The Kingdom of Oude (pronounced Owd), in present-day Uttar Pradesh, was one of the provinces of the 16th-century Mongol Empire.

In the early 18th century, as that Empire began to dissolve, Oude became independent.

Under a treaty with the Kingdom in 1801, the East India Company was able to use its vast treasuries for loans, but by the mid-1800s, the British wanted direct control.

In February 1856, the Company declared that Oude was being misgoverned, and its ruler, Wahid Ali Shah, was banished to Calcutta, with the Company taking over. He was in reality a popular ruler, and this cynical ploy by the British was one of the main reasons why Oude became a seat of the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Daily Echo: Lucknow the capital of Oude in 1857.Lucknow the capital of Oude in 1857

The King of Oude, Wahid Ali Shah, decided to travel to London, to convince Queen Victoria to reverse the annexation. He fell seriously ill on reaching Calcutta, but his mother, Malika Kishwar, bravely decided to go on to England with another of her sons, and her grandson - “the Princes of Oude.”

They arrived in Southampton in August 1856 and stayed at the York Hotel. It was required that she be protected from the public gaze, and the newspapers took an amused, sometimes rather unpleasant approach to this, and to her “exotic companions”.

“The invisible dame was transferred from the ship to the hotel, after many hair-breadth escapes from the profanation of male eyes.”

“That portion of the Royal York Hotel inhabited by the Princes 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.”

“….. the Mayor had the honour of shaking a hand, supposed to be that of the Queen, that was extended to him through a curtain.”

Daily Echo: The Court of Oude at York Hotel Southampton in 1856.The Court of Oude at York Hotel Southampton in 1856

Some national newspapers did mention politics, calling the visit a “most ill-advised and preposterous mission. It was a daring conception to bring the late Court of Oude before the British public, and appeal directly to their best attribute - the love of fair play - against the mature judgment of the much-vexed and long-suffering Government of India”.

At the end of August 1856, the party decided to travel to London. The newspapers were again amused: "Her Majesty, perfectly secluded from view, had been placed in a carriage at the York Hotel. At the station, the vehicle containing this curious specimen of Eastern royalty was drawn up at the outer door. Although 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 row of native servants, having ranged themselves inside the line of spectators, held drapery at arm's length above their heads, which effectively prevented the people assembled from gaining the most remote glimpse of Her Majesty”.

The party moved into a house just off London’s Marylebone Road. Victoria refused all requests for an audience for almost a year but on 4th July 1857, the two Queens met at Buckingham Palace. Malika Kishwar quickly realised that Victoria had little to offer her politically, and instead petitioned the British Parliament; this petition was dismissed, on the grounds that she had not used the required word “humble”, before the word “petition”, and the word “humbly”, before the word “pray”.

She was told that if she wished to be granted the passports she needed to travel directly home, she would have to declare herself a “British subject”. To have made such a declaration would have legitimised the seizure of her son’s crown.

Insulted and infuriated Malika Kishwar refused, and in 1858, decided to return to India via France. But the exhausted Queen’s health was in decline; she arrived in Paris on 23rd January 1868 and died the next day. Her tomb there can still be visited.

Jack Wilson is a tour guide with .