By Gabby Storey
Mehtab Kaur (c. 1782-1813) was the first wife of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire. She held the title of Maharani, or high queen, whilst alive.
Mehtab and Ranjit were married in 1796, and her influential mother, Sada Kaur, was heavily involved in alliances and providing advice to the new rulers.
Mehtab lived on her estates in Batala rather than at the royal court of Lahore, perhaps due to the fact she did not have a harmonious relationship with Ranjit and had to compete with his other wives for attention and priority.
Despite the political and personal separation, Mehtab was able to administrate her lands and conduct her life outside the royal court.
Mehtab had at least two children, Sher Singh and Tara Singh, who although recognised as her sons, were not believed to be Ranjit’s children, instead having been ‘adopted’ by Mehtab to contest the primacy of Ranjit’s second wife Mai Nakain who had borne a son previously.
She died in 1813 after a period of ill health, and was succeeded as Maharani by Jind Kaur, the last of Ranjit’s wives.
Jean-Marie Lafont, Maharaja Ranjit Singh: Lord of the Five Rivers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
Khushwant Singh, Ranjit Singh (New Delhi: Penguin, 2001)
Priya Atwal, Royals and Rebels. The Rise and Fall of the Sikh Empire (London: Hurst Publishers, 2020).