1. The Awadh Royal Family – British Attitudes

The following are newspaper reports from the Times of London about the arrival of a royal delegation from the recently annexed princely state of Awadh (a.k.a. Oudh or Oude) in 1856. These articles show the inconsistent British attitudes toward the colourful but politically troublesome diplomatic missions that came to London from India , often to protest East India Company policies there. On one hand, these exotic envoys demonstrated the imperial quality of London as the centre of a growing empire. On the other hand, they raised questions for the British public about the often illegal actions of British colonial officials in India . These newspaper articles are often as critical of the British 'masses' as they were of the 'Orientals' in this delegation of over 100 men and women. The tone of these articles contrast with those in the American magazine Harpers (see below) about the same delegation. [Michael Fisher]

London Times Thursday August 28, 1856 12f
citing article in Globe :

  "The British nation has the reputation of being open-handed and open-hearted. It is particularly accessible to appeals for justice and fair play. No matter how preposterous and absurd the appeal, it is sure of a hearing. A free press and free speech rendered these appeals facile for both the worthy and unworthy...

  If the charlatan raises his voice in the 'dead season' the greater are his chances, because then another national characteristic comes strongly into play. Like all venturous and enterprising people, we are largely endowed with the passion of curiosity... But most they delight in the arrival on our island of any raree-show from foreign climes; and no doubt Stephano would really have made his fortune could he have carried out his design of importing Caliban into England . The passion for the curious and the love for fair play are just now finding full scope at Southamption. An Indian importation not less curious, if more splendid and dignified than the son of Sycorax, recently landed in that port, and no doubt somebody will make the fortune which the drunken butler missed when the fates deprived him of his 'sweet monster.'

  There came to Southampton, last week the late Queen of Oude, accompanied by the brother of the late king, the 'heir apparent' (to what?), and an immense suite, including 'a number of eunuchs and native gentlemen.' who, to judge by the reports, are not the cleanest personages which it is possible for the imagination to conceive. The great difficulty was to land the chief lady of the party without exposing her to the gaze of the curious public, and the great desire of the curious public was, of course, to 'have a look' at the late Majesty of Oude. Many absurd and ludicrous incidents occurred n the process, in consequence of the rudeness of the British lieges; but it was at length accomplished, by the aid of the mayor, and the invisible dame was transferred from the ship to the hotel after many hair-breadth 'scapes from the profanation of male eyes. Since that striking incident, the High-street, if we may believe the reports, has been crowded with the curious. On Saturday the mayor, an earl, a countess, three ladies, two baronets, and an admiral were presented to the late king's brother and his nephew; and several ladies of their neighbourhood were presented to the late Queen. The mayor, too, we believe, had the honour of shaking a hand, supposed to be that of the late Queen, that was extended to him through a curtain. All this is very pretty and amusing to the Southampton people, and no doubt that borough is envied by all the less fortunate towns of the three kingdoms. There is a certain propriety in receiving with courtesy unfortunate strangers from a far distant land; but it is one thing to show hospitality to ladies and gentlemen in distress, and another to convert them into a spectacle. The quiet observer will naturally ask what it all means. The ex-Queen of Oude, her brother-in-law, and her son of course would not come 10,000 miles to be frightened by the pressing hospitality of the good town of Southampton , or to shake hands with Mr. Andres through a curtain. The object of the visit is not of a recondite character; and if it were there are persons in the suite of the visitor who are interested in making it known. One of those persons is a Captain or Major, Bird, 'the guide, philosopher, and friend' of the magnificent immigrants. By Major Bird, or some other person, the late Queen has been induced to visit England as 'a suppliant for justice;' in other words, to regain for the late King of Oude his lost throne and kingdom. This most ill-advised and preposterous mission finds its advocate in Major Bird, who last week plainly stated his case to the crowd that had assembled in front of the Royal York Hotel-- a crowd that knew as much about the real facts of the case as they did of the political condition of Thibet, and who therefore accepted the ex-parte statement of the major with cheers. We must say that proceeding has the merit of novelty. It was a daring conception to bring the late Court of Oude bodily before the British public, and appeal directly to their passions, to their best attribute--the love of fair play--against the mature judgment of the much-vexed and long-suffering Government of India. And Major Bird artfully treated his theme. He magnified the services rendered by Oude to the Indian Government, but he said nothing of the protection accorded through long years by the Indian Government of Oude. He talked of sacrifices made in moments of need, but he covered up and concealed that shameful story of corruption and oppression which made the Government of Oude the scandal of India . He followed up this adroit statement by putting a hypothetical case to illustrate the injustice done to the late King of Oude. 'Suppose,' said he, 'that the Emperor of the French were to deprive Queen Victoria of her throne to save Britons from misrule...' ...Of course the valiant burghers said 'No.' But what would they have replied if Major Bird had read some passages from the Private Life of an Eastern King; what would they have said if he had described the true relations between the protected King of Oude and the East Indian Government, and the actual relations between that King and his subjects? They would not have answered, 'No.' Oude was virtually a part of British India . The British Government of India was responsible for the shocking condition of Oude. The correct analogy which Major Bird should have submitted to the consideration of the burghers of Southampton would have been that of a house of ill fame in the city of Southampton which had become a scandal to its inhabitants; and he should have asked them whether they would permit the authorities to put it down?"

 Times Saturday August 30, 1856 10c

"The Royal Family of Oude, Southampton , Friday Evening"

  The excitement which followed the arrival of this illustrious family has almost entirely subsided. The strangely dressed natives stroll and lounge about the street without apparently the slightest notice being taken of them. The policeman's occupation, whose duty it is to guard the exterior of the residence of the oriental visitors, is gone; and the inhabitants surrounding the Royal York Hotel are eagerly looking forward for the time to arrive when the "Royal family" of Oude will take its departure. It is not unfrequently that passersby complain of the inconvenience their olfactory organs experience opposite the gateway of the royal residence; and in many instances the other side of the road is now preferred to the one which a few days since attracted the attention of so many gazers.

  Mr. Brandon, the interpreter to the Queen and family, has for some days past been occupied in London in the selection of apartments for the Royal party, but, it is said, has not succeeded in securing a suitable place. Altogether the natives appear a very good-tempered race, and amuse themselves principally by troubling shopkeepers to explain the quality and use of the articles exposed for sale, but in few instances making purchases at the prices which they are called upon to tender for the transfer of the goods."

 Times Monday September 01, 1856 12a
"Departure of the Royal Family for London , Southampton August 31"

  "[The Royal Family] suddenly left Southampton last night for London by special train... the time of their intended removal was carefully concealed to prevent if possible any confusion arising from unwarrantable curiosity. [Yet a] concourse of persons was of course attracted to the spot, and long before the time appointed for leave taking that portion of the High-street facing the Royal residence was literally blocked with spectators. The natives seemed greatly to enjoy the necessary preparations, and, although there were sufficient cabs called into requisition to supply each one with an inside berth, yet the roof of the vehicle seemed to be the place selected in preference to the more retired accommodation in the interior. On cab succeeded the other down the High-street, in rapid succession, each conveying on its roof one or more of the Oriental visitors, who, as they passed through the streets to the railway, made signs indicating their farewell. At the railway station every proper arrangement was made for the comfortable departure of the Royal party. For the time being the general public were not admitted, although a few friends received the privilege. Here a train, consisting of two first, two-second, and one third class railway carriage, was provided. The inferior domestics, together with the appurtenances of the Royal establishment, were first to arrive, which having been disposed of, the Princesses speedily followed. This was the signal for the eunuchs to display the nature of their duties, and, having requested the spectators to make room, the ladies 'closely veiled,' made their appearance, and were ushered into their carriage, the blinds of which were immediately drawn, the exterior from that moment being carefully guarded. The 'ladies' of the harem, with their heads also entirely covered, next arrived, and were treated in a similar manner. These, however, were less careful of their privacy, for upon being seated, the curtains which had previously totally excluded them from the gaze of the spectators were slightly opened, their curiosity to witness the excitement which prevailed evidently overcoming a proper compliance with the customs of their race. The King's brother and the Heir-Apparent, accompanied by an equerry, occupied a compartment to themselves, and when all had arrived an intimation was made that the Queen was near at hand. Her Majesty, with the greatest caution, and perfectly secluded from view, had been placed in a carriage at the York Hotel, the large gates of which assisted materially in preventing the obtrusive gaze of the bystanders. At the station, however, matters were different, and Mr. Brandon requested that the platform should be entirely cleared of every person beyond himself and the native attendants. This arrangement Mr. Watkins, the superintendent, very properly declined, and several suggestions were made as to the best way by which Her Majesty could be placed in the carriage unprofaned by a single male eye. The removal of the lamp from the roof of the carriage was the first step taken. The curtains of the windows were then carefully examined, and the vehicle containing this curious specimen of Eastern royalty was drawn up at the outer door. The anxiety of the eunuchs and attendants now became intense, and, although one or two attempts were made to force the spectators to retire, the British right of freedom predominated, and the Orientalists were compelled to submit to the customs of the English people. A passage having been made from the entrance door to the carriage, over which a white covering was laid, long strips of calico were brought into requisition, and a row of native servants, having ranged themselves inside the line of spectators, held the drapery at arm's length above their heads, which effectively prevented the people assembled from gaining the most remote glimpse of Her Majesty. However, with all this caution Her Majesty did not enter the compartment entirely unperceived, for one or two persons, availing themselves of the opportunity afforded owing to the attention of the officials being directed to the importance of the proceeding, climbed to the roof of the Royal carriage, and by that means witnessed the Queen's progress between the two lines of drapery placed to secure privacy. However, the gratification could not have been very great, as Her Majesty was closely veiled.

  Shortly afterward, every one being seated, the train moved on, the natives by motions of their hands bidding adieu to the persons assembled.

  Harley-house, late the residence of the Duke of Brunswick, and situate in the New-road, had, it is stated, been taken for the Royal party, at which place it is presumed they will sojourn during their stay in England .

  Since the arrival of the Orientalists in Southampton the ex-Queen has not been known to leave her room, and that portion of the Royal York Hotel inhabited by the Princesses has, we understand, never had the windows opened, or received the slightest ventilation. Mr. White, the proprietor, received 100£ for the use of his premises during the 10 days they have been occupied; and we do not doubt that it will be at least as many more days before the establishment will be again rendered fit to be used as the residence of a European. Mr. Brandon attends the Royal Family of Oude as interpreter and agent for the inferior matters of business connected with the Queen, but Major Bird has charge of all the political affairs connected with the claims about to be presented to the British Government."

 Times Tuesday September 02, 1856 10b
"The Royal Family of Oude"

  During the greater part of yesterday, as on Sunday, a considerable number of people was collected in the New-road, in front of Harley-house... The house, formerly in the occupation of the Duke of Brunswick, and in which his Royal Highness is supposed more than once to have stood a regular siege, is situated a little to the east of Marylebone church, and on the opposite side of the road. It is a detached residence, with a small lawn in front, surrounded by a high brick wall, and stands back from the thoroughfare, with an entrance from a side street, which runs into Regent's Park at right angles with the New-road. A few trees here and there in the grounds give it greater seclusion, but it is overlooked on two or three sides by the adjacent houses. It has been taken for a year at a rent of 550£. For Holford-house, Regent's Park... negotiations from some cause did not take effect, and the persons acting on behalf of the distinguished Orientalists fell back on Harley-house as the next best, though it was wholly inadequate for the proper accommodation of them and their numerous retinue of attendants and retainers, amounting in the aggregate to 110, exclusive of the three Royal personages [who have not yet left the grounds].

  ...The Queen-Mother, of course, with all her female attendants, some 30 in number, live in the strictest seclusion, with the blinds of their apartments constantly drawn down. They must have suffered considerable privation since their arrival in London, on Saturday evening, seeing that when they entered the house it was wholly unfurnished, and the attendants were driven to improvise substitutes for furniture until better could be obtained. Throughout the whole of yesterday upholsterers and others were busily engaged in putting the house into a state of comparative comfort, and several of the attendants, with interpreters, were travelling about town in cabs making necessary purchases. Three of them were seen careering along the New-road in a simple Hansom, and evidently regarding it as capital amusement. Several of the moonshees and other retainers of the family occupied themselves in strolling leisurely about the grounds and chatting among themselves in intervals during the day. Dressed as they are in every variety of Oriental costume, and some of them meanly, they appear a motley set to a European eye. The suite includes seven eunuchs, one of whom, a Nubian, well nigh seven feet high, of great physical strength and commanding presence, but coarsely attired, was seen in the afternoon, with others, enjoying a walk in the garden. At the risk of being tedious we shall give a few of the names of the principal persons in the retinue of the Royal family, not vouching, however, in all cased for the perfect accuracy of the orthography, though at some pains to secure it. They include Jullwes Odowlah Bahador, aide-de-camp to the King of Oude; Nawab Mahdee Koolee Khan Bahador, Chief of the Household of the Queen-Mother; Jurat Ally Khan Bahador, Nawab Nazir, the chief of the eunuchs; Hakeem Ally Wosmah, the Queen's medical advisor; Said Ally Hosein, another of her superior officers; Nawab Hosein, her aide-de-camp; and Meer Furzund Ally Khan, Persian writer. In the Prince's suite are Hajee Towackul Ally Khan, and Nealum Ally Khan, two eunuchs; Elmas Ally Khan and Salman Ally Khan, soldiers, as a body guard; Hakeem Mahomed Mussee, medical advisor; and Molvee Jaffier Ally, his tutor. The uncle of the Prince, 'the General,' as he is called among themselves, has also a corresponding retinue. Captain Brandon, who has been connected with the family for several years in the kingdom of Oude , and accompanied them on their voyage to this country, acts as their interpreter and general agent. The Prince who recently attained his 20th year and is about the middle height, is described by Captain Brandon as exceedingly frank and kindhearted in his manners, but bashful in the presence of strangers. Though unable to speak English he has been well educated after the fashion of his country. The General, on the other hand, is stout, above the average size, with a good presence, about 33 years of age. The Queen-Mother is between 50 and 60, and of a somewhat corpulent figure, of a light copper colored complexion, like that of her son and grandson. To-day the Mahorrum, a ceremony in honour of Mahomed, commences, and lasts for 13 days, during which they maintain a seclusion more than ordinarily strict.

  The East India Company, as is generally know, has offered them a sum of 15 lacs of rupees a-year, or 150,000£, as a compensation for the loss of their kingdom. With this they are altogether dissatisfied, and are now engaged in preparing their case to lay before the Company, with a view to better terms, if not a restoration of their dynasty."


2. Harpers Magazine articles on the Awadh Royal Family

Harpers , Volume: 1857, Issue: 06/27, pp.407-408

“One of the most striking and attractive objects to the promenaders in Hyde Park is the King of Oude, who rides about in truly Oriental magnificence, redolent, as the papers say, `of barbaric pomp and gold.' Certainly he glitters in the sun like a peacock, and is a great favorite with the ladies. As he is one of the principal lions of the town, he was, as a matter of course, invited to the dinner of the Royal Literary Fund. There was a great scarcity of literary men at this meeting, for the society has of late been in hot-water, and is `cut' by Dickens and Carlyle and Macaulay. So, for effect, and as a stop-gap, the King of Oude was invited, and came after dinner; as his creed forbids his eating with Christian dogs. And the gentlemen who dispense the Royal Literary Fund felt and acknowledged themselves honored by his presence!”

Harpers , Volume: 1857, Issue: 08/08, pp. 503-504

The Court Journal says: “On the presentation of this princess with her son and grandson, nothing could be more gracious than the welcome given by our Queen. The Queen of Oude left Harley House in great state— her Indian crown being placed in the carriage. It is a lofty coroneted cap, in form something like the coronets of our peers, only higher and rounder at the top, and, instead of velvet, is a mass of gold tissue ornamented with jewels. On the top of the cap are placed some extraordinary silver ornaments, which away and jingle about with every movement, producing a sound like a number of silver bells. From the rim of the crown depends the vail, which is really two curtains of gold and colored tissue that meet over the face and then pass down each shoulder. The Queen of Oude wore a robe of gold tissue, pendant from her shoulders, which was borne by a Hindoo lady in waiting, who alone was permitted to enter the carriage with her. The Queen's dress was a blaze of eastern magnificence, but she has adopted European fashions sufficiently to indulge in the finest silk stockings, though they were ornamented with gold anklets. Her female attendant was remarkable for the absence of gold and jewels, wearing a plain Indian dress, with large red stripes. The Queen, whose name and style is `Jenabi Auleah Mootalcah Nawab Taj aura Begum Saheb,' was attended by a numerous suite, including Mohummud Joorut Allie Khan Bahadoor, the Nawab Nazir or Chief Eunnch, Ialeesood Dowlah Bahadoor, an A. D. C., Nawab Mehdee Koollie Khan Bahadoor, a great grandson of Nadir Shah, a chamberlain, a physician, a secretary, a diplomatic agent, and several other officers. The dresses of the Princess of Oude are, doubtless, familiar to most of our metropolitan readers. They each wore the same sort of high coronet cap of gold, and jewels, but ornamented with a few small feathers, and without the silver ornaments peculiar to the crown of the Queen. The young prince was magnificently decorated with jewels—the dress itself being composed of cloth of gold. The Oudians still delight in calling this prince the `Heir Apparent,' and his name and style are `Wullee Auhad Mirza Mohummud Hamid Allie Bahadoor.' His uncle, the elder prince, is called `Mirza Sikundar Hushmut Jawaad Allie Bahadoor.'”

Harpers , Volume: 1857, Issue: 10/03, p. 636.

Until the time of Warren Hastings, Oude was a province of the Great Mogul Empire, and its ruler was called simply the Nawab-Vizier. Hastings, by plundering two of the female members of the Nawab's family, and torturing their attendant eunuchs—as the readiest way to get at their treasures—first brought Oude conspicuously before civilized people, who naively thought the Nawab an ill-used gentleman, when, in fact, he was a delighted spectator at the robbery of his predecessor's widows—preferring, infinitely, that they should be plundered and tortured than that he himself should be subjected to the squeezing process then so successfully introduced by the British rulers in India. For the Nawab was only an adopted son of his predecessor, for whose widows—the Bhow Begum and another—he had not the slightest affection. In 1819 the Marquis of Hastings borrowed two crores of rupees (ten million dollars) from the Nawab Ghazi-u-dheen, giving him, as security for a debt never to be paid, a tract of barren land at the foot of the Himalayas and the title of King , with which his new Majesty was fain to appear content. In 1827 the first Company King was succeeded by his son, Nussir-u-dheen. Such is the origin of the “kingdom” of Oude.

  At that time money was the chief desire of “the Company.” Probably they have not been less ready to take it since; but of late they have had time to look also a little to the welfare of the people, by robbing whom the subject princes obtained the treasures with which “John Company” enriched his stockholders at second- hand. A Resident took care of the British interests at the court of Oude from the first; but for a long time he took care of nothing else— except himself. So late ago as 1837 the King used to recruit his harem by forcible abduction of the wives and daughters of his subjects; and the tax-gatherers were obliged to enforce their demands at the sword's-point; while the court was a scene of the lowest debauchery and constant revelry. The King's favorite at this time was a low British adventurer, a barber by trade, and a man of neither education nor principle. His career savors strongly of Oriental romance, and calls to mind some of the oft-told tales of Shehazarade. He came to Calcutta from England as cabin-boy of an Indiaman. Having been brought up as a hairdresser, he resumed this business in Calcutta , pushed and puffed himself into notoriety and success, and at last became what is known on the Ganges as a river-trader. Arrived at Lucknow , the capital of Oude, he found there the British Resident, anxious to have his lank locks curled like the then Governor-General's. The river-trader was not above resuming his old business—for a proper consideration. So marvelous was the improvement he effected in the Resident's appearance, that this great Sahib himself introduced the wonder-working barber to the King. The King's hair, hitherto innocent of the faintest shadow of an inclination to curl, was formed into the most charming ringlets. Royalty was delighted, and the barber's fortune was made. “What shall be done unto the man the king delighteth to honor?” is a question asked at this day in India much as it was in Persia in the days of Esther. Honors and wealth were showered upon the lucky coiffeur . He received a title of nobility— Sofraz Khan — illustrious chief! He obtained the unlimited confidence of the King; became a regular guest at the royal table; received, among other lucrative jobs, the contract to supply all the European goods of every kind used at court; was made head keeper of the royal menagerie—an important post; and was soon so firmly established that he could afford to set at defiance alike the threats and abuse heaped upon him by British Indian officials. So afraid was the King of being poisoned by his family that every bottle of wine drunk at the royal table was bottled and sealed at the barber's house, under his own supervision. When brought to the table the favorite first looked carefully at the seal, then, finding this correct, opened it and swallowed a portion of a glass himself before filling for the King. That the barber made money is evident from the amount of his monthly bills, one of which, to the tune of 90,000 rupees—$45,000—a British gentleman one day saw approved by the King. “The Khan is robbing your majesty,” said this personage to the King. “If I choose to make the Khan a rich man,” was the royal answer, “is that any thing to you? I know his bills are exorbitant; let them be so; it is my pleasure; he shall be rich!” The barber was not the only adventurer who made his fortune by favor of this dissolute Company King. Nuna, a beauteous Cashmere dancinggirl, with a soft voice and magnificent eyes, was ushered into the royal presence one evening when the usual entertainments had failed to interest. Her voice and form pleased the royal voluptuary. “Sharash! sharash!” (bravo) he shouted; “you shall have a thousand rupees for this night's singing!” The King went to his harem, leaning his head upon Nuna's shoulder. The courtiers made haste to pay homage to the rising star. The following evening, after the royal dinner, she reappeared. “You shall have two thousand rupees for this night's singing!” exclaimed the King. And so the game went on. The King's liberality and infatuation knew no bounds. “I will build you a house of gold, and you shall be my Padshah Begum some day, Nuna!” exclaimed the King, one evening. The court bowed before the humble Nautch girl. Even the barber and the King's wives found it expedient to pay attention to the royal favorite. A week of some religious festival interrupted the festivities of the court. After this interval, Nuna again appeared before the King. “Boppery bopp!” exclaimed his Majesty, yawning, as he gazed on her; “she wearies me. Is there no other amusement? Let us have a quailfight, Khan!” “I wonder how she would look in a European dress?” said the King, finally, speaking half to himself and half to the barber who sat near him, and looking curiously at the poor Nuna. The hint was sufficient. A gown and other articles of European female apparel were procured from the barber's house—he was a married man— and Nuna was bidden to retire and put them on. When she reappeared, the King roared out in the most boisterous laughter. The transformation was complete. The poor girl, all grace and beauty in her flowing Cashmere robes, was now awkward and dowdyish in the extreme. The clothes hung loosely about her person. She stood silent before the King, bitter tears of mortification coursing down her cheeks. Thus she appeared day after day, for weeks and months, the sport of the King, and of the courtiers who had before been all attention and submission toward her. No intercession with King or barber availed to relieve her from her forced attendance upon the King. At last, after months of the bitterest humiliation, she disappeared. Probably she had been given as a slave to one of the royal wives. The King henceforth ceased to recollect the name, even, of her who had been once the delight of his eyes. Such a career of dissipation as that indulged in by this “Asylum of the Universe,” as the King of Oude chose to be called, necessarily drained the treasury and ruined the subjects of the finest country. What with dancing-girls and singing-girls, and other royal favorites, male and female, all making their fortunes from the royal presents; what with a barber's bill for luxuries, amounting to from forty to fifty thousand dollars per month; what with amusements, involving the expenditure of vast sums—animal fights, in which elephants were pitted against lions, tigers, rhinoceri, and camels—hunting expeditions, resembling in vastness of trains and equipage more an invading army than an excursion for the destruction of a few wild boars and pheasants; and a system of favoritism by which thousands of rupees were daily abstracted from the treasury, even the revenues of Oude, amounting to upward of six million dollars per year, and a well-filled treasury, left by the preceding “Asylum of the World,” were by-and-by exhausted. So it came about that for the last two years of Nussir-u-dheen's reign, money was rather a scarce article in the palace of Lucknow . Matters went on from bad to worse. The British concluded a treaty with the successor of Nussir-u-dheen, by which he bound himself to attend more closely to the welfare of his subjects. But the fashion set by his predecessor was too strong. Nussir was poisoned, after many efforts to put his own son out of the line of succession. His mother, who had heroically defended Nussir against his father, took up the cause of her grandson. Finding himself foiled in other attempts, the irate Nussir proclaimed publicly that his son was illegitimate. Upon this the East India Company refused to recognize his claims to the throne. Mohammed Ali Shah, Nussir's successor, and the third of the Company's anointed in Oude, died in 1842, and was succeeded by his son, Aboon-zuffer Muslah-u-dheen, known, at present, as the ex-King of Oude. He was granted a term of years in which to carry into effect the improvements in government suggested by his masters, “the Company.” But he too was inactive; and, finally, the Company found it expedient to destroy the kingdom they had raised up—give the ex-King and his relatives large pensions, and take the government into their own hands. The pensions amount to $750,000 per annum. Last year public attention was recalled to Oude by the arrival in England of the ex-Queen of Oude, accompanied by her son, the most youthful of the figures in our illustration, the other being the brother of the ex-King, who also accompanies the Queen. She came to lay her husband's wrongs before the British Parliament, and ask for his restoration to his rights. In the midst of this the Sepoy rebellion broke out, and presently news came from India to the effect that the ex-King, seeing in the general mutiny an opportunity to recover his lost authority, had intrigued with the rebels, with the intention of joining them. He was at once confined in Fort William . The Queen, who seems a noble and faithful wife, immediately addressed to the House of Lords a denial of the charges against her husband. But their cause has little chance of favor when brought before the very men who have been greatly instrumental in their downfall. Of the justice or injustice of the sequestration of Oude this is no place to speak. One thing is sure: the British might have taken possession of Oude long before they did; they might have left the deposed royal family without pension or other resources; and, finally, they might have treated their victims with common honesty, and respected their private property—instead of which, having once determined on the sequestration of the state, they added to this the sequestration of the personal estate of the ex-King and his family, and actually sold at auction, in Calcutta, on account of the East India Company, costly furniture and royal raiment to the value of over a million dollars, belonging to the ex-royal family. A slight like this a Hindoo noble could neither forgive nor forget. It is easy to see that such men as the ex-King of Oude are friendly to the British only while these are successful. Let reverses overtake “John Kompanny,” and the most faithful of his conquered allies will turn against him. The people of Oude have been noted from early times as among the most warlike in Hindostan. Europeans after visiting Lucknow have brought back wonderful stories of the warlike tastes and bearing of the inhabitants, the fierce-looking, well-armed fellows to be seen walking the streets of the capital, and of the abundance of matchlocks, spears, shields, and swords found in its shops and bazars. “In Lucknow every man goes armed,” says a late visitor, “with matchlock or pistol, most probably, with a short, bent sword, called a tulwar , and a shield most certainly.” For many years the British have drawn no inconsiderable portion of their Sepoy troops from among the natives of Oude. The number was stated at 40,000 last year. These men sympathized with their dethroned King. They shared in the insults offered to his dignity, and hence they have been so ready to revenge themselves in the present rebellion. 

Harpers , Volume: 1858, Issue: 02/20, p. 118.

The Queen-mother of Oude died in Paris on the 24th of January. It was said that the Queen died of grief. She was attended in her last moments by Dr. Royer, one of the Emperor Napoleon's physicians. The prayers enjoined by the Buddhist religion were said over her deathbed. The body was watched by four women, and the arrival of the prince, the son of the deceased, who had been sent for by telegraph from London , was waited for before any arrangements would be made for the funeral.

Harpers , Volume: 1858, Issue: 03/27, pp. 205-206


We have had occasion to allude to the death of the Queen of Oude, which took place lately at Paris . We now give illustrations of the unusual ceremonies to which that event gave rise. Her Majesty was in ill health some time before she left England . Her recent vicissitudes of fortune, and the anxiety which the recent mutiny in India must have caused, no doubt aggravated her disease. She was known to be in a dangerous condition; yet she refused to submit to the visits of European practitioners. When she went to Paris she was taken alarmingly ill; still she would not allow physicians to be called in until her state became so serious that death was imminent. She then sent for Doctors Cabarrus and Roper. But as her son philosophically said, “If her fate was written, science could avail nothing;” and the physicians, having done what they could to ease her last moments, left her to die tranquilly. As soon as she was dead the body was taken down to a room on a level with the court-yard of the house. (It should be remembered that most large houses in Paris are built on a very wide lot, and that the centre of the lot is left vacant; so that each house has a private court-yard of its own.) In a room looking out on this yard, the body of the Queen was laid on a bier. The women then proceeded to embalm her. This was the process: The body was placed on a table, and the women, one after the other, poured cold water over it from vases procured for the purpose. This ceremony over, and the body being carefully dried with towels, the face was painted, so as to hide the hideousness of death. A powerfully perfumed preparation was poured into the mouth, which was afterward sealed up with red wax and stamped with the Royal seal of Oude; as also were the eyes, nostrils, and ears. Perfumed ointments were then rubbed upon the body, which was afterward clothed in beautiful and rich garments. The embalming was now complete. The Queen was then placed on a bed, and the Mohammedan funeral rites were proceeded with. A priest and the chief mourners entered the room, now lighted with innumerable candles; prayers were read, and passages from the Koran were chanted, while the chamber was filled with the choicest perfumes burning on every side. The funeral, which took place a few days after the death, was delayed by a singular accident. According to the Mussulman rites a fire must be lighted “over against” the corpse, and must be allowed to burn out before the corpse is removed. When the funeral pageant arrived at the house, this fire was still alight, and the cortége was obliged to wait several hours till it went out. Then each lady of the household spent some moments in solitary prayer by the side of the corpse. At length these preliminaries were completed, and the funeral procession commenced. It was grand and unusual even for Paris . The coffin was carried by eight of the chief members of the suite to the hearse, which was entirely covered with silver tissue, and drawn by eight white horses. The hearse was preceded by a carriage containing the priest, and was followed by the Prince Mirza Bahadoor, leaning on the arms of General d'Orgoni and Captain Lynch; behind them came about a dozen natives, members of the suite, also on foot, and then a line of ten mourning-coaches, containing various embassadors and men notable in science and literature. An immense crowd assembled in the Rue Lafitte to witness the procession; and just as the body left the house a number of Indian women of extraordinary ugliness, but dressed in rich and picturesque costume, appeared on the balcony. When the procession reached the cemetery of the Père la Chaise, where the body was to be buried, a white cloth was spread over the grave, and the people of the family of the late Queen gathered in circle round it. Her son and the priest sat down on the cloth, and proceeded to discuss in a set dialogue the virtues of the deceased. They were talking against time, and her Majesty was eulogized in the most garrulous manner; every virtue which she possessed, and every virtue which she did not but might have possessed, was descanted upon to the fullest extent and in the most elaborate manner. The Parisian by-standers, who did not understand a word of what was being said, got tired long before the talking was over, and went home in knots of twos and threes. At length sunset arrived, and the white cloth was removed and the body of her Majesty was duly committed to the tomb. It is said that her son was so much overcome by the first news of her death that he very nearly did himself a mischief in the paroxysms of his grief. However this be, he bore himself very manfully during the public ceremony. His voice did not falter during the utterance of his eulogium upon his mother, and when the dread hour of sunset came, he saw the coffin lowered into the grave and the cold earth thrown upon it as apathetically as any French badaud. Perhaps the most curious circumstance of these obsequies relates to the inscription on the monument over the grave. It states simply: “In memory of Malka Kackwar, Queen of the Kingdom of Oude , died Rue Lafitte, aged fifty-three years.” The lapidary artist suggested to the friends of the Queen who ordered the inscription of him that it was usual for the date and place of birth to be mentioned as well as the date and place of death. They referred the matter to the Prince; but neither he nor any of his mother's ladies could tell where the late Queen was born. She was a lady of fortune; and like ladies of fortune in this country, her birth and childhood were matters of impenetrable mystery.

The above articles come from the American magazine, Harpers , as it reported the diplomatic delegation from Awadh (a.k.a. Oudh and Oude) in London . Harpers refers to the Awadh heir apparent as the 'King of Oude' and also describes the Queen Mother and her death. [Michael Fisher]


3. Rango Bapujee comments on British attitudes

The following selections were written by Rango Bapojee who served for over a dozen years (1839-53) as the envoy from the deposed Maharaja of Satara (a.k.a. Sattara) in London . During his years of diplomacy, he worked closely with sympathetic British politicians and journalists to expose the illegal actions of the East India Company's government in India . His perspective from the imperial capital of London enabled him to apprehend British colonialism on a global scale as well as growing British racism. Unable to expel him legally, the East India Company was finally able to drive Bapojee out of London by cutting off his funds from India . After his return home, Bapojee evidently joined those fighting against the British in 1857. [Michael Fisher]

5) “I, a man of another race, of birth and rank in my own country, have dwelt for twelve long years in this, an exile from my wife, children, kindred, friends; exposed to the scoffs, the scorn, and the proud contumely which are often, I find, the portion of the friendless and unfortunate stranger even in Christian England. Suppose yourself, and English gentleman, dwelling at Pekin for the same time as I have dwelt in London, and advocating among the Chinese, as I have humbly done here, perhaps feebly and ignorantly done, the stainless innocence of your Queen, who had been secretly accused by a Chinese Emperor, backed by his 400 millions of men: what human sentiment, I ask, could have the strength to sustain you unfalteringly throughout this painful advocacy, other than the one sentiment, imprinted on my heart, which has supported me in mine; the stainless innocence, derived from intimate personal knowledge of the Rajah?” 

11) “Nor has the [British] Government stopped at starving the Rajah and Ranee: with impartial justice, the Government avows its intention of silencing and starving me, their humble agent, out of England, by stopping my allowance for four years, as has been done, and of consigning me, I conclude, to the honourable refuge of an English Pauper Union."

13) “If this, my final appeal for such enquiry be rejected, the, in the name of my countrymen, the million-natives of India ... I solemnly prefer this my petition, that in the next Charter of the East India Company it be declared, that English morality is no more than a question of latitude and longitude; that in India, South of the parallel of 20 North, and East of the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope, what is virtue and what is vice, what is innocence and what guilt, what truth, what falsehood, shall be determined by the complexion of the agent; the white man, or Company's servant, being always regarded as the embodiment of virtue and truth, incapable of wrong even in his own showing, and alone worthy of belief--the dark man, or native, held up as the personification of vice and falsehood, to be accused only to be condemned, degraded, vilified, punished, imprisoned at will, tortured, beggared, and all in secret and unheard.”

Rango Bapujee, “Rajah of Sattara: A Letter to the Right Hon. J. C. Herries, M.P., President of the Board of Control” (London: G. Norman, 1852). 



1.‘Thuggee' and the Margins of the Colonial State in Early Nineteenth-Century India

The failure of initial colonial attempts to prosecute ‘thugs'
The Oriental and India Office Collection (now known as Asia and Africa Collection) holds a vast number of the original transcripts of the ‘thuggee' trials held in India in the 1830s. Less well known are the trials initiated by the magistrate of Etawah, Thomas Perry, against ‘thugs' found in the Ceded and Conquered Provinces in the 1810s. This encounter with ‘thuggee' was far less spectacular than that instigated by William Sleeman, but its failures were significant in shaping the anti-thug campaign of the 1830s. In particular, Sleeman, and his superior in the Company's political department, Francis Smith, recognized that the supreme criminal court, the Nizamat Adalat, was hesitant to uphold convictions based solely on the confessions of suspected ‘thugs', or on the denunciations of individuals who had themselves admitted to ‘thuggee'. The summary below, compiled by William Macnaghten, the register of the Nizamat Adalat, explains why its judges overturned the conviction of two prisoners accused of being ‘thugs' by Perry in 1812. In particular, the document reveals the flimsiness of the prosecution's case: their two witnesses were Wilayutee, a senile man (‘from his exceeding great age almost devoid of intellect') and a teenage agricultural labourer named Gholam Hoosein (who we meet in my essay, as the prosecution's star witness in the first, farcical ‘thuggee' trial carried out under British auspices). Gholam (also spelled ‘Ghulam') had been the first individual to ‘confess' ‘thuggee' to Perry, but his subsequent conviction had been overturned by the Nizamat Adalat because the testimony on which it was based was shown to be contradictory and inadmissible evidence. However, it seems that he had been retained by the magistrate as an informer, and had implicated Tuhowar Khan, the primary accused in the case discussed below, in ‘thuggee', though without being able to mention a ‘specific instance of Tuhowar's guilt'. As this summary shows, the judges of the Nizamat Adalat, considering the case against Tuhowar, could not rely on either the veracity of the witnesses' accounts, or his own confession to Perry, and freed him. [Tom Lloyd]

VAKEEL OF GOVERNMENT, against TUHOWAR KHAN and two others.
21 st July 1812.
THE prisoners were charged, at the Etawah sessions, with being thugs, or persons notoriously addicted to highway robbery and murder. From the statement of the prosecutor, it would seem that they had been apprehended on the ground of notorious bad character; and that the first prisoner, when questioned by the Magistrate, freely confessed that he gained his livelihood by murdering and robbing unwary passengers. His confession was in the following terms. Question by the Magistrate. Are you a thug ? Answer. Yes, I am a thug . People say, you are a person of that description. If they say so, it must be so. The other two prisoners were his brothers. The only evidence adduced on the trial was that of two witnesses, named Wilayutee and Gholam Hoosein; the former of whom was eighty-four years old, and from his exceeding great age almost devoid of intellect. He had deposed before the Magistrate, that he knew Tuhowar Khan to be a most notorious robber; but being required before the Court of Circuit to confirm his original deposition, he declared his total ignorance of the character of the prisoner, whom he had represented so unfavourably. The latter witness was a prisoner, who had himself been convicted of thuggee ; and he deposed, that the prisoner Tuhowar Khan subsisted by that nefarious practice. He could, however, mention no specific instance of Tuhowar's guilt, and admitted that his knowledge on the subject was obtained from general report. There was no evidence against the prisoners Sepahdar Khan and Goolab; and they having, from the first, asserted their innocence, the futwa [ruling] of the law officer of the Court of Circuit recommend their acquittal and release, on furnishing security for their good conduct, which was suggested from the suspicion attaching to their character, by their relationship to Tuhowar Khan. They were however discharged unconditionally by the Judge of Circuit. Tuhowar Khan having confessed his guilt before the Magistrate, and that confession being attested by a competent number of witnesses, he was declared by the futwa to be convicted of the charge and liable (by Tazeer ) to imprisonment, until he should shew evident signs of contrition. The Judge of Circuit dissented in this point from the opinion of his law officer, and transmitted the proceedings for the consideration of the Nizamat Adawlut. He did not consider the confession of the prisoner sufficient to warrant his conviction; being of opinion, that it was equivocal, and that it should be construed into an indignant denial of guilt, rather than an acknowledgment, especially as it had subsequently been disclaimed by him. The mode of punishment proposed by the futwa , he considered objectionable, as being indefinate, and left to the judgement and discretion of a jailor.

  The futwa of the law officers of the Nizamat Adawlut recited, that the prisoner Tuhowar Khan was convicted, on his own confession, and by the testimony of Wilayutee and Gholam Hussein, of being a thug , and that he was therefore liable to discretionary punishment by Acoobut . The Court, (present Y. Burges and W. E. Rees,) however, were not satisfied of the truth of the prisoner's confession; and as he was neither charged with, nor convicted of any specific offence, they did not judge it proper to sentence him to any punishment, but directed that he should be immediately discharged.'

 Source: W. H. Macnaghten, Reports of Cases Determined in the Nizamat Adawlut: With Tables of the Names of the Cases and Principal Matters , Vol. I: 1805-19 (Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1827-8), pp. 239-40. [V/22/440, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library.]

Anti-‘thuggee' legislation
When agitating for what became the anti-thug campaign of the 1830s, Smith would write to Company's Chief Secretary, George Swinton, complaining of the Nizamat Adalat's ‘nervous dread' of using capital punishment, implying that if law and order were to be maintained in British-administered territories, in the face of the exceptional threat presented to it by ‘thuggee', that the supreme court would have to be bypassed. In turn, Swinton sanctioned the execution of a gang of ‘thugs' arrested in the Malwa region of western central India, by arguing that these men were ‘enemies of mankind' who could be treated ‘like pirates' and punished by the representatives of whatever state or government apprehended them. Smith took this precedent as clearance to initiate ‘thuggee' trials under the auspices of the political department. This, and the fact that the Sagar and Narmada Territories in which he and Sleeman were based were not administered according to the Bengal Regulations, meant that these cases did not come before the Nizamat Adalat for review. In the mid-1830s, this anomalous position was clarified, with legislation formalizing the powers that Smith, Sleeman, and their associated officers had, by then, been taking for granted for the previous five years, overseeing the execution of more than three hundred ‘thugs', and the transportation or life-imprisonment of more than a thousand others. The two acts of legislation cited below detail the extent of the jurisdiction now claimed by the Company, suppressing ‘thuggee' on behalf of an indigenous population supposedly unaware of the peril they were in, and the amendment that allowed for convictions to be secured solely on the testimony of individuals who had already confessed to ‘thuggee' and had agreed to act as permanent informers (known as ‘approvers'). With this, the judicial roadblock that had ultimately terminated Perry's more localized initiative against ‘thuggee' during the 1810s was finally removed, and Sleeman, in particular, was able to press ahead with the ‘suppression', announcing the total eradication of ‘Thug associations in India' in 1840. [Tom Lloyd]

 Act No. XXX of 1836

  •  It is hereby enacted, that whoever shall be proved to have belonged, either before or after the passing of this Act, to any gang of Thugs, either within or without the Territories of the East India Company, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, with hard labour.

•  And it is hereby enacted, that every person accused of the offence made punishable by this Act, may be tried by any court, which would have been competent to try him, if his offence had been committed within the Zillah where that Court sits, any thing to the contrary, in any Regulation contained, notwithstanding.

•  And it is hereby enacted, that no Court shall, on a trial of any person accused of the offence…require any Futwa [ruling] from any [Islamic] Legal Officer [these were used as consultants by the East India Company].

Act No. XIX of 1837

It is hereby enacted, that no person shall by reason of any conviction for any offence whatever, be incompetent to be a witness in any stage of any cause, Civil or Criminal, before any Court, in the Territories of the East India Company.

Source: W. H. Sleeman, Report on Budhuk alias Bagree Decoits (Calcutta: Military Orphan Press, 1849), p. 353. All anti-‘thug' and anti-dacoit legislation passed between 1836 and 1848 can be found in ibid ., pp. 353-62.