Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When the entire British royal family saw an Indian prince win their greatest race at the height of the Raj. Excerpts from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘A Maharaja’s Turf’


At the head of the great cosmopolitan assembly on the Epsom Course were King George V and Queen Mary. Their Majesties left Buckingham Palace by car at 12.20 p.m. Just before the King’s car drove out of the garden gate, Prince Albert and Princess Elizabeth - the Duke and Duchess of York - who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, parents of the present Queen Elizabeth II; and Princess Mary - the Princess Royal - and her husband Lord Harewood, drove into the palace quadrangle. Their cars waited at the side of the forecourt and then as the royal car drove out, followed in procession. Prince Henry - the Duke of Gloucester - who was staying at Buckingham Palace, was in one of the cars. One of Queen Victoria’s great-grandsons, King George II of Greece - then in exile but destined to become monarch again the next year - also travelled with the royal party. The King and Queen led the procession of royal cars from London to Epsom, each of which had a crown on the front for the guidance of traffic police. 

A large crowd assembled at the back of the stands to witness the arrival of the King and Queen who received a tremendous ovation. Some had been waiting more than an hour. The royal party arrived at the stands at one o’clock and as their Majesties alighted amid light rain a great cheer went up. The royal visitors were received by the stewards Lord Lonsdale, Lord Rosebery and the Marquess of Crewe. They immediately walked to the royal apartments in the grandstand, where lunch had been prepared for them. The Prince of Wales, who succeeded his father just about a year and a half later as King Edward VIII, but abdicated within eleven months, choosing marriage to the twice-divorced American Mrs. Wallis Simpson; and Prince George - Duke of Kent - motored to Epsom from Fort Belvedere, Sunningdale, reaching just in time to see the second race. Interestingly, the Prince of Wales, after his abdication as King in 1936, became Duke of Windsor. Prince and Princess Arthur of Connaught, and Prince and Princess Christian of Hesse and their young daughter, Princess Augusta, also attended. 

The King wore morning clothes and a silk hat. The Queen was in a dress of delicate pearl grey wool georgette with a vest of chiffon - on which a large aquamarine and diamond brooch were pinned - with a toque to match.

Stafford Sentinel reported: “The King raised his hat again and again to the cheers, and the Queen bowed. The Duchess of York was a smiling figure in blue with a white fox collar. The Princess Royal wore a broad-brimmed green hat with a costume of the same colour. Mounted police and other officers had some difficulty in clearing a path along the road for the royal cars.”

When he entered the royal box, the King, without a single detective to guard him while he watched the race, congratulated Lord Lonsdale on not being hurt. Glasgow Bulletin observed, “During the proceedings, the King, the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and most of the royal party had gazed down from their high vantage point, observing the great demonstration and appearing extremely pleased with all they saw.”

* * * * *

One of the first newspapers to report this glorious win was The Evening News of that Wednesday, 6th June 1934.

Owner, Jockey, Trainer Say

EPSOM, Wednesday,

Trust the London crowd to find a name they can pronounce for someone whose name presents a little difficulty! Thus His Highness The Maharaja of Rajpipla became “Good old Pip” to the crowd on Epsom Downs this afternoon. “Good old Pip” shouted a thousand voices as the Maharajah led in his horse after the race. His dark face was all smiles, and he waved his hat gaily to the crowd. “… very, very happy indeed,” he said to me in the unsaddling enclosure. “I knew the horse was good, and said so from the beginning. I am glad that he has won, not only for my own sake, but also for all the people who had faith in him. Since I came to England the British public have given me a wonderful reception. Now I am glad to be able to give them something in return.” The Maharajah was then escorted to the Royal box by Lord Lonsdale and was heartily congratulated by the King and the Royal party.

“Winning All The Time”

Charlie Smirke, the jockey, was delighted with himself and with Windsor Lad. He said to me: “I felt that I was winning all the time. From Tattenham Corner I was sure. Tiberius was the only horse in front of me, and I knew I could go to the front when I wanted to. Once I had taken the lead Windsor Lad went on to win.”

Mr. M. Marsh, Windsor Lad’s trainer, had just one thing to say, and he said it with a grin, “I told you so. In fact I’ve been telling you for weeks. Windsor Lad is a great horse, he won a great race, and I’m not a bit surprised.”

Just a word from Johnstone, Colombo’s jockey: “I was not unlucky. I had every chance, but it couldn’t be done.”

There will be great rejoicings in Old Windsor at Windsor Lad’s victory. The Maharajah of Rajpipla has an estate there, and they say that every man, woman and child in the village had “a bit on” Windsor Lad. Most of the people of Old Windsor were at Epsom to see the race. Their cheers when “their” horse won was the loudest of all.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh - grandson of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla - can be contacted on email and His other blog is

A Maharaja’s Turf  

ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6

Distributed in India by :  
Variety Book Depot, 
AVG Bhawan, M-3, Middle Circle, Connaught Circus,
New Delhi - 110 001.  Tel. (011) 23417175, 23412567.

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