From Mom’s ‘Princess Diaries’
My Mother has pushed and pulled me along our genealogical journey, and this week she brings out yet another surprise. Mom often talked about her little playmate, The Princess of Indore, and this week she asked me to make an Internet Appeal for Help – she would like to reconnect with her fondly remembered playmate, Usha-Devi Holkar.
My research has revealed an intriguing family history (see below) and we are excited to see what more we can learn. If you can help, please leave a comment below. Mom will be watching!
Princess Usha and family
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday Usha Holkar,
Happy Birthday to You.
Happy Happy Birthday Usha, The Maharani of Indore, India. I remember our fun days when we attended Hoover School and then we would go to your Palace to play. What fun times we had.
I remember celebrating with other school friends your 6th Birthday party in your upstairs playroom. You were a fun friend and playmate and I have thought of you often over all these 70 years.
Celebrate and enjoy your October 20th Birthday.
Love, Susie Brown Freeman
Mothers are always right.
In 1937, the handsome young Maharajah of Indore, recently widowed and still in mourning for his first wife was reportedly visiting Southern California with his five-year-old daughter when he fell ill with bronchial asthma. He was admitted to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in Los Angeles where he met an attractive young American divorcé, Marguerite Lawler, born in Fargo, North Dakota. She later accompanied the pair to Europe as the child’s governess and was married to the Maharajah Yeshwant Rao Holkar on September 19, 1938.
That same year, the Maharajah moved into his newly-completed Southern California palace with his bride and young daughter. The Santa Ana Register noted, “A man’s home is his castle, and the castle being built for the world’s richest man, the Maharajah of Indore, in Santa Ana is not only a castle; it is literally a fortress. It will guard that which is more dear to him than all of his income-it will guard the safety and continued well-being of his daughter, Princess Usha.”
The gracious home at the corner of Heliotrope and Santa Clara in Santa Ana was estimated to cost $50,000 to build at the height of the Depression; another $150,000 was spent on furnishing the mansion. But while the Maharajah enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle that included custom automobiles, international travel, and over a dozen homes, his daughter Usha enjoyed attending the neighborhood public school, Hoover Elementary, and playing with the local children. Susie Brown was one of the little girls invited to join in playtime at the Princess’s palace home.
Today Suzanne recalls the big black car that brought the girls from school to the palace, and the upstairs playroom filled with toys and games. A governess or other attendants were always within sight, the Princess was never alone.
Too soon, life changed at the Palace for Usha and her little friends. The Maharajah and his bride, Marguerite returned to India where they enjoyed a much different lifestyle. In 1942, Marguerite returned to the United States, and the Maharajah followed the next year to file for divorce. As part of the divorce settlement, she received the Santa Ana home and the couple’s home in Emerald Bay, along with the care of Princess Usha.
Only hours after his Reno divorce from Marguerite was final, on 6 July 1943, the Maharajah married Mrs. Euphremia Watt Crane. Their son, Richard Shivji Rao was born 18 May 1944.
Ever resilient, Marguerite joined the Waves and Princess Usha returned to India at age 10 to live with her family. Marguerite married again and lived once more at the home on Heliotrope and Santa Clara until moving to Corona del Mar where she lived until her death in 1963.
Little Princess Usha inherited the throne of Indore, and now contributes to her native country as a generous patron of culture, medical advancement, and the arts. She will be 76 years old this year. Happy Birthday Princess.
Usha-Devi Maharani Sahiba Holkar XV Bahadur
Many thanks to footnoteMaven for pushing me to uncover more of Mom’s Princess Diaries and for confirming Usha’s story on the Internet.
“The Fabulous Cars of the Holkars of Indore.” Indian Royalty, Maharajas and More, 9 September 2009. http://akshay-chavan.blogspot.com/2009/09/fabulous-cars-of-holkars-of-indore.html.
Indore, The Holkar Dynasty. http://www.royalark.net/India/indore5.htm.
Marsh, Diann. Santa Ana, An Illustrated History (Heritage Publishing, 1994), excerpt in “Santa Ana’s Richest Resident, The Maharajah of Indore.” Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society. http://www.santaanahistory.com/articles/maharajah.html.
naneria. Yeswantraro Holkar, Lifesketch of Yeswant Rao Holkar Bahadur. http://www.slideshare.net/guestcd1c42/yeswantrao-holkar.