Princess Bamba Sutherland

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Princess Catherine, Bamba & Sophia

Princess Bamba, the Maharajah's eldest daughter, was born on the 29 September 1869 in London, a year after Prince Frederick. She was baptised Bamba Sofia Jindan Duleep Singh, named after her mother and grandmothers’ respectively.

Princess Bamba enrolled at Somerville Hall School, Oxford, with her sister Princess Catherine. Whilst Catherine passed all her examinations, Princess Bamba was not so good in her studies, poor in French prose and translation, but she succeeded in grammar. At the end of the term the sisters came back from Oxford to London with Miss Schafer, which they spent by going to the local concerts and Operas

In 1915, Princess Bamba at the age of 46, married Lieutenant-Colonel David Waters Sutherland,. an Indian Army doctor, who later became the Principal at King Edwards Medical College, Lahore, from 1909 to 1921.

She frequently visited India during the days of the British Raj, but after arriving back in Britain in 1946, the country was partitioned a year later. India became Independent, which resulted in the formation of Pakistan. The Punjab suffered the greatest with the border between the two nations split right down the middle of the Punjab. Princess Bamba’s beloved Punjab and the Kingdom of her forefathers was no more in existence. In the following year Princess Sophia died, leaving Princess Bamba very lonesome. Her health started failing further after the death of her little sister but she kept herself going by keeping busy and moving from one of her homes to another. Hilden Hall was left to Princess Sophia, who in turn had left it to Bamba. But the Princess gave up the grace and favour home at Hampton Court[i] and began to share her time between Penn and Blo Norton.

Back in England, Princess Bamba began styling herself as the Queen of Punjab. She had her father’s rebellious side and seemed the more aggrieved one.[ii] On visiting Jarrolds, the high Street bookstore in Norwich, she demanded her driver George Davey to park outside the store, causing traffic. A Policeman requested ‘Madam, please move the car’ she replied in her stern voice ‘Do you know who you are talking to, I am the Queen of the Punjab’[iii]. The grumpy Queen would dress in her finery when visited by her Sikh countrymen at Blo Norton, who had started migrating toat the turn of the century. She would sit and take in all the attention she could get from them.[iv] During this period she was visited by her cousin Karl Wilhelm[v], grandson of Ludwig Muller, at Hilden Hall, by which time she was already dreaming of going back to India in order to die there.[vi] In his memoirs Karl Wilhelm referred to Bamba as ‘the true heiress of Ranjit Singh’ meaning that she was most conscious of the actually desperate situation of the whole family. ‘She considered the Punjab and Kashmir as the lost possession of her family and was absolutely furious when the border between Pakistan and India was drawn right across the Punjab.’ In Princess Bamba’s eyes, Pakistan or India did not exist, there was just the Punjab and its capital Lahore.

A neighbour in Lahore recalled ‘Old Princess Sutherland, the last descendant of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, complained that she could not get a seat on the bus, when all Punjab should have been hers! The old lady spent her days dreaming about her ancestral glory’[vii] On the 10 March 1957 Princess Bamba died of heart failure at the age of 89. She had outlived her entire family and the final chapter of a tragic story was completed and finally laid to rest. Her funeral was conducted in a Christian ceremony in Lahore. Her rites witnessed by a select few Pakistani dignitaries. But due to the sensitive relations between India and Pakistan at the time, who had just fought a war some years earlier, there were sadly no Sikhs present at Princess Bamba’s funeral.

Family of Maharaja Duleep Singh

Parents
Maharaja Ranjit SinghMaharani Jind Kaur
Wife
Maharani BambaMaharani Ada
Children
Sons
Prince VictorPrince FredrickPrince Albert Edward
Daughters
Princesses Sophia Duleep SinghPrincess Bamba Sutherland‎Princess Catherine Hilda Duleep SinghPrincess PaulinePrincess Irene

References

  1. Faraday House at Hampton Court was given back to the Crown Estate Commissioners in 1955
  2. Brue Reeves, 1997, ex-resident of Blo Norton
  3. Bruce Reeves, 1997, ex-resident of Blo Norton
  4. Temple in the Woods, The Journal 18.10.1968
  5. Karl Wilhelm Alexander Muller (1899-1999)
  6. Karl Wilhelm Muller
  7. Tandon, P (1963),Punjab Cenrtury, p242