Friday 30 September 2022

Fairytale of Spanish flamenco dancer “Anita Delgado”: Nightclub of Madrid to Kapurthala's Royalty- Whom Maharaja Jagatjit Singh Married In 1908.

A Fairytale enduring legend of a Spanish flamenco dancer who became an Indian queen.

Among the many European women, who married Indian Maharajas, the most famous was Anita Delgado Briones. She was a Spanish flamenco dancer and singer from Andalusia who achieved fame for having married the Indian Maharaja of Kapurthala, thus becoming a Maharani of Kapurthala.

Jagatjit Singh, Maharaja of Kapurthala, saw Anita Delgado in night club performance when he visited Madrid in 1906 and fell in love with her.


Beguiling story of Delgado, a poor Spanish flamenco dancer who became an Indian royal in the first half of the 20th century. Maharaja of Kapurthala saw her and fell in love with her: A simple girl became a Maharani."

Jagatjit Singh (1872–1949) was an already-married 34-year-old king with a passion for all things French when he visited Madrid for a royal wedding in 1906. Mesmerized after watching a nightclub performance featuring the then 16-year-old Delgado, he pursued her and had her educated in Paris and Brussels.

They got married in 1907 and the following year he triumphantly returned to the small Punjabi kingdom of Kapurthala with a new wife—his fifth and allegedly his favourite. A Sikh ceremony followed and Anita Delgado became Maharani Prem Kaur.


She was suddenly thrust from an ordinary existence into an orbit of wealth, power and status in an exotic foreign land.


Among the many European women, who married Indian Maharajas, the most famous was Anita Delgado Briones. She was a Spanish flamenco dancer and singer from Andalusia who achieved fame for having married the Indian Maharaja of Kapurthala, thus becoming a Maharani of Kapurthala.


Anita Delgado Briones was born in 1890, in the small town of Malaga in southern Spain. Her parents ran a small café – La Castana, which also doubled up as a gambling den. The family was forced to migrate to Madrid, in search of livelihood.


The father failed to find any work and the family was hence going through a bad financial phase. It was during this time that Anita and her sister Victoria began to take dance lessons from a neighbour who taught for free.

The sisters began to dance to raise money for the family.In May, 1906, when Anita and her sister performed a curtain raiser act at the Kursaal Fronton, a modern nightclub in Madrid, things took a turn. The nightclub was frequented by the well heeled and crème de la crème.


The Maharaja Sir Jagatjit Singh Bahadur of Kapurthala who was there for the marriage of King Alfonso XIII of Spain in Madrid, watched her performance. The Maharaja mesmerized by her beauty, confessed his love for her on the morning after the performance.


He attempted to court her, formally too, through his secretary, but his approaches were rejected, and he left after the bombing of the royal couple (May 31, 1906). Later, however, her friends Romero de Torres, Ramón María del Valle-Inclán and Pastora Imperio convinced her to answer his messages and meet him in Paris.


Anita was packed off to Paris for training and grooming, to be able to wear the coveted crown. The Maharaja had her educated (including in French) and married her on 28 January 1908.

In Kapurthala, she married according to Sikh rites and took the name Prem Kaur. She made something of a splash in Indian high society, but was devastated to learn on her arrival that she was the maharaja's fifth wife.


She describes how four maids, each with a different function, formed her "walking bathroom". Her liberal-minded, Westernised husband allowed her considerable freedom of action, allowing her to live in her own quarters, outside the harem, but the British imperial authorities never recognised her as queen.

After marriage she changed her name to Maharani Prem Kumari. The couple later travelled in Europe and India, and she wrote a book about this time called "Impressions De Mis Viajes A Las Indias".

She also gave the Maharaja a son, Maharaj Kumar Ajit Singh, born on 26 April 1908, who was educated at Cambridge University and at the Military Academy, Dehra Dun. Assistant to the Indian Trade Commissioner in Argentina, he died in 1982.


Like all happy stories come to an end, she and The Maharaja fell apart as a result of her alleged extramarital affairs, including her affair with a son of the Maharaja from another wife.


After 18 years of marriage, Anita and the Maharaja divorced soon after. They separated and Anita stayed in Paris with her son. She died on 7 July 1962 in Madrid.


Delgado retained her Indo-Punjabi nationality, a life pension, her title as maharani, and all the gifts and jewels she had received during 18 years of marriage. In exchange, she was obliged to leave India and never remarry.

She returned to Europe, and lived in Malaga, Biarritz, Deauville and Paris, enjoying the company of her secretary, Gines Rodriguez de Segura, in a relationship she kept secret, and fearing the pension that supported them both in luxury would be stopped, until her death in Madrid in 1962.

Many of her possessions, including millions of pounds worth of jewels, were sent from India in a separate ship that sank in the Mediterranean. The maharaja's heirs are still trying to recover the treasure.

She died on 7 July 1962 in Madrid.

The End

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