History of the Kapurthala Royal Family
In 1846 after the annexation of Punjab by the British East India Company, the Sikh misls lost full control over their state regions and Ranjit’s empire was rapidly dismantled. As a result clans such as the Ahluwalia misl existed as royal families. The decedents of the Ahluwalia Misl became the ruling family of the Kapurthala state located in the Northern region of Punjab.
Prominent royals of the Kapurthala dynasty include Anita Delgado, also known as Rani Prem Kaur, a Spanish dancer who married Maharajah Jagatjit Singh in 1908. She became the Rani of Kapurthala and stylishly wore jewellery specially designed for her by Cartier, Van clef and Arpels. Another well known Kapurthala Princess was Princess Indira Devi, granddaughter of Jagatjit Singh, who left her lifestyle in India to become an actress in London. However the outbreak of World War Two made her BBC’s radio host for Indian transmission, working alongside George Orwell. Nicknamed the ‘Radio Princess’, Indira Devi was also known to have driven Red Cross Buses during the Blitz in London. Indira’s sister, Princess Sita Devi of Kapurthala was also prominent as a trend setter and icon of style. She was a popular figure in the 1930’s and was a muse for several photographers, including Man Ray. Her style coined her as ‘the secular Godess’ by vogue.
What seems to be traditional amongst Kapurthala’s Princesses, Princess Helen Marion of Kapurthala equally deviated from royal expectations and lived an extraordinary life after moving to England. Her father was Raja Randhir Singh of Kapurthala, who became the ruler of the princely state of Kapurthala in 1831 after the death of his father Nihal Singh Sahib Bahadur. By this time Kapurthala was a British protected state. Raja Randhir Singh was known to have supported the British forces during the Indian mutiny of 1857 and as a result he received the most exalted order of the Star of India during the Indian rebellion. Raja Randhir Singh became the only Punjab Prince to ever receive this honour from Queen Victoria. He was also the first of the Punjab rulers after Maharajah Duleep Singh to attempt to go to England.
The Kapurthala Rajahs were known to marry European women and often having several wives. The Kapurthala court at various times consisted of a Spanish dancer from Madrid, a Czech theatre actress who was a daughter of a Hungarian count and a Yorkshire lady from the East End of London who was a dancer in Paris. Rajah Randhir Singh had three wives, his final being Henrietta Melvina Hodges from whom he had three daughters: Princesses Victoria, Melvina and most famously Helen Marion.