Did Jung Bahadur Rana Really Pay £33 Million To A Sex-Worker In England? Here's How The Story Goes!
One of the most fascinating figures in Nepali history, Jung Bahadur Rana, was a man of excess. From his love for expensive state-of-the-art firearms to extravagant travels, the 8th Prime Minister of Nepal spared no expense when it came to self-indulgence.
His love for grandeur is most apparent in the infamous anecdote from his travels to Britain, where he allegedly paid £250,000 (£33.9 Million in today's standard) to a sex-worker. Here’s how the story goes.
Having recently seized the political power of Nepal in the mid-1800s, Jung Bahadur went on a diplomatic trip to Britain. There, he would kiss the hands of Queen Victoria in a chivalrous gesture, make bonds with noble lords, and encounter a bewitching young woman who would subtract £250,000 from the regal Rana fortune.
Laura Bell was a well-known Irish-born courtesan who moved to London in 1849 and was proclaimed ‘The Queen Of London Whoredom’ for having commercial sexual affairs with rich aristocrats. A newspaper article of the time recounts how she rode her costly carriage around the city.
“Her carriages, one of the most stylish equipages there, might usually be seen at the ton hour in the Park.”
And it was during one of her ostentatious rides that Jung Bahadur, seated at Hyde Park, laid his eyes upon Laura. Instantly, he was captivated by her beauty and took her into his service.
In a gesture of hopeless romanticism, Jung Bahadur showered his new lover with opulent gifts and moved her inside a luxurious residence in Belgravia, London. He even had his new mistress accompany him to royal events, which created a scandal for local newspapers. An excerpt from a newspaper article reads:
“Her Majesty has been, it is said, much scandalized by the appearance of this young lady in the Nepalese Ambassador’s box at the Opera, the said one being next to the one occupied by her Majesty herself.”
After 90 exorbitant days with his new mistress, it is documented that Laura received a payment of whooping £250,000. However, the payment appears to have been underwritten by Governor-General Lord Canning as a sign of goodwill. Before parting ways with the young courtesan, Jung Bahadur, gave her yet another gift, a ring as a token of love and a promise to fulfill all her wishes.
Years later in 1857, Laura Bell called upon her Rana lover to keep that promise. She sent a letter, requesting Jung Bahadur to help rescue the British during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. The letter was accompanied by the ring originally gifted by Jung Bahadur, to remind him of his vows. Being a man of his words, Jung Bahadur himself commandeered his forces and successfully suppressed the rebellion in Lucknow.
And what of Laura? Well, in the following years, she found the calling of God, became a devoted Christian, and started preaching about the religion. She drew her last breath in 1894 and left us with a tale of a short-lived love and lust which continues to fascinate the readers, centuries after her death.