Bhupinder Singh

Other names: 

Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala

Sir Bhupinder Singh


Marylebone Cricket Club NW8 8QN
United Kingdom
51° 31' 55.0524" N, 0° 10' 40.2708" W
Date of birth: 
12 Oct 1891
City of birth: 
Patiala, Punjab
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
23 Mar 1938
Location of death: 
Patiala, India

Born in 1891, Bhupinder Singh was put on the throne of Patiala State in 1901, a year after his father died. Patiala State was a Sikh Princely State in the Punjab. Bhupinder Singh was educated at Aitchison Chief's College in Lahore and was a talented polo and cricket player. In 1911, the Maharaja of Patiala captained the India XI that toured England. He played for various teams in India and as a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club for the season 1926/7. He contributed generously to the Indian Gymkhana Club in London which catered for Indian students and which with his donation was able to move to Osterley Park. He also founded the Sikh Dharamsala in Putney in 1911 (which later moved to Shepherd's Bush).

The famous ‘Patiala Necklace’, one of the most expensive pieces of jewellery ever made, was created for him by the house of Cartier in 1928. Besides his passions for beautiful women (he married ten times and had eighty-eight children) and sparkling gems, the Maharaja’s addiction to the prestigious Rolls-Royce Motor car practically kept the firm in business. In his garage at Moti Bagh, Patiala, the Maharaja had forty-four Rolls-Royces, all especially built for him.

Bhupinder Singh was extremely loyal to the British empire. In October 1914, he left Patiala with his Imperial Service Troops and headed for the Western Front to command his troops there for the British. However, on the journey over he was beset by ill-health and had to return to India. He did though donate his troops to the First World War and spearheaded a large recruitment drive for volunteers. Patiala State sent more than 28,000 men to fight in the war and their involvement encouraged other Sikhs in the Punjab to volunteer; nearly 89,000 Sikhs were involved in the war. The total financial contribution of Patiala to the war in terms of material and cash was Rs 1,17,16,822/6/2. Singh was a member of the Imperial War Council in 1918. After the Armistice, he was appointed Honorary Colonel of 1/140th Patiala Infantry, and had already been appointed Honorary Colonel of the 15th Sikhs. Singh was given Freedom of the City of Cardiff in 1918 and Freedom of Edinburgh in 1935. He was given the keys to Brighton in 1921 and unveiled the Southern Gateway of the Royal Pavilion there in October 1921, a gift from Indian princes for the kindness of Brighton to their wounded soldiers during the war.

Singh was awarded the GCIE in 1911, the GBE in 1918, the GCSI in 1921 and the GCVO in 1922. He also served as a representative of India at the League of Nations assembly in 1925. In 1919, during the 'Amritsar Massacre', the Maharaja gave aid to the British. Sir Michael O'Dwyer, Governor of the Punjab, remembers this assistance in his autobiography and his obituary of the Maharaja for The Times. His eldest son, Yadavindra Singh, succeeded him to the throne when he died in March 1938 in Patiala.


Prince Manek Pallon Bajana (team-mate in the 1911 India XI; played for Somerset, 1912-1920; died in Bethnal Green on 28 April 1927, aged 40), Shivajirao Geakwad, Maharajkumar of Baroda (son of Maharaja of Baroda, team-mate in the 1911 India XI; played for Oxford University CC 1911-1913), Bangalore Jayaram (team-mate in the 1911 India XI; played for London County Cricket Club, 1903-4), Edwin Montagu (Secretary of State for India, 1917-1922), Sir Michael O'Dwyer (Governor of Punjab), K. M. Panikkar (Secretary to the Chamber of Princes and later Foreign Minister to Patiala), S. P. Sinha (colleague on the Imperial War Cabinet).

Involved in events: 

First World War, 1914-1918

Unveiling of Southern Gateway of Royal Pavilion, Brighton, 26 October 1921


The Times, 14 June 1918 (for involvement in Imperial War Council)

The Times, 24 and 25 March 1938 (for obituary)

Secondary works: 

Bance, Peter, The Sikhs in Britain: 150 Years of Photographs (Stroud: Sutton, 2007)

Copland, Ian, The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917–1947 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Panikkar, K. M., The Indian Princes in Council: A Record of the Chancellorship of His Highness the Maharaja of Patiala, 1926–1931 and 1933–1936 (London: Oxford University Press, 1936)

Patiala and the Great War: A Brief History of the Services of the Premier Punjab State (London: Medici Society, 1923)

Ramusack, Barbara N., ‘Punjab States, Maharajas and Gurdwaras: Patiala and the Sikh community’, in R. Jeffrey (ed.) People, Princes and Paramount Power: Society and Politics in the Indian Princely States (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp. 170-204

Ramusack, Barbara N., The Princes of India in the Twilight of Empire: Dissolution of a Patron–Client System, 1914–1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978)


Obituary, in The Times, 24 March 1938, p. 19


Two columns dedicated to the life of the Maharaja of Patiala.


Widely known as a sportsman, he was a striking and forceful Ruler. Physically he was a big man, and until frequent illness told on him his tall and handsome figure, fine expresive features, and luminous eyes suggested the flower of Oriental aristocracy.

Archive source: 

India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Patiala State Records and Records of the Chamber of Princes, Punjab State Archives, Patiala City, Punjab

Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London