Eastern Promise: Mughal India and the East India Company

We never initially set out to research Mughal India and the East India Company (EIC) but, time and time again, the people we were looking at took us east. It all started with the eighteenth-century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s family. Grace had a brother and three male cousins who all ventured to India in different capacities with the EIC. Perhaps best known of these is Colonel John (Jack) Mordaunt, who has been captured for posterity in the middle of a cock match against Asaf-ud-daula, Nawab Wazir of Oudh. Mordaunt, a keen cock-fighter, had imported birds from Europe which he thought were superior to those of the Nawab’s.

Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany. The Tate.
Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany. The Tate.

And as well as her male cousins out in India, Grace also had two female cousins – sisters – who travelled to the country on an ultimately successful husband-hunting trip. The EIC was concerned about its officers taking Indian women as wives and adopting Mughal dress and habits. In an effort to stem this, they encouraged British girls and young women to embark on ships for an Indian adventure and to provide suitable marriage material.

A Sale of English Beauties in the East Indies. © The Trustees of the British Museum
A Sale of English Beauties in the East Indies. © The Trustees of the British Museum

You can find more on Grace and her relations, who travelled the globe, in An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott.

Our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, looks at the ancestors of the British royal family, specifically Anne Wellesley, her second husband Lord Charles Bentinck and their son, the Reverend Charles Cavendish Bentinck but, first, we examined Anne’s background. She was the daughter of Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington’s older brother) and Hyacinthe Gabrielle Rolland, a Parisian opera dancer whom the marquess fell in love with as a young man. Richard was posted to India as Governor-General but Hyacinthe Gabrielle, chronically afraid of the sea voyage, refused to accompany him, a decision which would ultimately lead to the break-up of their marriage.

A Cheetah Hunt in Lord Wellesley's Park at Barrackpore by Charles D'Oyley, 1802, British Library, India Collection.
A Cheetah Hunt in Lord Wellesley’s Park at Barrackpore by Charles D’Oyley, 1802, British Library, India Collection.

And so we come to our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs. Charlotte, as our heroine preferred to be known, fell in love when she was only sixteen years of age with a young lad who left her behind when he sailed to India in search of adventure, subsequently joining the EIC as a junior officer and rising to become a general and a baronet. This man, Sir David Ochterlony, remained Charlotte’s one true love throughout all her many adventures and exploits. Towards the end of their lives, David and Charlotte once again reached out to each other, albeit by letter and from one side of the globe to the other. Ochterlony, like so many before him, had ‘gone native’, dressing in flowing Mughal robes and smoking a hookah pipe while sitting cross-legged on his diwan, watching dancing girls. He could be spotted each evening with his multiple Indian wives, each atop an elephant as they perambulated around Delhi. Did Charlotte dare to dream that the only man she had ever loved would return to England to claim her, in her dotage?

Major-General Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), Soldier by Arthur William Devis; National Galleries of Scotland.
Major-General Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), Soldier by Arthur William Devis; National Galleries of Scotland.

If you’d like to discover more about Charlotte, all is revealed in our book. A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs is out now in the UK (and coming soon worldwide) and can be found at Pen & Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs lived an incredible life, one which proved that fact is often much stranger than fiction. As a young woman she endured a tortured existence at the hands of a male tormentor, but emerged from that to reinvent herself as a playwright and author; a political pamphleteer and a spy, working for the British Government and later singlehandedly organising George III’s jubilee celebrations. Trapped in France during the revolutionary years of 1792-95, she published an anonymous account of her adventures. However, was everything as it seemed? The extraordinary Mrs Biggs lived life upon her own terms in an age when it was a man’s world, using politicians as her mouthpiece in the Houses of Parliament and corresponding with the greatest men of the day. Throughout it all though, she held on to the ideal of her one youthful true love, a man who abandoned her to her fate and spent his entire adult life in India. Who was this amazing lady?

In A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, we delve into her life to reveal her accomplishments and lay bare Mrs Biggs’ continued re-invention of herself. This is the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.

Featured image

Colonel Mordaunt and Nawab Asaf al-Daula of Oudh at a Cock Fight, Company School, Patna, circa 1840, after Richard Earlom’s mezzotint of Zoffany’s ‘Col. Mordaunt’s Cock Match’, via Sotheby’s website.

Seasons Greetings and Happy 2017

Here we are again rapidly approaching the end of another very busy year, we can’t believe how quickly this year has gone. As well as all the research for our blog posts we have also managed to get two books published: it’s been a pretty amazing, if incredibly busy time for us and the year has simply flown by.

Although a little early, we’re taking a ‘blog break’ now until January to spend some time finishing those last minute Christmas preparations and to celebrate the festivities with our much neglected family and friends.

We thought we would leave you with some of our most popular posts from 2016 and we very much look forward to resuming our posts in January. We wish all our readers ‘Seasons Greetings and a very Happy 2017‘ and would also like to say a very big ‘thank you‘ to all our guest bloggers who have provided us with some amazingly informative posts, and also to those bloggers who have been kind enough to invite us to write for them.

If you’re still looking for that last minute Christmas gift, may we suggest our books which are available directly from our publisher (see sidebar or below) or via all other retailers including Amazon and the Book Depository (who also offer free worldwide postage).

Pen & Sword are presently offering all three of our books at the discounted price of £44.99, effectively buy 2 get 1 free, making this an incredibly good deal.

 

18th Century Riding Habits

Lady Worsley

Sweet dreams: meddlesome mice and 1770s ‘big’ hair

The extravaganza, or, The mountain head dress of 1776. Lewis Walpole Library
The extravaganza, or, The mountain head dress of 1776.
Lewis Walpole Library

18th Century Tax on Gloves

18th c gloves MFA Boston

Extreme Longevity in 1700s

john-trumbull-american-artist-1756-1843-sarah-trumbull-on-her-deathbed

A case of 18th Century Witchcraft in Silsoe Bedfordshire

lwlpr08507

18th Century Beds and Bedding

Houghton Hall
Houghton Hall

A closer look at Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match

Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany 1733-1810
Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany 1733-1810

Women in Music and Art in the Georgian Era

Lady Frances Seymour Conway (1751–1820), Countess of Lincoln by William Hoare (c) The University of Nottingham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Lady Frances Seymour Conway (1751–1820), Countess of Lincoln by William Hoare
(c) The University of Nottingham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Curious 18th Century Cats

Young Girl with a Kitten by William Mulready (attributed to) (c) Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Young Girl with a Kitten
by William Mulready (attributed to)
(c) Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

18th Century Female Bruisers

Collet, John; The Female Bruisers; Museum of London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-female-bruisers-50752
Collet, John; The Female Bruisers; Museum of London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-female-bruisers-50752

And finally, if you’re looking for some Christmas recipes maybe take a look at these!

A Miscellany of Christmas Pies, Puddings and Cakes

Xmas day 1800