Anita Delgado

Anitadel1Art deco necklace with diamonds, emeralds and rock crystal – One of the eight Anita Dwelgado jewles to be auctioned in London.

The jewels belonging to Spanish Flamenco dancer Anita Delgado, who became Princess in Kapurthala, are to be sold in Christie's in London on December 12 2007.

The story which scandalised Spanish society – the real-life fairytale of the teenage flamenco dancer who married a prince – began in Madrid in 1906 with the marriage of Alfonso XIII of Spain to Victoria Eugenie of Battenburg. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and also the grandmother of the current King of Spain, Juan Carlos I.

An Indian Prince was amongst the British contingent attending the celebrations with the Prince of Wales, and fell madly in love with a young girl he saw dancing in the Café Kursal one night in Madrid: 16 year old Anita Delgado from Málaga, who had recently moved to the Spanish capital with her family. 34 year old Jagatjit Singh, the Maharaja of Kapurthala, was captivated by the young teenager, but his attempts to win her over were at first rejected out of hand. He left for France after an assassination attempt was made on the royal couple, but continued his courtship from Paris. Anita finally agreed to marry him, and travelled to Paris, and was installed in a luxurious palace. She was not to meet the prince again until she had learnt French: she was also instructed in all the social niceties of the time, before travelling to Kapurthala for her marriage.

The couple married in January 1908, in a traditional Sikh wedding where the young girl from Málaga arrived for the ceremony on the back of an elephant. She took the name of Prem Kaur.
Anita Delgado spent the next 18 years of her life in Jagatjit Singh’s kingdom in the foothills of the Himalayas, as the Maharaja’s fifth wife and the Maharani of Kapurthala. The couple had one son, Ajit Singh. She lived a life of unbelievable luxury, showered with jewels, and travelling widely throughout India with her husband, as well as to Europe and the Americas, followed by crowds of paparazzi wherever they went. Her husband even built her a palace modelled on Versailles.

The fairytale came to an end after a visit to London in 1924, when her husband heard that she had had an affair with one of her stepsons. The couple lived separately until their divorce in 1925, and Anita left India for good. The Maharaja allowed her to keep her title of Maharani and all the gifts she had received during their marriage, and gave her a life pension. She also kept her Indo-Punjabi nationality.
Part of the agreement, however, was that she could never remarry and must never return to India.
She took with her on her return to Europe all the skills of her life as a Maharani: how to play the piano, how to dance and conduct herself in high society. She was also able to speak fluent French and English by this time.

The opulent lifestyle continued in Europe where the Maharani became involved in a secret relationship with her secretary, Gines Rodríguez Fernández de Segura, which endured for the rest of her life until her death in Madrid in 1962.

The Spanish author, Javier Moro, tells the remarkable tale of the dancer who became a princess in his fictional biography, ‘Pasión India’ – ‘India Passion.’ As the author himself says on the back cover of the book, he had no need to invent anything, but chose a novel as the medium best suited to expressing the ‘colours and the smell of India, the eccentricities of the last Maharajas and the irresistible personality of Anita Delgado ..’

He was contacted by a niece of the Maharani’s after his book was published, who he met in Madrid in 2005. Moro says this elegant 85 year old woman, Adelina Rodríguez, greeted him at the residential home where she lived in the city centre bedecked in some of the jewellery she inherited from Anita, whose grandmother was sister to her own mother.

But the connection went much further than that: the author was shown an album of photos, which included photos of a relative of Anita’s from Málaga, a widowed stock broker and a member of parliament during the Second Republic who was exiled to France with the outbreak of the Civil War. ‘He was my father,’ said Adelina, ‘the princess’s secretary.’

Anitadel2A diamond and ruby necklace dating from the start of the 20th century.

The Spanish actress, Penelope Cruz, bought the screen rights to the book, casting herself in the starring role alongside Bollywood co-stars in a silver-screen adaptation of Anita’s astonishing life story.
The Maharaja’s descendants have been trying to block the project, describing it as a ‘scandalous portrayal’ of what really took place. Jagatjit Singh’s great-grandson, Shatrujit Singh, described Javier Moro’s account as ‘a creation of the imagination of a mentally sick author, who humiliated the memory of my great-grandfather.’

Perhaps the final stage in this tale of rags to riches will come then this December, when the Maharani’s jewellery is auctioned at Christie’s in London on the 12th of the month. Christie’s Director of Asian Art, Amin Jaffer, describes the collection as ‘a symbol of cross-cultural love and taste, bringing together Indian princely patronage with the finest European craftsmanship and design.’
They are eight pieces which were bought from Anita’s Delgado’s son, Ajit Singh, after his mother’s death, and include a magnificent emerald, diamond, and rock crystal Art Deco necklace, designed in Europe, which the Maharani received as a gift from her husband on her nineteenth birthday.
The necklace was previously an adornment for the Maharaja’s favourite elephant and is valued at up to 100,000 pounds. The total collection is expected to realise more than 200,000 pounds.

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