The Last Maharaja: A Biography of Sawai Man Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur by Quentin Crewe - review by Charles Allen

Charles Allen

Playboy Prince

The Last Maharaja: A Biography of Sawai Man Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur


Michael Joseph 258pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

The news that Sawai Man Singh II, ruler of Jaipur from 1921 until the merger of his state into Rajasthan in 1949, was The Last Maharaja will come as a surprise to the 500 or so Maharajas, Rajas, Nawabs and Raos still ekeing out a quasi-princely existence in India and Pakistan today. If by Last Maharaja Quentin Crewe wishes us to consider his subject in some way remarkable – as the last of his kind or as a beau ideal among princes or even on the strength of his personality – then his efforts are misplaced. If, on the other hand, this is intended to be a portrait of a certain type of Indian prince – a signal example of one of the many who lost their way in the inter-war years, unable to choose between the demands of feudal tradition and the twentieth century – then it has to be said that The Last Maharaja is altogether too comfortable in its assumptions to make for easy reading.

Perfectly amiable, greatly beloved by his subjects (but then so was his neighbour, Jai Singh of Alwar, who tied up old widows for tiger-bait), exceedingly rich and parsimonious (and how often the two go hand in hand), self-indulgent but rarely indulgent to others, politically short-sighted (but with enough sense to

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