‘भारतात British आलेच नसते तर..?’ हा विविध क्षेत्रातील नामांकित व्यक्तींनी लिहिलेला परिसंवाद आहे. या परिसंवादात उल्लेख करण्यात आलेल्या ब्रिटीश व्यक्तींचा अल्प जीवन परिचय तुम्हाला पुढे वाचता येईल.
1. SIR JOHN MALCOLM
Sir John Malcolm was born in 1769, one of seventeen children of George Malcolm, an impoverished tenant farmer in Eskdale in the Scottish Border country, and his wife Margaret (‘Bonnie Peggy’), Pasley. He left school, family, and country at the age of thirteen, and achieved distinction in the East India Company over the next half-century. A spirited character, he was nicknamed ‘Boy Malcolm’; for throughout his life he retained a youthful enthusiasm for field sports and fun and games. But behind this boisterous exterior lay serious intellectual ability and a considerable talent for government.
Arriving at Madras in 1783 as an ensign in the East India Company’s Madras Army, he served as a regimental soldier for eleven years, before spending a year in Britain to restore his health. He returned to India in 1795 as Military Secretary to General Sir Alured Clarke, participating en route in Clarke’s capture of the Cape of Good Hope. In the Anglo-Mysore war of 1799 he served with the Hyderabad contingent, and later as joint secretary of the Peace Commission setting up the new government of Mysore. Later that year he was selected by the Governor-General (Lord Mornington, later Marquess Wellesley) to lead a diplomatic mission to Iran. Following his return in 1801, he became Wellesley’s private secretary, based in Calcutta (Kolkata).
In the Anglo-Maratha war of 1803-05, he accompanied Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) as the Governor-General’s representative and diplomatic agent; the two men forming a lifelong friendship. In 1804 he was appointed British Resident at Mysore, but in 1805-6 saw further service in north India with General Lake. In early 1808 the Governor-General, Lord Minto, sent him on a second mission to Iran, but at this time French influence was dominant in Tehran, and he was rebuffed. Later that year a separate mission from London under Sir Harford Jones arrived in Iran and achieved success, the Iran government having by then become disenchanted with the French. Malcolm was again sent to Iran in 1810, but by that time the British government had decided to conduct diplomatic relations with Iran directly from London and appointed Sir Gore Ouseley as ambassador.
In 1812 Malcolm returned to Britain for five years’ furlough, and spent much of his time as a writer, completing his History of Iran (the first in English derived directly from Iran sources) in 1815. For this, he received an honorary DCL from the University of Oxford. Returning to India in 1817, he acted as the Governor-General’s agent in negotiations leading up to the third (and last) Anglo-Maratha war. He also acted as general, leading Company troops to victory against Maharajah Holkar at the decisive battle of Mehidpoor (Mahidpur) in December 1817. For the next three years, he acted as ruler of Central India (roughly, today’s Madhya Pradesh). Returning to Britain in 1822, he lived with his family as a country gentleman, completing two more books.
In 1827 he was appointed Governor of Bombay. His governorship was generally successful, despite controversy over an unfortunate quarrel with the judges of the Bombay Supreme Court, who sought to extend their jurisdiction beyond Bombay to the Deccan hinterland, newly acquired by the Company from the Maratha Peshwa of Poona.
Sahajanand Swami gave a copy of the Shikshapatri to Sir John Malcolm after their meeting at the residence of the Acting Political Agent in Rajkot on February 26, 1830. It was a most appropriate gift because the text gives the basic code of religion and the ethical teachings which provide the point of contact between the moral reform of Sahajanand Swami in Gujarat and the desire for social order and harmony on the part of Malcolm, who, as Governor of the Bombay Presidency, had political responsibility for Gujarat, including Kathiawar and Kutch. It has recently been identified that a manuscript of the Shikshapatri now in the Bodleian Library of Oxford University is the copy given to Sir John Malcolm in 1830. The purpose of this paper is to elaborate on the context of the meeting between these two leaders and to identify and describe the manuscript in the Bodleian Library.
The meeting took place in an atmosphere of mutual respect and regard. The British administrators in the area regularly gave positive reports to their superiors and friends concerning the good influence for public order that Sahajanand’s preaching was having in the territory known for disorder and lawlessness. The Collector of Baroda, Mr Williamson, reported to Bishop Reginald Heber that “some good has been done among many of these wild people by the preaching and popularity of the Hindu reformer, Swamee Narain.” 1 When Bishop Heber met with Sahajanand Swami on March 26, 1825, the final form of the Shikshapatri was not available, but the precepts had been preached already and had a significant impact. Mr David Anderson Blane, who was Acting Political Agent at Rajkot from 1828-1830 was the person who informed Governor Malcolm about the work of Sahajanand Swami. Mr Blane must have been well acquainted with Sahajanand because his letter inviting Sahajanand to meet the governor was addressed to him as “most respectable and wise”, and indicates that it was “from his friend”, Mr Blane. At that invitation, Sahajanand came to Rajkot even though he was ill and close to the end of his career. According to Malcolm, Swaminarayan had helped bring some stability to a lawless region.
In 1831 Malcolm finally returned to Britain, and immediately became a Member of Parliament for the rotten borough of Launceston, supporting his friend the Duke of Wellington in opposition to the Reform Bill. He bought Warfield Hall from the Parry family and busied himself renovating it. His last public act was a speech in April 1833 to the Proprietors (shareholders) of the East India Company, persuading them to accept the Government’s terms for renewal of its Charter. Immediately afterwards he suffered a stroke and died on 30 May 1833. He was buried in St James’s Church, Piccadilly.
There are statues of Sir John Malcolm in Westminster Abbey’s north transept and the Town Hall in Bombay. There is also a 100-foot high obelisk celebrating Malcolm’s achievements on the top of White Hill, above Langholm in Scotland.
Together with his contemporaries Mountstuart Elphinstone and Sir Thomas Munro, Malcolm was an architect of three early principles of British rule, whose wisdom “was too soon forgotten and remembered too late”. Four main themes can be identified. Firstly, India was to be ruled for the benefit of the Company – but also of Indians, i.e. no British settlers. Secondly, indirect rule was to be preferred, leaving existing Indian rulers in place wherever possible, with minimal disturbance of traditional methods of governance, religion and social structure. Thirdly, Malcolm helped to develop the role of the District Officer, a small group of powerful administrators with minimal overt force to support them. Fourthly, Malcolm promoted a ‘forward’ foreign policy; meaning diplomatic engagement with neighbouring states such as Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Together with his predecessor, Mountstuart Elphinstone, he was a pioneer in the promotion of Indian education and the training of Indians for the higher ranks of government. He also served as president of the Literary Society of Bombay.
He was a mentor and inspiration to several celebrated Anglo-Indian statesmen – among them Henry Pottinger, Charles Metcalfe, Alexander Burnes and Henry Rawlinson.
2. SIR THOMAS MUNRO, 1st BARONET
Munro was born in Glasgow on 27 May 1761 to a merchant called Alexander Munro. Thomas’ grandfather was a tailor, who prospered by successful investments in American tobacco. After working as a bank clerk, Alexander Munro joined the family’s prosperous tobacco business but was ruined by the collapse of the tobacco trade during the American Revolutionary War. Thomas was also a direct descendant of George Munro, 10th Baron of Foulis (d.1452), chief of the Highland Clan Munro.
He served with his regiment during the hard-fought war against Haidar Ali (1780–1783), serving under his older and distant relation Major Sir Hector Munro, 8th of Novar. Thomas also later served alongside a younger distant relation John Munro, 9th of Teaninich. Thomas served again with his regiment in the first campaign against Tipu Sultan (1790–1792). He was then chosen as one of four military officers to administer the Baramahal, part of the territory acquired from Tipu, where he remained for seven years learning the principles of revenue survey and assessment which he afterwards applied throughout the presidency of Madras.
After the final downfall of Tipu in 1799, he spent a short time restoring order in Kanara; and then for another seven years (1800–1807), he was placed in charge of the northern districts ceded by the Nizam of Hyderabad, where he introduced the ryotwari system of land revenue.
After a long furlough in Britain, during which he gave valuable evidence upon matters connected with the renewal of the British East India Company’s charter, he returned to Madras in 1814 with special instructions to reform the judicial and police systems.
On the outbreak of the Pindari War in 1817, he was appointed as brigadier-general to command the reserve division formed to reduce the southern territories of the Peshwa. Of his services on this occasion Lord Canning said in the House of Commons:
He went into the field with not more than five or six hundred men, of whom a very small proportion were Europeans… Nine forts were surrendered to him or taken by assault on his way, and at the end of a silent and scarcely observed progress, he emerged… leaving everything secure and tranquil behind him.
In 1819 Munro was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB).
In 1819, he was appointed the governor of Madras, where he founded systems of revenue assessment and general administration which substantially persisted into the twentieth century. He is regarded as the father of the ‘Ryotwari system’. His official minutes, published by Sir A. Arbuthnot, form a manual of experience and advice for the modern civilian. Munro has created a Baronet, of Lindertis in the County of Forfar, in 1825. At his behest, a Committee of public instruction was formed in 1826, which eventually led to the formation of Presidency College.
Mantralaya village in Andhra Pradesh is a place where the `Brindavan’ of famous ‘Dvaita’ saint ‘Raghavendra Swami’ is located. When Sir Thomas Munro was the Collector of Bellary in 1800, the Madras Government ordered him to procure the entire income from the Math and Manthralaya village. When the Revenue officials were unable to comply with this order, Sir Thomas Munro visited the Math for investigation. He removed his hat and shoes and entered the sacred precincts. Sri Raghavendra Swamy emerged from the Vrindavan and conversed with him for some time, about the resumption of an endowment. The Saint was visible and audible only to Munro, who received Manthraksha (God’s blessing). The Collector went back and wrote an order in favour of the Math and the village. This notification was published in the Madras Government Gazette in Chapter XI, page 213, with the caption “Manchali Adoni Taluka”. This order is still preserved in Fort St. George and Mantralayam.
Munro’s term as Governor of Madras came to an end in 1826. As there was a delay in appointing a new Governor, Munro decided to visit the Ceded Districts of the Madras Presidency, where he had served as a settlement officer in the early 19th century, in the meantime. As he was riding through the hills of Cuddapah District along with a mixed retinue of Europeans and Indians, Munro observed a golden, thread-like glow across two hills. He remarked
“What a beautiful garland of flowers they have stretched across the valley!”
His followers were perplexed as the garland was not visible to anyone. At length, an old Indian in the retinue reportedly replied, with sorrow:
“Alas! a great and good man will soon die!”
After spending a few days at Ananthapur, Thomas Munro and his party reached Gooty on July 4, 1827. At Gooty, some of his men were afflicted with cholera. Two days later, at Pattikonda, Munro caught cholera from his men and had to be nursed. His condition deteriorated in the evening and he died at half-past-nine on July 6, 1827.
Munro was buried at a graveyard in Gooty. In April 1831, his remains were transported to Madras and interred in the St. Mary’s Church, Fort St. George.
A public meeting was soon held in his memory in Madras city in which was made a proposal to erect a statue to Munro through public subscription. The Madras government opened a memorial for Munro in the town of Pattikonda where he had died. A choultry called “Munro Choultry” was erected in Gooty in his honour.
A total of nine thousand pounds (£8000, according to some sources) were collected through public subscription and the British sculptor Francis Chantrey was commissioned to make the statue. Chantrey completed the statue in 1834 – one of the three equestrian statues sculpted by him. According to a popular belief, the Duke of Wellington, on seeing the completed statue, had exclaimed
“A very fine horse; a very fine statue, and a very extraordinary man”
The statue was shipped to India and erected at The Island, Chennai in 1839 atop a granite plinth made by Ostheider & Co of Calcutta. The statue was ceremonially opened on October 23, 1839.
The statue of Thomas Munro is an equestrian statue of Thomas Munro, 1st Baronet, Scottish army commander and Governor of Madras from 1820 to 1827, located in the city of Chennai, India. The bronze statue sculpted by Francis Chantrey in the United Kingdom in 1834 and shipped to Madras in 1839, was one of the popular landmarks in Chennai. The absence of stirrups is one of the peculiarities of the statue and for this reason, it is also referred to as “The Stirrupless Majesty”.
During the 9th World Tamil Conference held in Coimbatore in 2010, there were demands to remove the statue of Thomas Munro, evoking strong protests from conservationists. Though the government had decided to remove the statue, it has not yet been implemented.
3. JAMES AUGUSTUS HICKY
Hicky was born in Ireland around the year 1740. While young, he moved to London to apprentice with William Faden, a Scottish painter. However, Hickey never took his freedom from the painters’ guild, and instead secured a clerkship with an English lawyer, Sarjeant Davy. At some point Hicky quit his career in law, and, after a brief attempt practising as a surgeon in London, he boarded an East Indiaman as a surgeon’s mate bound for Calcutta in 1772.
Upon landing in Calcutta, Hicky practised as both a surgeon and a merchant, shipping and trading goods along India’s coast. But, by 1776, his shipping business collapsed as his vessel returned to port with its cargo badly damaged. Unable to reassure his creditors, Hicky entered debtors’ prison in October 1776.
While in jail, Hicky acquired a printing press and types and by 1777 began a printing business from jail. In 1778, Hicky hired Lawyer William Hickey (who, confusingly, was not related to Hicky) to get rid of his debts and free him from jail.
Hicky is known as the ‘Papa of Indian Press’ by the British. On January 29, 1780, India got its first-ever newspaper and the man single-handedly made it possible was James Augustus Hicky. The champion figure of journalism has inspired a crop of dauntless journalists in India. Hicky started a newspaper called Bengal Gazette, which also known as ‘Hicky’s Bengal Gazette’ or the ‘Calcutta General Advertiser’ which hit the stands for the first time on January 29, 1780. It was the first manifestation of Journalism in India, serving as a public watchdog against the mismanagement and wrong-doings of government and corruption in the society. Although his newspaper was disliked by the then Governor-General of India, Warren Hastings, he paved the way and influenced multiple Indians to start newspapers. Hicky’s printing office was the training ground for many later printers who went on to found their newspapers, leading to a vibrant newspaper scene in Bengal.
Hicky first maintained a neutral editing policy but after he learned that other men were about to bring a rival newspaper, The India Gazette, to market, he accused an East India Company employee, Simeon Droz of supporting the India Gazette’s editors because he had refused to pay a bribe to Droz and Marian Hastings, Warren Hastings’ wife. The newspaper drew strong criticism for its coarse language and its blunt. In retaliation for Hicky’s accusation, Hastings’ Supreme Council forbid Hicky from mailing his newspaper through the post office. Hicky claimed Hastings’ order violated his right to free expression, and accused Hastings of corruption, tyranny, and even erectile dysfunction. Hicky also accused other British leaders in Calcutta of corruption, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, Elijah Impey, and the leader of the Protestant Mission, Johann Zacharias Kiernander. Hicky’s editorial independence was short-lived as Hastings and Kiernander sued him for libel.
After four dramatic trials in June 1781, the Supreme Court found Hicky guilty and sentenced him to jail. Hicky continued to print his newspaper from jail and continued to accuse Hastings and other of corruption. He was finally shuttered when Hastings instituted fresh lawsuits against him.
Finally, Warren Hastings seized his printing machines and typewriters, and March 1782 saw the end of Bengal Gazette. It was a big setback for the freedom of the press.
Hicky was freed from jail about Christmas 1784, when Warren Hastings, about to embark to England to face impeachment, forgave his debts. Little is known about Hicky’s later life, except that his health was ruined after three years in jail, and that he lived in poverty. Hicky died on a boat to China sometime near the end of 1802.
4. WARREN HASTINGS
Hastings was born in Churchill, Oxfordshire in 1732 to a poor father, Penistone Hastings, and a mother, Hester Hastings, who died soon after he was born. He attended Westminster School where he was a contemporary of the future Prime Ministers Lord Shelburne and the Duke of Portland as well as the poet William Cowper.
He joined the British East India Company in 1750 as a clerk and sailed out to India reaching Calcutta in August 1750. Hastings built up a reputation for hard work and diligence and spent his free time learning about India and mastering Urdu and Persian. He was rewarded for his work in 1752 when he was promoted and sent to Kasimbazar, an important British trading post in Bengal where he worked for William Watts. While there he received further lessons about the nature of East Indian politics.
At the time, British traders still operated at the whim of local rulers, and so Hastings and his colleagues were unsettled by the political turmoil of Bengal, where the elderly moderate Nawab Alivardi Khan was likely to be succeeded by his grandson Siraj Ud-Daulah, although several other rival claimants were eyeing the throne. This made British trading posts throughout Bengal increasingly insecure, as Siraj Ud-Daulah was known to harbour anti-European views and be likely to launch an attack once he took power. When Alivardi Khan died in April 1756, the British traders and small garrison at Kasimbazar were left vulnerable. On 3 June, after being surrounded by a much larger force, the British were persuaded to surrender to prevent a massacre taking place. Hastings was imprisoned with others in the Bengali capital, Murshidabad, while the Nawab’s forces marched on Calcutta and captured it. The garrison and civilians were then locked up under appalling conditions in the Black Hole of Calcutta.
For a while, Hastings remained in Murshidabad and was even used by the Nawab as an intermediary, but fearing for his life, he escaped to the island of Fulda, where several refugees from Calcutta had taken shelter. While there, he met and married Mary Buchanan, the widow of one of the victims of the Black Hole. Shortly afterwards a British expedition from Madras under Robert Clive arrived to rescue them. Hastings served as a volunteer in Clive’s forces as they retook Calcutta in January 1757. After this swift defeat, the Nawab urgently sought peace and the war came to an end. Clive was impressed with Hastings when he met him and arranged for his return to Kasimbazar to resume his pre-war activities. Later in 1757 fighting resumed, leading to the Battle of Plassey, where Clive won a decisive victory over the Nawab. Siraj Ud-Daulah was overthrown and replaced by his uncle Mir Jafar, who initiated pro-British policies.
In 1758 Hastings became the British Resident in the Bengali capital of Murshidabad – a major step forward in his career – at the instigation of Clive. His role in the city was ostensibly that of an ambassador but as Bengal came increasingly under the dominance of the East India Company he was often given the task of issuing orders to the new Nawab on behalf of Clive and the Calcutta authorities. Hastings personally sympathised with Mir Jafar and regarded many of the demands placed on him by the Company as excessive. Hastings had already developed a philosophy that was grounded in trying to establish a more understanding relationship with India’s inhabitants and their rulers, and he often tried to mediate between the two sides.
During Mir Jafar’s reign, the East India Company exerted an increasingly large role in the running of the region and effectively took over the defence of Bengal against external invaders when Bengal’s troops proved insufficient for the task. As he grew older, Mir Jafar became gradually less effective in ruling the state, and in 1760 British troops ousted him from power and replaced him with Mir Qasim. Hastings expressed his doubts to Calcutta over the move, believing they were honour-bound to support Mir Jafar, but his opinions were overruled. Hastings established a good relationship with the new Nawab and again had misgivings about the demands he relayed from his superiors. In 1761 he was recalled and appointed to the Calcutta council.
Hastings was personally angered when he investigated trading abuses in Bengal. He alleged some European and British-allied Indian merchants were taking advantage of the situation to enrich themselves personally. Persons travelling under the unauthorised protection of the British flag engaged in widespread fraud and illegal trading, knowing that local customs officials would thereby be cowed into not interfering with them. Hastings felt this was disgracing Britain’s reputation, and he urged the ruling authorities in Calcutta to put an end to it. The Council considered his report but ultimately rejected Hastings’ proposals and he was fiercely criticised by other members, many of whom had themselves profited from the trade.
Ultimately, little was done to stem the abuses, and Hastings began to consider quitting his post and returning to Britain. His resignation was only delayed by the outbreak of fresh fighting in Bengal. Once on the throne, Qasim proved increasingly independent in his actions, and he rebuilt Bengal’s army by hiring European instructors and mercenaries who greatly improved the standard of his forces. He felt gradually more confident and in 1764 when a dispute broke out in the settlement of Patna he captured its British garrison and threatened to execute them if the East India Company responded militarily. When Calcutta dispatched troops anyway, Mir Qasim executed the hostages. British forces then went on the attack and won a series of battles culminating in the decisive Battle of Buxar in October 1764. After this Mir Qasim fled into exile in Delhi, where he later died (1777). The Treaty of Allahabad (1765) gave the East India Company the right to collect taxes in Bengal on behalf of the Mughal Emperor.
Hastings resigned in December 1764 and sailed for Britain the following month. He left deeply saddened by the failure of the more moderate strategy that he had supported, but which had been rejected by the hawkish members of the Calcutta Council. Once he arrived in London Hastings began spending far beyond his means. He stayed in fashionable addresses and had his picture painted by Joshua Reynolds even though, unlike many of his contemporaries, he had not amassed a fortune while in India. Eventually, having run up enormous debts, Hastings realised he needed to return to India to restore his finances, and applied to the East India Company for employment. His application was initially rejected as he had made many political enemies, including the powerful director Laurence Sulivan. Eventually, an appeal to Sulivan’s rival Robert Clive secured Hastings the position of deputy ruler at the city of Madras. He sailed from Dover on March 1769. On the voyage, he met the German Baroness Imhoff and her husband. He soon fell in love with the Baroness and they began an affair, seemingly with her husband’s consent. Hastings’ first wife, Mary, had died in 1759, and he planned to marry the Baroness once she had obtained a divorce from her husband. The process took a long time and it was not until 1777 when news of divorce came from Germany that Hastings was finally able to marry her.
Hastings arrived in Madras shortly after the end of the First Anglo-Mysore War of 1767–1769, during which the forces of Hyder Ali had threatened the capture of the city. The Treaty of Madras (29 March 1769) which ended the war failed to settle the dispute and three further Anglo-Mysore Wars followed (1780-1799). During his time at Madras Hastings initiated reforms of trading practices which cut out the use of middlemen and benefited both the Company and the Indian labourers, but otherwise, the period was relatively uneventful for him.
By this stage, Hastings shared Clive’s view that the three major British Presidencies (settlements) – Madras, Bombay and Calcutta – should all be brought under a single rule rather than being governed separately as they currently were. In 1771 he was appointed to be Governor of Calcutta, the most important of the Presidencies. In Britain, moves were underway to reform the divided system of government and to establish a single rule across all of British India with its capital in Calcutta. Hastings was considered the natural choice to be the first Governor-General.
In 1773, Hastings responded to an appeal for help from the Raja of the princely state of Cooch Behar to the north of Bengal, whose territory had been invaded by Zhidar, the Druk Desi of Bhutan the previous year. Hastings agreed to help on the condition that Cooch Behar recognises British sovereignty. The Raja agreed and with the help of British troops, they pushed the Bhutanese out of the Duars and into the foothills in 1773.
The Druk Desi returned to face civil war at home. His opponent Jigme Senge, the regent for the seven-year-old Shabdrung (the Bhutanese equivalent of the Dalai Lama), had supported popular discontent. Zhidar was unpopular for his corvee tax (he sought to rebuild a major dzong in one year, an unreasonable goal), as well as for his overtures to the Manchu Emperors which threatened Bhutanese independence. Zhidar was soon overthrown and forced to flee to Tibet, where he was imprisoned and a new Druk Desi, Kunga Rinchen, installed in his place. Meanwhile, the Sixth Panchen Lama, who had imprisoned Zhidar, interceded on behalf of the Bhutanese with a letter to Hastings, imploring him to cease hostilities in return for friendship. Hastings saw the opportunity to establish relations with both the Tibetans and the Bhutanese and wrote a letter to the Panchen Lama proposing “a general treaty of amity and commerce between Tibet and Bengal.”
In 1774, he was appointed the first Governor-General of Bengal. He was also the first governor of India. The post was new, and British mechanisms to administer the territory were not fully developed. Regardless of his title, Hastings was only a member of a five-man Supreme Council of Bengal so confusedly structured that it was difficult to tell what constitutional position Hastings held.
In February 1782, news had reached the headquarters of the EIC in Calcutta of the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, Hastings proposed dispatching a mission to Tibet with a message of congratulation designed to strengthen the amicable relations established by Bogle during his earlier visit. With the assent of the EIC Court of Directors, Samuel Turner was appointed the chief of the Tibet mission on 9 January 1783 with fellow EIC employee and amateur artist Samuel Davis as “Draftsman & Surveyor”. Turner returned to the Governor-General’s camp at Patna in 1784 where he reported that although unable to visit the Tibetan capital at Lhasa, he had received a promise that merchants sent to the country from India would be encouraged.
Turner was also instructed to obtain a pair of yaks on his travels, which he duly did. They were transported to Hasting’s menagerie in Calcutta and on the Governor-General’s return to England, the yaks went too, although only the male survived the difficult sea voyage. Noted artist George Stubbs subsequently painted the animal’s portrait as The Yak of Tartary and in 1854 it went on to appear, albeit stuffed, at The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London. Hasting’s return to England ended any further efforts to engage in diplomacy with Tibet.
While Governor, Hastings launched a major crackdown on bandits operating in Bengal, which proved largely successful.
He also faced severe Bengal Famine, which resulted in about ten million deaths.
In 1784, after ten years of service, during which he helped extend and regularise the nascent Raj created by Clive of India, Hastings resigned.
Upon his return to England, he was impeached in the House of Commons for crimes and misdemeanours during his time in India, especially for the alleged judicial killing of Maharaja Nandakumar. At first, deemed unlikely to succeed, the prosecution was managed by MPs including Edmund Burke, who was encouraged by Sir Philip Francis, whom Hastings had wounded during a duel in India, Charles James Fox and Richard Brinsley Sheridan. When the charges of his indictment were read, the twenty counts took Edmund Burke two full days to read.
The house sat for a total of 148 days for seven years during the investigation. The investigation was pursued at great cost to Hastings personally, and he complained constantly that the cost of defending himself from the prosecution was bankrupting him. He is rumoured to have once stated that the punishment given him would have been less extreme had he pleaded guilty. The House of Lords finally made its decision on 24 April 1795, acquitting him on all charges. The Company subsequently compensated him with 4,000 Pounds Sterling annually.
Throughout the long years of the trial, Hastings lived in considerable style at his townhouse, Somerset House, Park Lane. Among the many who supported him in print was the pamphleteer and versifier Ralph Broome. Others disturbed by the perceived injustice of the proceedings included Fanny Burney. The letters and journals of Jane Austen and her family, who knew Hastings, show that they followed the trial closely.
His supporters from the Edinburgh East India Club, as well as many other gentlemen from India, gave a reportedly “elegant entertainment” for Hastings when he visited Edinburgh. A toast on the occasion went to the “Prosperity to our settlements in India” and wished that “the virtue and talents which preserved them be ever remembered with gratitude.”
In 1788 he acquired the estate at Daylesford, Gloucestershire, including the site of the medieval seat of the Hastings family. In the following years, he remodelled the mansion to the designs of Samuel Pepys Cockerell, with classical and Indian decoration, and gardens landscaped by John Davenport. He also rebuilt the Norman church in 1816, where he was buried two years later.
5. ROBERT CLIVE
1st Baron Clive of Plassey, also known as Clive of India was a soldier and first British administrator of Bengal, who was one of the creators of British power in India. In his first governorship (1755–60) he won the Battle of Plassey and became master of Bengal. In his second governorship (1764–67) he reorganized the British colony.
Young Clive was a difficult boy and was sent to several schools, including the Merchant Taylors’ School in London, though without much visible result. In 1743, when Clive was 18, he was sent to Madras (now Chennai) in the service of the British East India Company.
At Madras, Clive was moody and quarrelsome; he attempted suicide and once fought a duel. He found solace in the governor’s library, where he virtually educated himself. Hostilities between the British and French East India companies and their competitive support of rival Indian princes drew Clive into military service and gave him a chance to demonstrate his ability. In 1751 Chanda Sahib, an ally of the French was besieging his British-connected rival, Muḥammad ʿAlī, in the fortress of Trichinopoly (now Tiruchchirappalli). Clive offered to lead a diversion against Chanda’s base at Arcot. With 200 Europeans and 300 Indians, he seized Arcot on August 31 and then successfully withstood a 53-day siege (September 23–November 14) by Chanda’s son. This feat proved to be the turning point in a contest with the French commander, Joseph-François Dupleix. In the next months, Clive established himself as a brilliant exponent of guerrilla tactics.
In March 1753 he left Madras with his bride, Margaret Maskelyne, and something of a fortune, having been appointed in 1749 a commissary for the supply of provisions to the troops. In 1755, after unsuccessfully standing for Parliament, he was sent out again to India, this time as governor of Fort St. David and with a lieutenant colonel’s commission in the Royal Army. With him went troops intended to expel the French from India. On the way, at the request of the government in Bombay (now Mumbai), he stormed the pirate stronghold at Gheriah on the western coast.
Reaching Madras in June 1756, Clive immediately became involved in the affairs of Bengal, with which, henceforward, his fate was to be linked. Hitherto Bengal had been ruled by viceroys of the figurehead Mughal emperor, and it was under their protection that the British East India Company carried on its trade. The principal city, Calcutta (now Kolkata), had come to rival Madras as a trading centre, and its commerce was the most valuable in India. In 1756 a dispute with the British about fortifying the city caused the new Nawab (Mughal viceroy) of Bengal, Sirāj al-Dawlah, to attack and capture the fort there.
News of the fall of Calcutta reached Madras in August 1756. After some delay, Clive was given command of the relief expedition and set out on October 16, 1756, with 900 Europeans and 1,500 Indians. Clive retook Calcutta on January 2, 1757, and forced the Nawab to restore the company’s privileges, pay compensation, and allow the British to fortify Calcutta. Determined to take advantage of discontent with the nawab’s regime, he sponsored a new ruler to ensure conditions that were agreeable to the company’s trade. His candidate was Mīr Jaʿfar, an elderly general secretly hostile to Sirāj al-Dawlah. Clive broke with Sirāj al-Dawlah and overthrew him at the Battle of Plassey on June 23. The conflict was more of a cannonade than a battle, and only 23 of Clive’s men were killed. This victory made Clive the virtual master of Bengal.
Clive’s first government lasted until February 1760. He was confirmed as governor by the company and went about the business of strengthening Mīr Jaʿfar’s authority, though at the same time keeping him under control. A challenge from the Mughal crown prince was repulsed at Patna in 1759. The Dutch, who sought to play on the nawab’s discontent with Clive’s restraints, sent a force to their settlement at Chinsurah, but, through a series of adroit moves, Clive destroyed this force even though England was at peace with the Netherlands. By 1760 Mīr Jaʿfar’s authority was unchallenged throughout Bengal and Bihar, and his subservience to the company was complete. Also, by the dispatch of a force under Col. Francis Forde in 1758, Clive secured the Northern Sarkars from the French garrison.
Though stained by corruption and duplicity, Clive’s first government was a tour de force of generalship and statecraft. He had snatched the richest province of India out of the hands of his political superiors and with the authority of the Mughal regime. Returning to England in February 1760, he was given an Irish peerage as Baron Clive of Plassey in 1762 and was knighted in 1764. He was described by William Pitt the Elder as “a heaven-born general.” He became a member of Parliament for Shrewsbury, purchased an estate, and tried to use his Indian wealth to carve out an English political career. But he had to reckon with the current jealousy toward any upstart, however brilliant, the unpopularity of returned Indian “nabobs” (a corruption of Nawab), and suspicions within the East India Company resulting from his suggestion to Pitt that the state should take over its territories. His critics, led by a former friend who was then chairman of the company, tried to cut off the income from his Indian estates. Though they failed to ruin him, they did prevent him from becoming a national statesman.
In 1764 opinion within the company turned in Clive’s favour because of the news from India. Clive’s protégé Mīr Jaʿfar had been deposed in favour of Mīr Qāsim, who in turn had been deposed in 1763. Shah ʿĀlam II, the Mughal emperor, attacked again, and the company seemed to be on the brink of disaster. Clive was appointed governor and commander in chief of Bengal with a power to override the council. Arriving in Calcutta for the second time on May 3, 1765, he found that the decisive Battle of Baksar (Buxar) had already been won; Shujāʿ al-Dawlah, the Nawab of Oudh (Ayodhya), was in flight, and the emperor had joined the British camp. But there was a political and military vacuum between Bengal and Delhi (the Mughal capital), and the whole Bengal administration was in chaos.
His settlement of the company’s affairs was less skilful. First, he accepted not only full compensation for losses to the East India Company and the Calcutta citizens but also large payments to himself and the council. He received £234,000 in cash, a Mughal title of nobility, and a jagir, or estate, with an annual rental of about £30,000. This example opened the way to a flood of corruption that nearly ruined both Bengal and the company and which Clive himself later struggled to control. Second, he obtained from the Nawab the practical exemption from internal duties not only on the company’s goods but also on the private trade of the company’s servants as well. Since the company possessed paramount force and its servants believed in working on their own behalf, this had a most harmful effect on the economy of Bengal.
Clive’s chief claim to fame as a statesman rests upon the achievements of his second governorship. His work falls into three parts: external policy, the settlement of Bengal, and the reform of the company’s service. In his external policy, Clive had to face one of the most difficult tests of statesmanship: that of knowing where to stop. Though there was nothing to prevent him from restoring Shah ʿĀlam II to Delhi and ruling north India in his name, he wisely decided to limit the company’s commitments to Bengal and Bihar. Oudh was returned to Shujāʿ al-Dawlah as a buffer state between Bengal and the turbulent northwest. The emperor was solaced with an annual tribute, and in return, he conferred the revenue administration (dewanee) of Bengal on the East India Company. This grant formed the key to Clive’s second achievement, the settlement of Bengal. It gave legal authority to the company to collect the revenues of Bengal and Bihar, sending the emperor only his annual tribute. The administration of the dewanee was organized through a deputy nawab appointed by the company. The police and magisterial power was still exercised by the Nawab of Bengal as the emperor’s deputy, but he, in turn, nominated the company’s deputy to act for him. This was Clive’s so-called dual system, which made the company the virtual ruler of India’s two richest provinces.
Clive’s third task was the reform of the company’s service. Within two days of landing, he superseded the Calcutta council, which had defied his predecessor, Henry Vansittart. He reestablished discipline by accepting all resignations, enforcing others, and bringing replacements from Madras. All company servants were required to sign covenants not to receive presents worth more than 1,000 rupees without the consent of the governor. Private trade, the abuse of which had caused the war, was forbidden. This was the least successful measure because the company’s officials were not adequately paid and had no other means of livelihood. Clive tried to meet the difficulty by forming a trading company that administered the salt monopoly and in which the servants received shares according to their rank. These two measures, only partially successful, marked the end of nearly 10 years’ reckless plunder in Bengal. Clive dealt with the army with equal rigour. He cut down swollen allowances and faced with dauntless courage the White Mutiny of discontented officers when for a time he stood almost alone in Bengal.
Clive left Calcutta in January 1767. His second government was his crowning achievement, but he had made many enemies. An active group, supported by Lord Chatham, feared the corrupting influence of Indian wealth on English public life. In 1772, when the company appealed to the government to save it from bankruptcy, it appeared that Clive’s system of government in Bengal had not been as successful as had been hoped. Two parliamentary committees uncovered corruption among the company’s servants, and this set off an attack on Clive as the instigator of the whole process. He defended himself in Parliament (1773) with characteristic vigour and conviction, complaining of being treated like a sheep stealer and declaring, “I stand astonished at my moderation.” In 1773 Parliament declared that he did “render great and meritorious services to his country.”
This triumph was his last. With his already shaken health, the strain on his melancholic temperament was too great: in November 1774 he died by his own hand at his house in London. Clive’s talents were outstanding, his character no more unscrupulous than that of many men of his day, and his work marked the real beginning of the British Empire in India.
6. MOUNTSTUART ELPHINSTONE
Mountstuart Elphinstone was a British official in India who did much to promote popular education and local administration of laws.
Mountstuart Elphinstone was the fourth son of the 11th Baron Elphinstone in the peerage of Scotland. Having been appointed to the civil service of the British East India Company, of which one of his uncles was a director, he arrived at Calcutta (now Kolkata) early in 1796 where he filled several subordinate posts. In 1799, he escaped massacre in Benares (now Varanasi) by the followers of the deposed Nawab of Awadh Wazir Ali Khan. In 1801 he was transferred to the Diplomatic Service where he was posted as the assistant to the British resident at the court of the Peshwa ruler Baji Rao II. He won distinction in 1803 as political agent and aide-de-camp to Colonel Arthur Wellesley (brother of the governor-general; later Duke of Wellington) in the Second Maratha War.
In the Peshwa court, he obtained his first opportunity of distinction, being attached in the capacity of diplomatist to the mission of Sir Arthur Wellesley to the Marathas. When, on the failure of negotiations, war broke out, Elphinstone, though a civilian, acted as virtual aide-de-camp to Wellesley. At the Battle of Assaye, and throughout the campaign, he displayed rare courage and knowledge of tactics such that Wellesley told him he ought to have been a soldier. In 1804, when the war ended, Elphinstone was appointed British resident at Nagpur. This gave him plenty of leisure time, which he spent in reading and study. Later, in 1807, he completed a short stint at Gwalior.
In 1808 he was appointed the first British envoy to the court of Kabul, Afghanistan with the object of securing a friendly alliance with the Afghans against Napoleon’s planned advance on India. However, this proved of little value, because Shah Shuja was driven from the throne by his brother before it could be ratified. The most valuable permanent result of the embassy was in Elphinstone’s work titled Account of the Kingdom of Cabul and its Dependencies in Persia and India (1839).
After spending about a year in Calcutta arranging the report of his mission, Elphinstone was appointed in 1811 to the important and difficult post of resident at Pune (formerly known as Poona). The difficulty arose from the general complication of Maratha politics, and especially from the weakness of the Peshwas, which Elphinstone rightly read from the first. The tenuous peace between the Peshwas was broken in 1817 with the Marathas declaring war on the British. Elphinstone assumed command of the military during an important crisis during the Battle of Khadki and managed to secure a victory despite his non-military background. As reparations, Peshwa territories were annexed by the British. Elphinstone became the Commissioner of the Deccan in 1818.
In 1819 Elphinstone was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Bombay, a post he held until 1827. During his tenure, he greatly promoted education in India, at a time when opinion in Britain was against educating the “natives.” He may fairly be regarded as the founder of the system of state education in India. One of his principal achievements was the compilation of the “Elphinstone code.” He also returned many lands that had appropriated by the British to the Raja of Satara.
He built the first bungalow in Malabar Hill during this time, and following his example, many prominent people took up residence here. It soon became a posh locality and remains so to the present date.
His connection with the Bombay Presidency is commemorated in the endowment of Elphinstone College by local communities, and in the erection of a marble statue by the European inhabitants. However, the Elphinstone Road railway station and the Elphinstone Circle, both in Mumbai city, are not named after him but in honour of his nephew, Lord John Elphinstone, who later also became Governor of Bombay in the 1850s.
The township of Elphinstone, Victoria, Australia was named after him. The suburb of Mount Stuart, Tasmania, Australia and its main road, Elphinstone Road, were also named after him.
There is a statue of him in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Returning to Britain in 1829, after an interval of two years’ travel, Elphinstone continued to influence public affairs but based in England rather than Scotland. Nevertheless, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1830 with his proposer being Sir John Robison.
He twice refused appointment as Governor-General of India, preferring to finish his two-volume work, History of India (1841). He died in Hookwood, Surrey, England on 20 November 1859. He is buried in Limpsfield churchyard.
James Sutherland Cotton later wrote his biography as part of the Rulers of India series in 1892.
The historian James Grant Duff named his son after Elphinstone.
7. LORD CURZON
George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston known as The Lord Curzon of Kedleston and as The Earl Curzon of Kedleston, was a British Conservative statesman.
Curzon was Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905, during which time he created the territory of Eastern Bengal and Assam. After returning to Britain, he served as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from 1919 to 1924. In the negotiations after World War I, he proposed the Curzon Line, which later became the border between Poland and the Soviet Union.
Curzon was passed over as Prime Minister in 1923 in favour of Stanley Baldwin. His character polarised opinion amongst his contemporaries, “showing gratitude and resentment along his path with equally lavish hands”. He quarrelled endlessly and his arrogance and inflexibility made even more enemies.
Curzon was the eldest son and second of eleven children of Alfred Curzon and his wife Blanche. He was born at Kedleston Hall, built on the site where his family, who were of Norman ancestry, had lived since the 12th century. His mother, worn out by childbirth, died when George was 16; her husband survived her by 41 years. Neither parent exerted a major influence on Curzon’s life. Scarsdale was an austere and unindulgent father who believed in the long-held family tradition that landowners should stay on their land and not go “roaming about all over the world”. He thus had little sympathy for those journeys across Asia between 1887 and 1895 which made his son one of the most travelled men who ever sat in a British cabinet. A more decisive presence in Curzon’s childhood was that of his brutal, sadistic governess, Ellen Mary Paraman, whose tyranny in the nursery stimulated his combative qualities and encouraged the obsessional side of his nature. Paraman used to beat him and periodically forced him to parade through the village wearing a conical hat bearing the words liar, sneak, and a coward. Curzon later noted, “No children well-born and well-placed ever cried so much and so justly.”
He was educated at Wixenford School, Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford. At Eton, he was a favourite of Oscar Browning, an over-intimate relationship that led to his tutor’s dismissal. While at Eton, he was a controversial figure who was liked and disliked with equal intensity by large numbers of masters and other boys. This strange talent for both attraction and repulsion stayed with him all his life: few people ever felt neutral about him. At Oxford, he was President of the Union and Secretary of the Oxford Canning Club (a Tory political club named for George Canning). Although he failed to achieve a first class degree in Greats, he won the Lothian and Arnold Prizes, the latter for an essay on Sir Thomas More. He was elected a prize fellow of All Souls College in 1883. A teenage spinal injury, incurred while riding, left Curzon in lifelong pain, often resulting in insomnia, and required him to wear a metal corset, contributing to an unfortunate impression of stiffness and arrogance.
Curzon became Assistant Private Secretary to Salisbury in 1885, and in 1886 entered Parliament as Member for Southport in south-west Lancashire. His maiden speech, which was chiefly an attack on home rule and Irish nationalism, was regarded in much the same way as his oratory at the Oxford Union: brilliant and eloquent but also presumptuous and rather too self-assured. He was Under-Secretary of State for India and Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
In the meantime he had travelled around the world: Russia and Central Asia (1888–89), a long tour of Persia (September 1889 – January 1890), Siam, French Indochina and Korea (1892), and a daring foray into Afghanistan and the Pamirs (1894). He published several books describing central and eastern Asia and related policy issues. His journeys allowed him to study the problems of Asia and their implications for British India, whilst reinforcing his pride in his nation and her imperial mission.
Curzon believed Russia to be the most likely threat to India, Britain’s most valuable colony, from the 19th century through the early 20th century. In 1879 Russia had begun construction of the Transcaspian Railroad along the Silk Road, officially solely to enforce local control. The line starts from the city of Kzyzl Su (Krasnovodsk) (nowadays Turkmenbashi) (on the Caspian Sea), travels southeast along the Karakum Desert, through Ashgabat, continues along the Kopet Dagh Mountains until it reaches Tejen. Curzon dedicated an entire chapter in his book Russia in Central Asia to discuss the perceived threat to British control of India. This railroad connected Russia with the most wealthy and influential cities in Central Asia at the time, including the Persian province of Khorasan, and would allow the rapid deployment of Russian supplies and troops into the area. Curzon also believed that the resulting greater economic interdependence between Russia and Central Asia would be damaging to British interests.
In 1895 he married Mary Victoria Leiter, the daughter of Levi Ziegler Leiter. She had a long and nearly fatal illness near the end of summer 1904, from which she never really recovered. Falling ill again in July 1906, she died on the 18th of that month in her husband’s arms, at the age of 36. It was the greatest personal loss of his life. She was buried in the church at Kedleston, where Curzon designed his memorial for her, a Gothic chapel added to the north side of the nave.
They had three daughters during a firm and happy marriage: Mary Irene, who inherited her father’s Barony of Ravensdale; Cynthia, who became the first wife of politician Sir Oswald Mosley; and Alexandra Naldera (“Baba”), who married Edward “Fruity” Metcalfe, the best friend, best man and equerry of Edward VIII.
In January 1899 he was appointed Viceroy of India. He has created a Peer of Ireland as Baron Curzon of Kedleston, in the County of Derby, on his appointment. This peerage was created in the Peerage of Ireland (the last so created) so that he would be free, until his father’s death, to re-enter the House of Commons on his return to Britain.
Reaching India shortly after the suppression of the frontier risings of 1897–98, he paid special attention to the independent tribes of the north-west frontier, inaugurated a new province called the North-West Frontier Province, and pursued a policy of forceful control mingled with conciliation. The only major armed outbreak on this frontier during the period of his administration was the Mahsud–Waziri campaign of 1901.
In the context of the Great Game between the British and Russian Empires for control of Central Asia, he held deep mistrust of Russian intentions. This led him to encourage British trade in Persia, and he paid a visit to the Persian Gulf in 1903. Curzon argued for an exclusive British presence in the Gulf, a policy originally proposed by John Malcolm. The British government was already making agreements with local sheikhs/tribal leaders along the Persian Gulf coast to this end. Curzon had convinced his government to establish Britain as the unofficial protector of Kuwait with the Anglo-Kuwaiti Agreement of 1899. The Lansdowne Declaration in 1903 stated that the British would counter any other European power’s attempt to establish a military presence in the Gulf. Only four years later this position was abandoned and the Persian Gulf declared a neutral zone in the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907, prompted in part by the high economic cost of defending India from Russian advances.
At the end of 1903, Curzon sent a British expedition to Tibet under Francis Younghusband, ostensibly to forestall a Russian advance. After bloody conflicts with Tibet’s poorly armed defenders, the mission penetrated to Lhasa, where a treaty was signed in September 1904. No Russian presence was found in Lhasa.
During his tenure, Curzon undertook the restoration of the Taj Mahal and expressed satisfaction that he had done so.
Within India, Curzon appointed a number of commissions to inquire into education, irrigation, police and other branches of administration, on whose reports legislation was based during his second term of office as viceroy. Reappointed Governor-General in August 1904, he presided over the 1905 partition of Bengal, which roused such bitter opposition among the people of the province that it was later revoked (1911).
Curzon also took an active interest in military matters. In 1901, he founded the Imperial Cadet Corps or ICC. The ICC was a corps d’elite, designed to give Indian princes and aristocrats military training, after which a few would be given officer commissions in the Indian Army. But these commissions were “special commissions” which did not empower their holders to command any troops. Predictably, this was a major stumbling block to the ICC’s success, as it caused much resentment among former cadets. Though the ICC closed in 1914, it was a crucial stage in the drive to Indianise the Indian Army’s Officer Corps, which was haltingly begun in 1917.
Military organisation proved to be the final issue faced by Curzon in India. This was in part a clash of personalities: Curzon once wrote on a document “I rise from the perusal of these papers filled with the sense of the ineptitude of my military advisers”, and once wrote to the Commander-in-Chief in India, Kitchener, advising him that signing himself “Kitchener of Khartoum” took up too much time and space, which Kitchener thought petty (Curzon simply signed himself “Curzon” as if he were a hereditary peer, although he later took to signing himself “Curzon of Kedleston”). A difference of opinion with Kitchener, regarding the status of the military member of the council in India (who controlled army supply and logistics, which Kitchener wanted under his own control), led to a controversy in which Curzon failed to obtain the support of the home government. He resigned in August 1905 and returned to England.
A major famine coincided with Curzon’s time as viceroy in which 1 to 4.5 million people died. Large parts of India were affected and millions died, and Curzon has been criticised for allegedly having done little to fight the famine. Curzon did implement a variety of measures, including opening up famine relief works that fed between 3 and 5 million, reducing taxes and spending vast amounts of money on irrigation works. But he also stated that “any government which imperilled the financial position of India in the interests of prodigal philanthropy would be open to serious criticism; but any government which by indiscriminate alms-giving weakened the fibre and demoralized the self-reliance of the population, would be guilty of a public crime.” He also cut back rations that he characterized as “dangerously high” and stiffened relief eligibility by reinstating the Temple tests.
Arthur Balfour’s refusal to recommend an earldom for Curzon in 1905 was repeated by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the Liberal Prime Minister, who formed his government the day after Curzon returned to England. In deference to the wishes of the king and the advice of his doctors, Curzon did not stand in the general election of 1906 and thus found himself excluded from public life for the first time in twenty years. It was at this time, the nadir of his career, that he suffered the greatest personal loss of his life. Mary died in 1906 and Curzon devoted himself to private matters, including establishing a new home. After the death of Lord Goschen in 1907, the post of Chancellor of the Oxford University fell vacant. Curzon successfully became elected as Chancellor of Oxford after he won by 1001 votes to 440 against Lord Rosebery. He proved to be quite an active Chancellor – “threw himself so energetically into the cause of university reform that critics complained he was ruling Oxford like an Indian province.”
In 1908, Curzon was elected a representative peer for Ireland, and thus relinquished any idea of returning to the House of Commons. In 1909–10 he took an active part in opposing the Liberal government’s proposal to abolish the legislative veto of the House of Lords, and in 1911 was created Baron Ravensdale, of Ravensdale in the County of Derby, with remainder (in default of heirs male) to his daughters, Viscount Scarsdale, of Scarsdale in the County of Derby, with remainder (in default of heirs male) to the heirs male of his father, and Earl Curzon of Kedleston, in the County of Derby, with the normal remainder, all in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.
He became involved with saving Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire, from destruction. This experience strengthened his resolve for heritage protection. He was one of the sponsors of the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act 1913.
On 5 May 1914, he spoke out against a bill in the House of Lords that would have permitted women who already had the right to vote in local elections the right to vote for members of parliament.
Curzon joined the Cabinet, as Lord Privy Seal, when Asquith formed his coalition in May 1915.
Like other politicians (e.g. Chamberlain, Arthur Balfour) Curzon favoured British Empire efforts in Mesopotamia, believing that the increase in British prestige would discourage a German-inspired Muslim revolt in India.
Curzon was a member of the Dardanelles Committee and told that body (October 1915) that the recent Salonika expedition was “quixotic chivalry”.
Early in 1916 Curzon visited Douglas Haig (newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of British forces in France) at his headquarters in France. Haig was impressed by Curzon’s brains and decisiveness, considering that he had mellowed since his days as Viceroy (the then Major-General Haig had been Inspector-General of Cavalry, India, at the time) and had lost “his old pompous ways”.
Curzon served in Lloyd George’s small War Cabinet as Leader of the House of Lords from December 1916, and he also served on the War Policy Committee. With Allied victory over Germany far from certain, Curzon wrote a paper (12 May 1917) for the War Cabinet urging that Britain seize Palestine and possibly Syria. However, like other members of the War Cabinet, Curzon supported further Western Front offensives lest, with Russian commitment to the war wavering, France and Italy be tempted to make a separate peace. At the War Policy Committee (3 October 1917) Curzon objected in vain to plans to redeploy two divisions to Palestine, with a view to advancing into Syria and knocking Turkey out of the war altogether. Curzon’s commitment wavered somewhat as the losses of Third Ypres mounted. In the summer of 1917, the CIGS General Robertson sent Haig a biting description of the members of the War Cabinet, who he said were all frightened of Lloyd George; he described Curzon as “a gasbag”.
During the crisis of February 1918, Curzon was one of the few members of the government to support Robertson, threatening in vain to resign if he were removed.
Despite his continued opposition to votes for women (he had earlier headed the Anti-Suffrage League), the House of Lords voted conclusively in its favour.
In March 1925 Curzon suffered a severe haemorrhage of the bladder. Surgery was unsuccessful and he died in London on 20 March 1925 at the age of 66. His coffin, made from the same tree at Kedleston that had encased his first wife, Mary, was taken to Westminster Abbey and from there to his ancestral home in Derbyshire, where he was interred beside Mary in the family vault at All Saints Church on 26 March.
Upon his death the Barony, Earldom and Marquessate of Curzon of Kedleston and the Earldom of Kedleston became extinct, whilst the Viscountcy and Barony of Scarsdale were inherited by a nephew. The Barony of Ravensdale was inherited by his eldest daughter Mary and is today held by his second daughter Cynthia’s grandson, Daniel Nicholas Mosley, 4th Baron Ravensdale.
There is now a blue plaque on the house in London where Curzon lived and died, No. 1 Carlton House Terrace, Westminster.
8. LORD MOUNTBATTEN
Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. He was a British naval officer and statesman, an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and second cousin once removed of Elizabeth II. During the Second World War, he was Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command and oversaw the defeat of the Japanese offensive towards India. He was the last Viceroy of India and the first Governor-General of independent India.
From the time of his birth at Frogmore House in the Home Park, Windsor, Berkshire until 1917, when he and several other relations of King George V dropped their German styles and titles, Mountbatten was known as His Serene Highness Prince Louis of Battenberg. He was the youngest child and the second son of Prince Louis of Battenberg and his wife Princess Victoria of Hesse and by the Rhine. His maternal grandparents were Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse, and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, who was a daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Mountbatten’s father was first sea lord at the outbreak of World War One, but anti-German feeling forced his resignation. In 1917, the family changed their name from Battenberg to the less-Germanic sounding Mountbatten.
Young Mountbatten’s nickname among family and friends was “Dickie”, although “Richard” was not among his given names. This was because his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, had suggested the nickname of “Nicky”, but to avoid confusion with the many Nickys of the Russian Imperial Family (“Nicky” was particularly used to refer to Nicholas II, the last Tsar), “Nicky” was changed to “Dickie”.
When war broke out in September 1939, Mountbatten became commander of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla aboard HMS Kelly, which became famous for its exploits. In late 1939 he brought the Duke of Windsor back from exile in France.
In August 1941, Mountbatten was appointed a captain of the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious which lay in Norfolk, Virginia, for repairs following action at Malta in the Mediterranean in January. During this period of relative inactivity, he paid a flying visit to Pearl Harbor, three months before the Japanese attack on the US naval base there. Mountbatten, appalled at the base’s lack of preparedness, drawing on Japan’s history of launching wars with surprise attacks as well as the successful British surprise attack at the Battle of Taranto which had effectively knocked Italy’s fleet out of the war, and the sheer effectiveness of aircraft against warships, accurately predicted that the US entry into the war would begin with a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
Mountbatten was a favourite of Winston Churchill. On 27 October 1941 Mountbatten replaced Roger Keyes as Chief of Combined Operations and promoted commodore.
In August 1943, Churchill appointed Mountbatten the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Command (SEAC) with promotion to acting full admiral. His less practical ideas were sidelined by an experienced planning staff led by Lieutenant-Colonel James Allison, though some, such as a proposal to launch an amphibious assault near Rangoon, got as far as Churchill before being quashed.
During his time as Supreme Allied Commander of the Southeast Asia Theatre, his command oversaw the recapture of Burma from the Japanese by General William Slim. A personal high point was the receipt of the Japanese surrender in Singapore when British troops returned to the island to receive the formal surrender of Japanese forces in the region led by General Itagaki Seishiro on 12 September 1945, codenamed Operation Tiderace. South East Asia Command was disbanded in May 1946 and Mountbatten returned home with the substantive rank of rear-admiral.
On February 13, 1947, Lord Wavell, then Viceroy of India, received a telegram from the Prime Minister of England telling him that he had lost his job. The Labour Government in London had chosen Lord Mountbatten as his successor. That evening, Wavell wrote in his diary that Mountbatten was “an unexpected but a clever one from their (the Government’s) point of view; and Dickie’s personality may perhaps accomplish what I failed to do”.
Mountbatten’s instructions emphasised a united India as a result of the transference of power but authorised him to adapt to a changing situation in order to get Britain out promptly with minimal reputational damage. Soon after he arrived, Mountbatten concluded that the situation was too volatile for even that short a wait. Although his advisers favoured a gradual transfer of independence, Mountbatten decided the only way forward was a quick and orderly transfer of independence before 1947 was out. In his view, any longer would mean civil war. The Viceroy also hurried so he could return to his senior technical Navy courses.
Mountbatten was fond of Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru and his liberal outlook for the country. He felt differently about the Muslim leader Muhammed Ali Jinnah, but was aware of his power, stating “If it could be said that any single man held the future of India in the palm of his hand in 1947, that man was Mohammad Ali Jinnah.” During his meeting with Jinnah on 5 April 1947, Mountbatten tried to persuade Jinnah of a united India, citing the difficult task of dividing the mixed states of Punjab and Bengal, but the Muslim leader was unyielding in his goal of establishing a separate Muslim state called Pakistan.
Given the British government’s recommendations to grant independence quickly, Mountbatten concluded that a united India was an unachievable goal and resigned himself to a plan for partition, creating the independent nations of India and Pakistan. Mountbatten set a date for the transfer of power from the British to the Indians, arguing that a fixed timeline would convince Indians of his and the British government’s sincerity in working towards swift and efficient independence, excluding all possibilities of stalling the process.
Among the Indian leaders, Mahatma Gandhi emphatically insisted on maintaining a united India and for a while successfully rallied people to this goal. During his meeting with Mountbatten, Gandhi asked Mountbatten to invite Jinnah to form a new Central government, but Mountbatten never uttered a word of Gandhi’s ideas to Jinnah. And when Mountbatten’s timeline offered the prospect of attaining independence soon, sentiments took a different turn. Given Mountbatten’s determination, Nehru and Patel’s inability to deal with the Muslim League and lastly Jinnah’s obstinacy, all Indian party leaders (except Gandhi) acquiesced to Jinnah’s plan to divide India, which in turn eased Mountbatten’s task. Mountbatten also developed a strong relationship with the Indian princes, who ruled those portions of India not directly under British rule. His intervention was decisive in persuading the vast majority of them to see advantages in opting to join the Indian Union. On one hand, the integration of the princely states can be viewed as one of the positive aspects of his legacy. But on the other, the refusal of Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, and Junagadh to join one of the dominions led to future tension between Pakistan and India.
Mountbatten brought forward the date of the partition from June 1948 to 15 August 1947. The uncertainty of the borders caused Muslims and Hindus to move into the direction where they felt they would get the majority. Hindus and Muslims were thoroughly terrified, and the Muslim movement from the East was balanced by the similar movement of Hindus from the West. A boundary committee chaired by Sir Cyril Radcliffe was charged with drawing boundaries for the new nations. With a mandate to leave as many Hindus and Sikhs in India and as many Muslims in Pakistan as possible, Radcliffe came up with a map that split the two countries along the Punjab and Bengal borders. This left 14 million people in the “wrong” side of the border, and very many of them fled to “safety” on the other side when the new lines were announced.
On July 9, 1947, Patel and Nehru both met the Viceroy, and asked him “what he was going to do to help India in connection with her most pressing problem — relations with the (Princely) States”. Mountbatten agreed to make this matter “his primary consideration”. Later the same day Gandhi came to meet Mountbatten. As the Viceroy recorded, the Mahatma “asked me to do everything in my power to ensure that the British did not leave a legacy of Balkanisation and disruption on August 15 by encouraging the States to declare their independence… “.
Mountbatten began by telling the princes that the Indian Independence Act had released “the States from all their obligations to the Crown”. They were now technically independent, or, put another way, rudderless, on their own. The old links were broken, but “if nothing can be put in its place, only chaos can result — chaos that “will hit the States first”. He advised them therefore to forge relations with the new nation closest to them. As he brutally put it, “you cannot run away from the Dominion Government which is your neighbour any more than you can run away from the subjects for whose welfare you are responsible”.
He told the princess that in the circumstances it was best they make peace with the Congress and signed the Instrument of Accession. This would cede away Defence — but in any case, the States would, by themselves, “be cut off from any source of supplies of up-to-date arms or weapons”. It would cede away External Affairs, but the princes could “hardly want to go to the expense of having ambassadors or ministers or consuls in all these foreign countries”. And it would also cede away Communications, but this was “really a means of maintaining the life-blood of the whole-sub-continent”. The Congress offers, said the Viceroy, left the rulers “with great internal authority” while divesting them of subjects they could not deal with on their own.
Mountbatten’s talk to the Chamber of Princes was a tour de force. It finally persuaded the princes that the British would no longer protect or patronise them, and that independence was a mirage. And this word was carried not by a rabble-rousing Congressman but by the Representative of the King-Emperor, who was a highly decorated military man, and of royal blood besides.
His speech prepared the way for the actual mechanics of the merging of the princely states with India. This process was supervised by Sardar Patel and superbly executed by his Secretary at the Ministry of States, V.P. Menon. Some states proved to be more recalcitrant than others. Thus the ambitious Dewan of Travancore declared Independence; the impulsive young Maharaja of Jodhpur set about negotiating with Jinnah, and the wilful Nizam of Hyderabad demanded direct relations with the British Crown. Getting these States to join India involved a judicious mixture of the carrot and the stick: the first provided naturally by Mountbatten, the second, just as naturally, by Patel.
When India and Pakistan attained independence at midnight on the night of 14–15 August 1947, Mountbatten remained in New Delhi for 10 months, serving as India’s first governor-general until June 1948. On Mountbatten’s advice, India took the issue of Kashmir to the newly formed United Nations in January 1948. The issue of Kashmir would become a lasting thorn in his legacy, one that is not resolved to this day. Accounts differ on the future Mountbatten desired for Kashmir. Pakistani accounts suggest that Mountbatten favoured the accession of Kashmir to India citing his close relationship to Nehru. Mountbatten’s account says that he simply wanted the Maharaja Hari Singh to make up his mind. The Viceroy made several attempts to mediate between the Congress leaders, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Hari Singh on issues relating to the accession of Kashmir though he was largely unsuccessful in resolving the conflict. After the tribal invasion of Kashmir, it was on his suggestion that India moved to secure the accession of Kashmir from Hari Singh before sending in military forces for his defence.
For his services, during the war and in India he has created viscount in 1946 and Earl Mountbatten of Burma the following year.
In 1953, Mountbatten returned to the Royal Navy, becoming commander of a new NATO Mediterranean command. Then in 1954, he was appointed first sea lord, a position which had been held by his father more than 40 years before. Finally, in 1959, he became chief of the defence staff, then in 1965, he retired from the navy.
On 27 August 1979, Mountbatten went lobster-potting and tuna fishing in his 30-foot wooden boat, Shadow V, which had been moored in the harbour at Mullaghmore. IRA member Thomas McMahon had slipped onto the unguarded boat that night and attached a radio-controlled bomb weighing 50 pounds. When Mountbatten was aboard, just a few hundred yards from the shore, the bomb was detonated. The boat was destroyed by the force of the blast, and Mountbatten’s legs were almost blown off. Mountbatten, then aged 79, was pulled alive from the water by nearby fishermen but died from his injuries before being brought to shore. Nicholas his grandson (aged 14) and Paul (aged 15) a young crew member was killed by the blast and the others were seriously injured. Doreen, Lady Brabourne (aged 83) died from her injuries the following day
On 5 September 1979 Mountbatten received a ceremonial funeral at Westminster Abbey, which was attended by the Queen, the Royal Family and members of the European royal houses. Watched by thousands of people, the funeral procession, which started at Wellington Barracks, included representatives of all three British Armed Services, and military contingents from Burma, India, the United States, France and Canada. His coffin was drawn on a gun carriage by 118 Royal Navy ratings.
Since he had no sons, which meant that Mountbatten’s eldest daughter, Patricia, inherited his title.
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