Once things had settled down after the First World War, Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla decided to tour Britain, Europe and the United States in the summer of 1922. His visits to Britain were strategic and diplomatic in nature, for he could interact with various echelons of power in London, and reduce the influence and oppression of their governors and political agents in India. There was a keen desire too to observe and learn from the more advanced countries of the western world, and to implement measures in his principality that would benefit his subjects. He was also an eminent racehorse owner, and wanted to make his mark on the turfs of Britain and Europe.
It took three weeks in those days to travel by ship from India to Britain, and inland transportation too was not as swift as it is now. That entailed tours of several months. That year Maharaja Vijaysinhji decided to buy a sprawling estate known as The Manor, a 27-room Victorian mansion, on the banks of The Thames at Old Windsor, near London. He spent every summer there, except during the Second World War, and won the Irish Derby in 1926 and the Epsom Derby in 1934.
The New York Times published two reports on the Maharaja’s visit to the United States, which make interesting reading and provide an insight into the way of life in that era between the World Wars. The reports are reproduced below.
The New York Times
Published July 9, 1922
MAHARAJAH ON TOUR.
Rajpipla’s Ruler Will Devote 15 days to the United States.
The Maharajah of Rajpipla arrived yesterday on the Cunarder Berengaria to tour the United States in 15 days. He has already devoted the same amount of time in sizing up Europe. He is 32 years old and speaks English. The Indian Prince is accompanied by his uncle Kumar S. Digvijaysinh, who is Field Marshall of the army and Prime Minister of the State.
Rajpipla is one of the Rewakantha States of Gujarat. It has an area of 1,600 square miles, and a population of 100,000.
The New York Times
Published August 9, 1922
INDIAN MAHARAJAH SAILS FOR ENGLAND;
Ruler of Rajpipla Prolonged His Visit in United States to a Month.
NOW ON HIS WAY HOME
Much Impressed by His Visit to the White House and by the Stock Exchange.
The Maharajah of Rajpipla, one of the Rewakantha States of Gujarat, India, sailed yesterday for India via England on the Cunarder Berengaria. He expressed his gratitude for the kindness shown to him during his thirty days in the United States, which he spent chiefly in New York, Washington and the Long Island summer resorts. He had intended to stop only fifteen days, but he said everyone was so good to him that he couldn’t leave before.
The Maharajah went to Washington expressly to see President Harding, with whom he conversed for twenty minutes. He said the President spoke about India and said he had a relative in Burma. He was much impressed with the New York Stock Exchange. He went to baseball games which he thought resembled the English game of “rounders”, but were more scientific. He expressed admiration for American women and said he regarded them as the most smartly dressed women in the world.