The plates are from a dessert service which belonged to Sir Vijaysinhji, the last Maharaja of Rajpipla and the 36th and last ruler of the 600 year old Gohil Rajput dynasty, affectionately known as ‘Mr Pip’. Dating to around 1921, they were made by Mintons of Stoke-on-Trent and ordered through T Goode & Co Ltd of London (Thomas Goode) to furnish the Maharaja’s luxurious Old Windsor home, ‘The Manor’.
The Minton Pattern Book for 1921/22 describes pattern H3564 as follows:- “9 inch WorDess [presumably an abbreviation of Worcester Dessert- referring to the shape of the plate]: Egg yellow band, Aidneys Black print. Wreath printed in purple, coloured by women, acid band at edge.” Underneath the pattern is noted “T. Goode Oct. 1921” Interestingly, Thomas Goode’s website has an archive page featuring plates from important commissions which includes a plate, with coat of arms, from another service commissioned for the Maharaja of Rajpipla.
In the 1920s and 30s, wealthy and glamorous members of the Indian royal families were the celebrities of the day and people were fascinated by their exoticism and high profile, often extravagant, lifestyles. Mr Pip was very comfortable socialising amongst the English aristocracy and became friends with members of the British royal family, movie stars, European aristocrats and the novelist, Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. The Maharaja’s fourth wife was an English socialite, Ella Atherton, who took the Hindu name of Maharini Ella Devi Sahiba. The couple had two children, Prince Rajsingh and Princess Premila.
At the centre of each plate, the coat of arms of Rajpipla is depicted. This was granted to Sir Vijaysinhji's ancestor, Maharana Shri Gambirsinhji Vairisalji (1860-1897) at the Durbar in Delhi in 1877. The description states:-
“Arms: Azure, on a pale wavy betwen two galleys Argent, three cannon Gules, pointed to the sinister.
Crest: On a helmet to the dexter, lambrequined Azure and Argent, a bull statant.
Supporters: Two Bhils armed with bow and arrow.
Motto: Rewah Jine Kanté.”
The Maharaja, was born on 30th January 1890 at Chhatravilas Palace, Nandod (New Rajpipla) and educated at Rajkumar College, Rajkot, where he became head boy in 1908. He received a knighthood (Knight Commander Star of India) on 1st January 1925 and GBE (Knight Grand Cross) on 1st January 1945.
The Prince succeeded to the throne upon the sudden death of his father, Maharaja Chhatrasinhji, in 1915. He is described as being small, dark, handsome and exceedingly charming with a generous and kindly spirit. He was a benevolent ruler who was a markedly forward thinking social reformer and he worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his people, modernise the state of Rajpipla and further its development. He became one of the leading members of the ‘Chamber of Princes’ until the principality of Rajpipla merged with the Indian Union in 1948.
From an early age, the prince showed great sporting ability. He was an accomplished rider and marksman and horse racing was his greatest passion. Later in life, the Rajpipla royal family fielded its own polo team, comprising Maharaja Vijaysinhji and three of his sons. However, he is perhaps best remembered for being one of India’s most successful racehorse owners, boasting a large stable of horses, his greatest feat was in winning three of the world’s greatest and most prestigious horse races; the Indian, Irish and English Derby races.
Mr Pip liked to spend the summers in England, where he owned a small estate and large, 25 roomed property in Old Windsor, called ‘The Manor’. Frequent parties were held there with lavish celebrations following his 1934 Derby win.
The Maharaja signed the instrument of accession to the Dominion of India on 15th August 1947, which merged Rajpipla State into the Bombay Presidency on 10th June 1948. Somewhat disillusioned and saddened by the loss of Rajpipla, he left India and returned to England, taking up permanent residence at his home in Windsor until his death in 1951. A bronze statue of Maharaja Vijaysinhji on horseback still adorns the main square of Rajpipla town.
These fine plates are rare and evocative reminders of an extraordinary ruler, living a luxurious and glamorous life during the period often termed ‘The Golden Age of the Maharajas’.
Provenance: Purchased within the UK from the Maharaja’s descendants
Size: Diameter 9 inches, 23cms (approx)
Indra Vikram Singh, ‘A Maharaja’s Turf’, 2011, Sporting Links, India
Indra Vikram Singh, ‘Birth Anniversary of Maharana Shri Sir Vijaysinhji, GBE, KCSI, Maharaja of Rajpipla’
Indra Vikram Singh,’Birth Anniversary of Maharana Shri Sir Vijaysinhji, GBE, KCSI, Maharaja of Rajpipla’
The Minton Archive, Minton Pattern Book H3500 - H3599, 1921-1922 (Reference: SD 1705/MS2187)