveden Church, where he was given a Christian burial.

On the terrace at Osborne House, by Dr. Ernst Becker, 1854.
Photograph by John Jabez Edwin Mayall, circa 1861.
Photograph by JW Clarke : Bury St Edmunds, 1877.

 Adapted from the Royal Collection website:

Queen Victoria was captivated by Duleep Singh when first introduced to him in 1854, the year in which he was brought to England, writing, "Those eyes and those teeth are too beautiful." And she recorded in her journal on 10 July 1854 that, "Winterhalter was in ecstasies at the beauty and nobility of bearing of the young Maharaja. He was very amiable and patient, standing so still and giving a sitting of upwards of 2 hrs." Winterhalter's male portraits are rarely as romantic or exotic as this image, which places the young Maharaja in an imaginary landscape in Indian dress. He is shown wearing his diamond aigrette and star in his turban and a jewel-framed miniature of Queen Victoria by Emily Eden. During one of the sittings he was shown the Koh-i-Noor diamond that he had surrendered in 1849. Queen Victoria recorded how she had given him the newly recut jewel to inspect and that he then handed it back to her, saying how much pleasure it gave him to be able to make the gift in person. (Remarkably tactless, the Queen, as the famous diamond had been in every sense stolen by the invading British as a spoil of war, an action controversial even at the time. Now included among the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, the governments of India, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan have all claimed ownership of the Koh-i-Noor and demanded its return at various times in recent decades.)


  1. The portraits are beautiful. The Princess looks so sad in her photos.
    Where are the portraits now?

    1. Both of the Winterhalters are where they've always been: in the British Royal collection. : )