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The Maharaja of Patiala - Sportsman and Statesman

One of the most colourful and influential of the Indian princes, Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, the Maharaja of Patiala (1891-1938), was an important customer of Westley Richards & Co. A Sikh, he was born at the Moti Bagh Palace in the Punjab and educated at the British-run Aitchison College in Lahore. He inherited his throne aged nine and a Regency council ran the state until he came of age, at 18, in 1909, and he was formally invested with full powers and honours by the Viceroy, the Earl of Minto in 1910. He made his first Westley Richards purchase in 1911.

An active figure - and a gifted cricketer who captained India in 1911- he was counted one of the most fervent allies of the British during the First World War. He served on the British General Staff, with the rank of honorary major-general and also represented India on the League of Nations in 1925. He also served as the chancellor of the Chamber of Princes and was regarded as the de facto leader of the Sikhs in India by some. He married several times and had a large number of children.

His passion for shooting was legendary, as was his passion for Rolls Royces. He was not only a crack shot, but an enthusiastic breeder of gun dogs and was President of the All-India Gundog League. His purchases from Westley Richards fill pages of the ledgers, and not only did he commission huge quantities of new guns, he also sent regular shipments of guns for repair. The Maharaja visited London, but also had a villa in Cannes, where on occasion Mr Redfern of the London shop would be despatched to take down orders.

The Maharaja of Patiala’s monogram and coronet

In 1920 alone, Patiala ordered a pair of .318 double rifles and a pair of .425 double rifles and a pair of .22 high-power double rifles, while in 1921 he acquired one .577 double rifle, one .318 double rifle and six 12 gauge top quality shotguns. One year an entire order had to be rebuilt and resent after it was lost at sea. A copy of a letter of 1925, in the Westley Richards archives, from Leslie Taylor to Mr Hutton of the Bureau of Scientific Taxidermy in Patiala State (Punjab), refers to orders that were being made ready for the Maharaja, who was expected in London after his service in Geneva at the League of Nations, and to discussions with Major Bowles, his military secretary. One bill for work sent to the Maharaja later that year, in October, was for £5,744 1s.

A selection of the Maharaja of Patiala’s guns as supplied by Westley Richards

The Maharaja often went shooting in Scotland that year. Westley Richards received a letter from the buying agents, Biddulph, Rawlins & Co. Ltd, dated 31 August 1925, in which they quote a detailed instruction from Major Bowles for a large supply of cartridges: “please get in touch with Messrs Westley Richards & Co. and ask them to have a consignment of about 250 cartridges of No. 318 rifle ready for His Highness during stag shooting in Scotland; also at the same time he requires a number of cartridges suitable for grouse shooting. They are to have these loaded, and the number of the shot is to be entirely left to them as they are more acquainted with what to use, but at the same time bring to their notice that His Highness is rather a quick shot and therefore may require a larger number of cartridges than what may usually be used in England. At the same time, His Highness should not be laden with too much ammunition.” 

The Maharaja of Patiala in his silver carriage at the time of the Delhi Durbar 1911 to celebrate the coronation of King Emperor George V

Patiala was then to depart for Dunrobin Castle, seat of the Duke of Sutherland on 2 October, after which he was to go to “the shooting box of Lord Fisher” Kilverstone House, near Thetford in Norfolk. These letters illustrate the scale of the custom provided by the Indian princes in these years, and the wide variety of orders they might receive from the Maharaja.

The Explora Blog is the world’s premier online journal for field sports enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, conservationists and admirers of bespoke gunmaking, fine leather goods and timeless safari clothes. Each month Westley Richards publishes up to 8 blog posts on a range of topics with an avid readership totalling 500,000+ page views per year.

Blog post topics include: Finished custom rifles and bespoke guns leaving the Westley Richards factory; examples of heritage firearms with unique designs and celebrated owners like James Sutherland and Frederick Courtenay Selous; the latest from the company pre-owned guns and rifles collection; interviews with the makers from the gun and leather factory; new season safari wear and country clothing; recent additions to our luxury travel bags and sporting leather goodsrange; time well spent out in the field; latest news in the sporting world; and key international conservation stories.


  • Enrico L. Appiano on January 18, 2023 at 8:38 am

    About 4o years ago I had the opportunity of admiring a cased pair of W. R. droplock, 20 gauge side by side shotguns, formerly belonging to H. H. the Maharaja of Patiala, on sale at H. & H.'s in London. Both wore the
    Maharaja's enamel portrait on the top lever. Probably the most beautiful and attractive shotguns I saw in my (long) life.

    • Guy Bignell on January 19, 2023 at 9:50 pm

      Was this a 20 bore, Fauneta, Drop Lock, Pair of W.R.'s. Built for The Maharaja in 1911. If so, Griffin & Howe sold this magnificent pair of guns twice.

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