The two sides of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla, the oriental and the occidental

Author, photographer and lecturer Vivian Charles Buckley, a good friend of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla wrote in 1934, “Whether at Windsor, where he owns an old manor house and stays each year for the summer, or in his State in India with its 250,000 population over which he rules, or at his residence in Bombay, the Maharajah of Rajpipla always has a smiling welcome for his many friends.”

Continued Buckley, “The Maharajah often comes to have meals at the guest house, and once or twice during a visitor’s stay will invite him to dine at the Palace. On these occasions the host wears white jodhpur breeches and a brocade coat buttoned up to the neck and reaching below the knees. In England, which he loves to visit, he only dons such clothes on State occasions, preferring for everyday wear, a well-cut lounge suit with usually a red carnation in his button-hole. At his Windsor house he entertains informally, partaking in a game of tennis or croquet, or a run in the motor-launch on the Thames, which flows beside the grounds. The long dining-table is adorned with racing trophies, and on Saturdays and Sundays one may be sure to find at least twenty people seated around it, as I did only last Sunday.”

By knowing the Maharajah I was able to see an Indian State,” reflected Buckley “and I was vastly struck by the interest he took in the welfare of his subjects and the quiet, dignified manner in which he attended to everything – affairs of State, sport and the job of being host.”

Years later, Marcus Marsh, trainer of Maharaja Vijaysinhji’s Derby-winning horse Windsor Lad, wrote in his book ‘Racing with the Gods’, “He was very kind-hearted and you couldn’t help liking him. The racecourse crowds were particularly fond of him and referred to him affectionately as ‘Mr. Pip’. He had a big Victorian mansion outside Windsor and lived in a romantic twilight world of the Charleston, champagne, and the like.”

Whenever I think of Pip,” mused Marsh “I see him in my mind’s eye emerging from his chauffeur-driven Rolls, beautifully turned out. In the state of Rajpipla, Pip ruled a-quarter-of-a-million subjects and his every wish was their command. They would fight for him, and, if need be, they would die for him.”

That was Maharaja Vijaysinhji, dignified and stately in Rajpipla, more relaxed and at ease with the gentry and the aristocracy in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.

A man of many parts, Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla was a benevolent ruler, sophisticated, world-class racehorse owner, gracious host, and patriot who smilingly handed over his 4,000 square kilometres Rajpipla State to the Indian Union when winds of change wafted in.

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