Maharajah Duleep Singh was born in Lahore in 1838, and came to the throne of the Punjab at the age of five years. After the annexation of the Punjab to British territories, the young Duleep Singh was brought to England in 1854.
The Maharajah owned the Hatherop Estate, of which Macaroni Farm is a part, for five years during the 1850s and it has become local legend that an over-sized barn complete with a large arched entrance and sloping floor was built to house elephants that were going to be imported to carry out farm work.
Her Majesty Queen Victoria showered affection upon the turbaned Maharajah, as did the Prince Consort. The unlikely of alliances saw the start of a relationship of love, loyalty and later hostility.
The Maharajah was looked upon as an adopted son of Her Majesty, encouraged to mingle with the Royal household, play with the younger Princes and holiday with them at Osborne House.
In 1862, Ashley Ponsonby put the Haethrop Estate which included Eastleach, for sale by auction. It was bought by the Maharajah Duleep Singh.
Whilst he was the owner he is said to have built oversized barns, to house his elephants which can still be seen at Macaroni Farm, Eastleach.
His princely appearance and native ways were a sheer joy for the Royal Family. Even Queen Victoria attempted her art skills by drawing sketches and watercolours of the handsome Sikh king in her sketchpad. The Maharajah’s fondness of the weak Prince Leopold was touching, whilst his friendship with the Prince of Wales remained until the end.
The committed Queen and Prince Consort became the godparents to Duleep Singh’s eldest son Prince Victor, who the Maharajah named after the Queen. Invited to almost every Royal gathering and wedding of his day, the Maharajah’s presence added a zest to every occasion.
The wild-spending Maharajah had all the ingredients of a Victorian Prince, besides being a serial playboy, he was an avid shooting squire who knew how to throw a party. His fondness of the highlife was a contributor to his demise if the injustice of the British establishment was not entirely to blame.
Their inability to keep their promises drove the Maharajah to foreign meddlers, but his allegiance to other European superpowers proved less successful. He died alone and in poverty in a hotel room in Paris in 1893.