A pair of gold pendant earrings from the collection of Maharani Jind Kaur, the last Sikh Queen of the Punjab, will be auctioned as part of the Islamic and Indian sale in London later this month.
The earrings, which belonged to the youngest wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, are estimated to fetch between £20,000 and £30,000 when they go for sale at Bonhams on April 24.
Jind Kaur, who was the only wife of Ranjit Singh not to commit sati on his funeral pyre following his death in 1839, went on to be appointed the defacto ruler of Punjab before being captured by the British during the Raj era. It was only many years later when she arrived in England that her jewellery, including the earrings on sale, were handed back to her.
“These gold earrings are beautiful pieces of jewellery in their own right. They are also an important reminder of a courageous woman who endured the loss of her kingdom, and persecution and privation, with great dignity and fortitude,” said Oliver White, Bonhams head of Islamic and Indian art.
When Jind Kaurs five-year-old son Duleep Singh was proclaimed Maharaja of Punjab in 1843, she was appointed Regent. The Punjab empire at the time stretched from the Indian Ocean to the Himalayas and the court was fabled for its artistic and scientific achievements and opulence and riches.
The East India Company invaded and annexed Punjab, despite armed opposition organised and led by Jind. She was deposed in 1846, separated from her son and imprisoned.
According to Bonhams historians, the Maharanis personal wealth was confiscated and the state Treasury plundered by the British Army. The famous Koh-i-Noor diamond and the Timur Ruby were sent back to London as gifts for Queen Victoria.
Jind Kaur made a daring escape from captivity, and fled to Kathmandu where the King of Nepal kept her under virtual house arrest at the direction of the British, who saw her as a continued threat. Duleep was sent to England, converted to Christianity and adopted as a godson by Queen Victoria.
Mother and son were eventually reunited after 13 and a half years apart in 1861 when Jind Kaur moved to England to be with her son Duleep. She died in 1863, her health broken by the years of hardship.
After Jind Kaur’s death, Duleep’s attempts to return to the Punjab, and fulfil his mother’s dream of assuming his ancestral position, were thwarted by the British government.
He died in Paris at the age of 55 and his daughter Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, went on to become a prominent suffragette who fought for women’s right to vote in the UK.