By P.T. Bopanna*
The explosive Oprah Winfrey interview with British royals Harry and Meghan Markle which made waves across the world has suddenly brought into focus the life and times of a Coorg Princess who was the goddaughter of Queen Victoria.
Queen Victoria was the godmother of Princess Gowramma (in picture), the daughter of the last Raja of Coorg, Chikka Veerarajendra, who was deposed by the British in 1834. Queen Victoria was present during Gowramma’s baptism by the Archbishop of Canterbury on June 30, 1852, and the princess was given the name Victoria Gowramma.
In the tell-all interview, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex told Oprah that life for her at one point had become so difficult that there were occasions when she “didn’t want to be alive any more”.
A historian Dr Priya Atwal, from London, shared a lengthy Twitter thread online highlighting some of the parallels between Meghan’s current situation and that of Princess Gowramma of Coorg, the adopted daughter who was given the trappings of royal life but wished for more privacy.
Dr Priya called the idea that Meghan is the first person of colour to be a member of the Royal Family ‘misleading’, and pointed to Princess Gowramma, who was born in 1841 in India.
She added: “She was brought to Britain in 1852 by her father, the deposed Raja of Coorg. The Raja campaigned to win back his family wealth from the East India Company, but also asked Victoria to adopt his daughter, believing the Queen would give her a good life. Gowramma particularly struggled with the attention and pressure of expectation placed on her to become a model Anglicised princess.”
After Coorg was annexed by the British in 1834, Chikka Veerarajendra, the last Raja of Coorg, was taken by the British to Vellore in Tamil Nadu, and then to Varanasi in 1835.
Chikka Veerarajendra, with two of his wives and his favorite daughter Gowramma sailed to England in 1852. He was the first Indian Raja to sail from India to England. He died in London in 1859.
Queen Victoria was keen to forge a matrimonial alliance between princess Gowramma and Maharaja Duleep Singh, son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, but the alliance failed to materialize.
Eighteen-year-old princess Gowramma fell in love with a 48-year-old widower Col. John Campbell and they were married in 1860. The marriage failed in a few years and a dejected princess succumbed to tuberculosis and passed away in 1864. The couple had a girl child who was named Edith Victoria Gowramma Campbell.
*Princess Gowramma’s story is sourced from the book ‘Discover Coorg’ authored by P.T. Bopanna. For the Kindle edition of the book, follow the link below: