Release of Prince, Patron and Patriarch: Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala
H.E. Mr Alexandre Ziegler, Ambassador of France to India, today released Prince, Patron And Patriarch: Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala by Brigadier H.H. Sukhjit Singh and Cynthia Meera Frederick, published by Roli Books.
New Delhi, 30 January 2019
The occasion marks “l’amitié Franco-Indienne”, the long-standing friendship between the two countries, and Maharaja Jagatjit Singh’s renowned relationship with France.
Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler hosted the event, which was followed by a reception, on Wednesday, 30th January 2019.
On this occasion of the launch, Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler remarked, “I am delighted to launch this book, which narrates the “love story” between Brigadier H.H. Sukhjit Singh’s grandfather, Maharaja Jagatjit Singh, and French heritage and culture in the twentieth century. The Maharaja’s affinity with France was such that he was known as ‘Le Roi de la Francophonie’ amongst his peers. The ties between India and France are deep, long-standing, and now developing at a rapid pace, especially with regard to academic cooperation. We wish to foster these ties by welcoming more Indian students to France and enhancing the partnerships between our top-notch academic institutions.”
Maharaja Jagatjit Singh (1872-1949) was a passionate Francophile. Known as “Le Roi Francophonie”, his affinity with France was exceptional amongst his princely peers and countrymen.
He was captivated by French language, culture and aesthetics - especially architecture, which was infused in Kapurthala once earning it the sobriquet of the “Paris of the Punjab”. He modeled Kapurthala’s beautiful Jagatjit Palace and the Château Kapurthala Mussoorie after architectural prototypes he admired in France such as Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Château Chaumont -sur- Loire.
The Maharaja traveled extensively across the world but was so attracted to France upon his first visit in 1893. He became a well-known fixture in Parisian society, cultivating a diverse circle of friends which included French Presidents. His annual sojourns to Paris lasted until the onset of WWII which curtailed his traveling outside India.
Co-author Cynthia Meera Frederick states, “Maharaja Jagatjit Singh’s unprecedented position as a global Indian was largely owed to his fluency in French. The language facilitated his ease in international society - not just in France but across the world. This literally transformed his milieu and expanded his horizons. The hashtag initiative #ChooseFrance and #ChooseFrench, to foster interest in France and learning French is so relevant in celebrating this book because of the tremendous impact of the French language and culture in that epoch and consequently his life.’
This command of the French language made Maharaja Jagatjit Singh a natural diplomat as he represented India at the League of Nations at Geneva in 1926, 1927 and 1929. In 1927, the Maharaja also represented India at the Inauguration of the War Memorial to the dead of the Indian Army in the Great War of 1914 - 1918, at Neuve Chapelle in France.
The greatest accolade accorded to Maharaja Jagatjit Singh by the French Government, was conferring upon him, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in 1926. His Heir Apparent, later Maharaja Paramjit Singh was similarly decorated in 1948 as were his sons Prince Amarjit and Prince Karamjit awarded the Legion of Honor.
It was an affinity for French architecture and aesthetics which connected the two authors. Frederick lived in a French Beaux - Arts style mansion which she and others sought to authentically restore working with conservation architects. Studying similar architectural examples of the early 20th century, she was fascinated to find this same French Mansard style roof in India at the Jagatjit Palace. Coincidently, she and Brigadier Sukhjit Singh met in New Delhi at a heritage preservation conference. She reflects, ’I am so incredibly fortunate I had the opportunity to study French which led to an appreciation of French architecture. This has evolved to an extraordinary journey of discovering Kapurthala and chronicling the life of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh.’
In addition to Maharaja Jagatjit Singh’s extensive ties to France, he was also witness to some of the most epochal events, both within India and across the global stage during his distinguished reign, which spanned almost 60 years. Prince, Patron and Patriarch explores the many hues and dimensions of his life, character, and achievements, encapsulated as a renowned traveler, an erudite Ruler, a Francophile, and a benevolent patriarch, devoted to his family and his constituents.
The monograph of this extraordinary life and dynamic personality is presented with components of a family album, historic journal, along with a design diary owing to the Maharaja’s renown as an aficionado of architecture and includes many never published archival images showcased alongside photographer Karam Puri’s vivid images.
Most unique in this volume are the personal insights shared by Brigadier Sukhjit Singh, who vividly reminisces about his illustrious Grandfather.
Brigadier H.H. Sukhjit Singh is the ninth titular Maharaja of Kapurthala. Educated at the Doon School, he went on to attend the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun. He was commissioned into the Scinde Horse Regiment of the Indian Army. He was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his gallantry whilst commanding the Scinde Horse during the 1971 Indo–Pakistan conflict. He rose to the rank of Brigadier and upon retirement, has been active in a number of philanthropic and charitable endeavours associated with education, heritage preservation, environmental issues and in the welfare of retired military personnel.
Chief Advisor to the Maharaja of Kapurthala, Cynthia Meera Frederick holds a B.A. in Art History from Wheaton College and has also worked with museums and private collections in the USA and in India. She is now responsible for the preservation of the Kapurthala private archives and is active in addressing heritage issues in Kapurthala as well as the state of Punjab. As a consultant to various production houses, including TV5 France and the BBC, she has helped in the creation of programmes and films depicting the region and is now collaborating on a visual documentary on Maharaja Jagatjit Singh currently in production.