JUST WHO WAS MAYURA JUNG KUNWAR?

Representing his father as a vakil, an envoy, at Calcutta was a choicest job for Colonel Rana Jung Bahadur Rana. The British Raj was at peace with Nepal after Maharajah Jung Bahadur’s assistance during the Indian Mutiny. The grateful Raj had given back to Nepal some of the territories that it had lost during the Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-16 A.D. Jung had received further accolades from the Viceroy in person in Calcutta in 1873 A.D. when he was awarded the recently constituted order to decorate the chivalrous in the Indian Subcontinent – Knight Grand Commander of the Order of Star of India (GCSI). A number of Jung Bahadur’s children had accompanied the father including his son Rana Jung, born in 1854 A.D. Rana Jung was indeed fortunate to be left behind there for higher education. He had the perfect mettle for emerging as a new medium to conduct diplomacy at their own terms; fluent in English, a bon vivant for the ladies to marvel at and for the men to envy. A new type of man would emerge from the mountains of Nepal shedding the influencing Mughal and Persian manners and mores of the Nepalese court and Hindu religious zealotry of its rulers.

Rana Jung, a son of Maharajah Jung Bahadur
Things were going well for him at least until the death of his father Maharajah Jung Bahadur on 25th February, 1877 A.D. Even earlier he had met an English lady in Calcutta, fell in love, traveled to England and got married at Stepney, London in 1876 A.D. Her name was Ethel Grob Bennett. A side story on her mother Amelia Anne Horne is noteworthy. She was a survivor of the infamous massacre at Satichaura Ghat, Cawnpore (Kanpur) during the Indian Mutiny where many of her siblings lost their lives. During this period Rana Jung converted to Christianity. Perhaps it was a necessary precondition  to marry a Christian woman he loved or did he have his personal “Road to Damascus” experience? We do not know how his father and the rest of the family had taken this move. Was he ostracized? Did he still maintain his post of Vakil in Calcutta? However, this marriage did not last very long and ended in divorce after they had three sons together. Who are their descendants today?
The assassination of Maharajah Ranauddip Singh on 22nd November, 1885 A.D. was a cruel blow to all the family members of Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana. The eldest son General Jagat Jung and eldest grandson Juddha Pratap Jung were killed while rest of the family sought asylum at the British Residency in Kathmandu and subsequently exiled to India. Rana Jung at this time was already living in India. He must have had some means to keep himself solvent. Records point to his acquiring birta (tax-exempted) land in Chisa-Pani Gadhi. He had joined a Freemasons Club in Calcuta. Was he profitably doing some building works? It was 2 years after the upheaval in Nepal that he married for the second time. This time he fell for an Anglo-Indian girl by the name of Mary Julia Sutherland. The marriage took place in 1887 in Calcutta. Their daughter Julia Kumari Rana was born on 3rd December 1887.
By all accounts Rana Jung seems to have thrived in exile. He had a good marriage and raised his daughter in the capital of British India in a manner befitting the descendant of a maharajah from Nepal. During this time did Rana meet with his Shumsher cousins in power back home when they visited Calcutta? Did he touch base with his own siblings now scattered across North India? Was he a backer of his half-brother Ranabir Jung’s attempt to raise forces in India and invade Nepal to oust the Shumsher Ranas? These are some of the questions we do not have answers for. Julia Kumari got married to Stanislaus Vincent in 1908 A.D. in Calcutta. She gave birth to their only daughter Adela Mary Vincent on 23rd August 1909. She is of interest to me and the second protagonist of this tale as she went by the name of Mayura Jung Kunwar in adulthood, not having taken her father’s surname. We do not know the reason why. I knew her in England when I was studying there.
Looking back at the time I first met her at a reception at the Nepalese embassy in London and subsequently over half a dozen times in the various embassy functions during the early seventies, I regret that I did not strike up a conversation with her and ask about her interesting life. As a young man my interests were more mundane than Rana history that I seem to have unwittingly got into. She struck me as being aristocratic, the Asiatic genes further playing on her countenance to make it more remarkable than the stereotypical visages of Caucasian ladies. She must have had a convent education in Calcutta where she spent her young years. I was quite intrigued when I came across her account of visiting Kathmandu in 1933 A.D. She describes in detail how she came across from Raxaul, camped in Hetauda before embarking on the climb towards the Chandragiri Pass via Bhimphedi. She had her ayah (caretaker) Padmimaya with her. She mentions that cousin General Daman Shumsher the Governor of Birgunj welcomed her in Nepal. In Kathmandu she was guest of General Bahadur Shumsher the eldest son and Huzooria (aide-de-camp) of his father Maharajah Juddha Shumsher J. B. Rana. She calls him ‘Grand Uncle’.
She describes the rope-way line that was constructed by Sir Daniel Keymer of Keymer Sons & Co. Ltd. London in 1923 A.D. stretching some 14 miles from Dhorsing near Bhimphedi to Matatirtha in the Kathmandu Valley and marvels at the engineering feat as it was then considered to be one of the best in the world! She was in the company of a Colonel Etherton, a member of an Everest Expedition, overflying the peak by air, that was successfully carried out that year. She lived in India until before the start of the 2nd World War and left for England.
Mayura Jung Kunwar Brown
Tommy Brown
In England she seems to have done a number of things in quick succession: attended Chemsford Art College, worked at a RAF base at the start of the war, did acting and dancing and got married to RAF Reserve Pilot and Engineer ‘Tommy’ Theodore Brown, 10 years her junior, on 31st July 1941 A.D. in Kensington, London. She found her roots again when she became one of the founding members of Britain-Nepal Society 1960 and later its Vice President for a period, Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society 1960, Member Gurkha Welfare Trust 1961, Honorary Member of Yeti Society 1996. For her contributions to Nepal she was awarded the order of Gorkha Dakshin Bahu (2nd Class) on 28 December 1996. She outlived her husband by some 6 years and passed away on 6th October, 2002 in Harlow, Essex. She was childless. The remarkable journey undertaken by Rana Jung Bahadur Rana from Nepal had, over three generations, come to its conclusion in Britain.

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