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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

India

Sword and scabbard c.1902

Gold, coloured enamel, diamonds, steel | Sword 88.5 cm long, scabbard: 89.7cm long (whole object) | RCIN 11288

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This exceptionally rich sword and scabbard was presented to Edward VII on the occasion of his coronation by Sawai Sir Madho Singh Bahadur (1861-1922), Maharaja of Jaipur. Madha Singh was one of the small group of Indian princes and nobles invited to attend the ceremony at Westminster Abbey in June 1902. For the journey to England he chartered a ship which was fitted with large copper vats containing sufficient Ganges water to sustain him and his retinue of 400 followers throughout both sea passages and whilst in England. At the eleventh hour, after their arrival in London together with large numbers of other foreign royalty and heads of state, the coronation was cancelled due to the King's appendicitis. It did not in fact take place until 9 August, by which time most of the royal guests had departed for home. The Maharaja, however, duly attended the postponed ceremony, having spent the intervening period staying at Kedleston Hall and other country houses, closely attended at all times by his cook and his jeweller.

The importance of the jeweller in the Maharaja's household is clear from this coronation gift, which is set with a total of 719 diamonds. These include a large number of rose-cut and brilliant-cut stones as well as the flat, 'lasque' stones more commonly used in Indian jewellery, and it is possible that many of them were cut in Europe. They are held in 'rub-over' gold settings and backed with silver foil, which makes it impossible to assess their total weight with precision. The largest appear to be the two mixed-cut pale yellow diamonds at the end of the quillons, one of which is estimated at thirty-six carats. The combined weight of all the diamonds is possibly in the region of two thousand carats. The scabbard and hilt are of gold, finely enamelled in dark blue, green and red. The blade is inscribed with the words A TOKEN OF THE LOYALTY OF / SAWAI MADHO SINGH / MAHARAJA OF JAIPUR / 9th AUGUST 1902.

Swords were often used as gifts being symbols of power faith and loyalty, in this case it is the richness of the diamonds rather than the quality of the blade that is conveying the message of the importance of the Maharaja of Jaipur.

This magnificent sword which is now displayed as part of the Indian collection at Buckingham Palace can be seen as perhaps the pinnacle of one such relationship he formed in India.