The British Raj was the paramount power in India till 1947, but within that ambit they allowed the local Nawabs and Maharajahs to rule. This was after the proclamation by Queen Victoria in 1858, which guaranteed the Princes and Maharajas in India their dominions, subject to the over riding clause of British suzerainty.
One of the states that benefited from this policy was the state of Patiala, whose ruler Bhupinder Singh was a flamboyant ruler. Bhupinder Singh was born in 1891, but ascended the throne in 1900. At that time he was helped by a Regency council that functioned till 1909, when the Maharajah took complete control himself.
Bhupinder Singh was one of the most colorful Maharajahs of that period. He had many qualities and also served in the First World War. He was a man of taste and had a fleet of 20 Rolls Royce cars to take him around. In terms of women, he was voracious and married 10 wives with 85 children. In fact women found him irresistible and one English girl eloped with the Maharajah from Simla.
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She was the daughter of the Cin C of the British Indian army, Lord Kitchner. The general had made Simla his abode and also built a residence called ‘Wild Flower Hall’.
The maharajah who was frequent visitor to Simla had charmed the English girl and she eloped with him. This angered Lord Kitchner and he had the Maharajah banished from Simla. But Bhupinder Singh out of pique built his own hill station on an adjacent peak and named it Chail. Bhupinder was a frequent visitor o Europe and after the end of the First World War visited that continent a number of times. One of his visits to Germany in 1935 is important. During this visit, Bhupinder was given 10 minutes by Hitler. But such was the charm of the Maharajah that Hitler extended the meeting to over one hour and also invited him to lunch the next day. The next day Bhupinder Singh dined with Hitler and discussed all matters including the Raj with him. Hitler was suitably impressed.
Bhupinder Singh returned to India, but Hitler as a mark of his appreciation of the Maharajah presented him with a luxury Maybach sedan car. It is on record that Hitler presented only 3 cars to Asian rulers and Bhupinder Singh was one of them. The British were of course alarmed, but Bhupinder accepted the gift. The Car remained with the Royal Family of Patiala, till it was gifted away in 1957. But this Gift of Hitler will be remembered for long, though that was a bygone era.