Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh
Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh, The second daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, was born on the 27 October 1871. She was the granddaughter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. As a child Princess Catherine accompanied her mother on several occasions to Europe when she visited her Uncle Wilhelm Alexander Muller in Switzerland. Later in life Princess Catherine often visited the other Muller family members in Germany, usually before or after her visit to the Bayreuth Festival. Between 1928-30 she made several trips to Switzerland visiting her uncle and his son Karl
It was under the care of the Mr and Mrs Oliphant, that Princess Catherine would meet her Governess, a certain Miss Fraulein ‘Lina’ Schafer, who was twelve years her senior. The German governess from Kassell would become the Princess’s life long confidante and would change her life forever. In addition to the governess, violin and singing tutors were also employed, and a swimming instructor. The following year Lina Schafer took the Princess to the ‘Black Forest’ in Kassell and Dresden. The odd-pair were forming a very special and intimate bond,
The Princess spent most of her life in Europe, shared between family in Switzerland and the company of Lina Schafer in Kassell. Lina died on the 27 August 1937 at the age of 78 and Princess Catherine was much grieved by her death. In Germany, Nazism was on the increase, and war was just around the corner. The Local Nazis disapproved of the old Indian lady. She now felt that Kassel had nothing to offer her, especially as Lina had departed. Her neighbour and accountant Dr Fritz Ratig warned her to leave the country. In November 1937 Princess Catherine sold everything and fled, arriving back in England via Switzerland
Singh spent most of her adult life with Lina Schäfer. During World War I she lived with Schäfer in Germany at the risk of being called a traitor. None of the family members seemed to have opposed this relationship. Schäfer died on 26 August 1938 at the age of 79, leaving the Princess deeply saddened.
In September 1890, Princesses Catherine and Bamba went off to Oxford at Somerville Hall, under Principal Miss Agnes Catherine Maitland, where Princess Catherine passed all her exams. Princess Catherine was growing up to become the most beautiful of the three sisters, her fair complexion, high cheek bones and slender figure, gave her a very European appearance.
Deep into the Second World War, with Nazi occupation spreading rapidly across Europe, Princess Catherine passed away peacefully in bed at night on Sunday 8 November 1942 at her home in Penn, aged 71.[i] The cause of death was said to be heart failure.[ii] It was her wish to be cremated and ‘Frank Perfect & Sons’ funeral directors had the responsibility for the delicate arrangements. On the 12th November her beautifully reefed coffin was placed at Coal Hatch House so all her servants and friends could pay their last respects before the cortege was borne from Penn to Golders Green in North London.[iii] The chief mourner and only family member present was Princess Sophia, Princess Bamba was absent; she was stranded in India because of the War.
|Family of Maharaja Duleep Singh|
- Shirley Phimister, 1999
- Letter to Pritam Singh from Karim Baksh, 18.11.1942
- Golders Green Crematorium, Register No. 55310.