Pratapsinh Rao Gaekwad (29 June 1908 – 19 July 1968) belonging to the Gaekwad dynasty of the Marathas, was the last ruling Maharaja of Baroda. He succeeded to the throne upon the death of his grandfather Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1939. In 1947, India became independent of Britain, and by 1949, Baroda had been merged into the Union of India. Pratapsinh retained his title and certain privileges, but he was “deposed” by the government of India in 1951 for irresponsible behavior. He then retired to Europe with his second wife, a woman of notorious reputation, and settled in Monaco. He died in 1968 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad, who had been officiating as Maharaja since 1851.
He founded the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in 1949 as per the wishes of his grandfather, Sayajirao, and settled the “Sir Sayajirao Diamond Jubilee and Memorial Trust” which still exists, and caters to the educational and other needs of the people of the former Baroda State
He was a hedonistic spend thrift who had a tendency to squander his state’s money. He had inherited an estate that was conservatively valued in excess of $US300 million (in 1939 dollars), which included an assortment of jewellery estimated value of $US15 million.
He went on a 1948 six-week tour of the United States, where he and his second wife were welcomed into the salons of high society. They spent a reported $US10 million during their visit to America. The Indian Union did an audit of Baroda’s treasury after the widely read news reports. The audit concluded that the Gaekwad had taken several inappropriate interest free loans from Baroda’s treasury. He agreed to pay the money back in yearly installments from his income of US8 million
When India gained its independence from Britain, it also sought to absorb the princely states. This was a thorny issue, as technically the Princes were independent rulers and their states were private domains. The British withdrawal from India left a vacuum, with the British releasing the princes from their subsidiary alliances. However, most were militarily weak, and pressure from the new Indian Union resulted in the maharajas and other princes acceding their dominions to the one of the new countries of India and Pakistan. Pratap Singh was so distraught after he signed the Instrument of Accession for Baroda that he wept in the arms of V. P. Menon
His father was Fatehsinhrao Gaekwad and his mother was Padmavati Bai Saheba.His father was heir apparent, but died at the age of 23 before he could ascend the throne. Fatehsinghrao was a disappointment to his parents. Fatehsinghrao’s father, Sayajirao Gaekwad III, abstained from alcohol, but Fatehsinghrao was alcoholic, which may have contributed to his early demise. Sayajirao was also disappointed in his son’s mediocre academic performance, which he attributed to his children having so much wealth and too few goals.
Pratap Singh first married the daughter of a Sardar of Kolhapur, Shanta Devi. He had eight children with her.
He ignored the anti-bigamy laws that his grandfather had imposed and in 1943 took for a second wife, a glamorous divorcée considered ill-suited for the exalted role of his consort, Sita Devi of Baroda
Pratapsinhrao married twice. In 1929, he married Shantadevi (1914–2002), the daughter of Sardar Mansinhrao Subbarao Ghorpade of Hasur in Kolhapur state. The couple had three sons and five daughters:
Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad II (2 April 1930 – 1 September 1988), who succeeded as the Maharaja of Baroda. He married the only daughter of Maharaja Umaid Singh of Jodhpur. They did not have children, and therefore his brother Ranjitsinh succeeded him as Maharaja of Baroda.
Mrunalini Raje Gaekwad (25 June 1931 – 1 January 2015). Was given in marriage to Maharaja Anandrao II Puar of Dhar. No surviving issue.
Premila Raje Gaekwad (17 April 1933-). She was given in marriage to the Darbar Sahib (ruling prince) of Jasdan state in Kathiawar, who is a Rajput prince. She has one daughter and one son, the present Durbar Sahib of Jasdan, who is married to the daughter of Premila’s brother Ranjitsinh, Maharaja of Baroda (see below)
Sarala Raje Gaekwad (1935-). Renamed Sattvashila Raje Bhonsle upon her wedding, she was given in marriage to her first cousin, Raja Shivram Sawant Bhonsle, ruler Sawantwadi]] state, who is the son of her father’s sister. She has one son, the resent Raja of Sawantwadi, and one daughter.
Vasundharadevi Raje Gaekwad (4 October 1936-). She was given in marriage to the Raja of Sandur in Karnataka, Raja Murarrao Yeshwantrao Ghorpade, who was at one time a minister in the Karnataka government. She has three sons and one daughter, including the resent Raja of Sandur.
Ranjitsinhrao Gaekwad (8 May 1938 – 9 May 2012), who succeeded his brother as the Maharaja of Baroda. Married to a daughter of the Jadhav family, who are nobles of Gwalior state, he had one son, Samarjitsinh, who succeeded him as Maharaja of Baroda, and two daughters. The elder daughter is married to her cousin the ruler of Jasdan in Kathiawar (see above), while the younger daughter has been married twice. Her first husband was Uraaz Bahl, a nephew of the socialite Parmeshwar Godrej, and her second husband is a Bengali corporate executive settled in New Zealand.
Lalitadevi Raje Gaekwad (3 December 1939-). Was given in marriage to Dr. Amritrao Kirdatt of Dhamtari in Chhattisgarh, a Maratha nobleman. She has five chidren, being in order of birth Aditya Kirdutt, Kavita Mohite (daughter), Sarita Shreyas (daughter), Shailesh Kirdatt and Chirayu Kirdatt.
Sangramsinhrao Gaekwad (6 August 1941-). Married Asha Rajyalakshmi Devi (1946-), fourth daughter of Arjun Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana of the Rana family of Nepal. He has one son and one daughter:
Pratapsinhrao Sangramsinhrao Gaekwad (26 August 1971-). He married Praggyashri, youngest daughter of Pyar Jung Thapa, former CAS of the Royal Nepalese Army, and a member of the Rana family of Nepal, No issue.
Priyadarshini Raje (1975-), the present Maharani of Gwalior, as wife of Jyotiraditya Scindia, Maharaja of Gwalior. She has issue one son and one daughter.
In the early 1940s, 1943, Pratapsinhrao fedd in love with a married woman, Sita Devi, who was the mother of three children already. He married her in 1943, after she had secured a divorce from her husband by ingenious means. The couple had one son:
Sayajirao Gaekwad (8 March 1945 – 8 May 1985). Died unmarried.