Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK UK, Royal tribute to first Sikh settler

Prince Charles receives the sword of honour

The Prince of Wales has unveiled a statue of the UK's first Sikh settler, Maharajah Duleep Singh, the last ruler of the Sikh kingdom of Punjab.

The life-size bronze statue shows the ruler on a horse. It is on Butten Island in Thetford, Norfolk, near the Elveden Estate where the maharajah spent his years in exile. The statue was funded by the Maharajah Duleep Singh Centenary Memorial Trust. It is the culmination of six years' campaigning to have the maharajah commemorated. Project Director Harbinder Singh said: "The fact that Prince Charles has come here today is a fitting tribute to the relationship between the Sikh community and the royal family, which is based on mutual admiration."

The statue is believed to have cost about 100,000. He said it was an historic day which restored the maharajah to "his rightful place in history, not just for the Sikh community but for the British people as well".

After unveiling the statue, which was sculpted by Staffordshire-based artist Denise Dutton, the trust presented the prince with a sword of honour.

Royal crown

The maharajah ruled the Punjab for six years before being dethroned in 1849, after the British annexed his country.

The exiled Sikh became a friend of Queen Victoria, who was godmother to several of his children. He gave the Koh-i-noor diamond, which is the centrepiece of the Queen Mother's state crown, to the UK.

The maharajah spent most of his years of exile at the Elveden Estate in Suffolk, where he was buried after his death in 1893.

The hall there was recently used as the setting for part of Stanley Kubrick's last film, Eyes Wide Shut .

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid_407000/407061.stm


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Last modified 21 November 2000