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The Princesses arrive in England

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After settling her divorce with the Maharajah, in 1870 Lady Rundheer set sail to England with the two little daughters of the Raja of Kapurthala. She hoped to have them educated and live the lives of aristocratic Indian princess within British society, whilst also finding a new husband for herself.


From the palaces of Kapurthala, Lady Rundheer and her two young daughters settled in South Kensington at 16 Redcliffe Road, a four storey house, just walking distance from London’s Science and Natural History museums. According to the 1881 census, the three women lived in the house with occupations described as ‘Princess’ and ‘Dowager Ranee’ for Lady Rundheer Singh. They had two young female servants, a parlour maid and a cook, both born in Britain. The Rani kept her title and daughters’ royal statuses and raised them in the American mission. According to newspaper reports, together the Princesses would join their mother to attend annual missionary meetings and church parades.


Lady Rundheer Singh became a widow shortly after arriving in England, as the Raja had died near the Gulf of Aden in 1870 aboard the SS Golconda. As a window at the age of just 29, Lady Rundheer indulged herself in British high society, living off her riches and independence in London. She was an active member of the concert committee and Royal Albert Hall Amateur Orchestral society, regularly attending concerts, musicals and operas. In 1871 she then went on to marry Mr John Harmer Oliver, an assistant surgeon with the Royal Artillery at St George Bloomsbury.


The Rani did not hinder the independence of her daughters who followed their own paths into adulthood. On January 17th 1883 Lady Rundheer’s eldest daughter, Princess Melvina Rundheer Singh Ahluwalia married Major Arthur Gilbert Strong in Paris. Major Gilbert who lived in Kelvedon Lodge, Brentwood had served in India and became a member of the Indian Civil Service. After marriage they lived in Kelvedon at Kamra Lodge and became well known to the local public, being elite guests at church parades and community events. The couple had one son, named Arthur Stuart Ahluwalia Strong Gilbert, in 1883, continuing the dynastic name of Ahluwalia from Punjab’s misls. Arthur Stuart went on to becoming a renowned English literary scholar and translator and saw service in Burma during World War Two. Records describe that Arthur went onto marrying Marie Agnes Mathilde Mooune nee Douin, a French lady in 1919, and had a daughter named Madeleine Gilbert.


Although the Rani had remarried, her John Harmer Oliver died shortly after their marriage at the age young age 36. In 1893, at the age of 52 a tragic riding accident in Ongar, lead to the premature death of Lady Rundheer who was now Henrietta Olivier. She is buried in Doddinghurst, Essex next to her daughter Helen Marion of Kapurthala.

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