The East India Company was once dominant in world trade and Southampton has many links.

After the fall of the Mogul Empire, the prosperous region of Awadh became "the garden, granary, and queen-province of India."

Treaties that the Nawabs had signed with the British East Indian Company from 1765 onwards, had stripped the royal state of Oudh in the Awadh region of most of its powers. However, the Nawabs still ruled in great pomp and splendour from Lucknow on the border of Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan.

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah succeeded to the throne in 1847. Sadly, he was in the way of the expansionist policies of Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General of British India. In fact, Oudh was for all practical purposes under British rule well before the annexation, with the Nawab playing little more than a ceremonial role. In 1855, Dalhousie decreed any tax revenue not required for state government costs were given to the East India Company.

The Durbur Room in Osborne House

The Durbur Room in Osborne House.

Despite being in Purdah, a state of seclusion to screen women from men, King Wajid’s mother, Queen Malika did meet with the British in Lucknow to plead for her son who had refused to sign the annexation treaty. The Governor placed the King under arrest and declared him a traitor. He did not have enough military force to oppose the annexation and went into exile in Calcutta, near Bangladesh in West Bengal.

The King hoped to win back his Kingdom through diplomacy with Queen Victoria who highly appreciated India but never visited. Victoria learned Urdu and employed Indian servants such as Abdul Karim who she became close to.

The British regarded India as “the Jewel in the Crown” of their Empire. From 1876, Victoria was made the Empress of India. This reinforced British rule with her face on the currency and God Save the Queen as the Indian national anthem. At Osborne House, her retreat on the Isle of Wight, Victoria had the ornate Durbar Room built as an Indian themed dining hall. The last monarch to rule India up to its independence in 1947 was our Queen’s father George VI. Lord Louis Mountbatten, who lived at Broadlands in Romsey, was its last Viceroy.

King Wajid decided to send his mother Queen Malika Kishwar, brother and son to England to petition Queen Victoria. Malika’s husband had died in 1847 leaving her a widow at 45.

Royal York Hotel

Royal York Hotel.

So Queen Malika travelled to London to plead with Queen Victoria. A remarkable feat for a woman who had spent more than 50 years in Purdah.

They left India and travelled to Southampton, arriving August 21, 1856 on the SS Indus Minor. Unfortunately, at Suez, a box containing £50,000 pounds worth of jewellery intended for Queen Victoria slipped into the sea.

The arrival of this exotic entourage of nine maids, 110 attendants, bodyguards and several eunuchs was a sensation in Southampton. They took over the entire Royal York Hotel, today the entrance to Westquay Shopping Centre, for 10 days. They travelled by special train to London and moved into a house off London’s Marylebone Road, where they stayed for 13 months. The delay in meeting Queen Victoria was due to protocol, back door negotiations and bureaucracy. Finally on Aug 4, 1857 Queen Malika met Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.

As a Musim, Queen Malika wanted to return home via Mecca, but permission was refused. She was told she needed a new passport now as a British Subject and not Queen of an independent Kingdom. France came to her aid and she was given permission to travel there on Jan 23, 1858. Unfortunately, the Queen died the next day. She had her funeral in Paris and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Muslim quarter at Pere Lachaise cemetery.

Queen Malika

Queen Malika.

Daily Echo:

Queen Malika’s efforts had been in vain. The suppression of the 1857 Indian Rebellion by the British Army finally dashed the King’s hopes of returning to Lucknow and regaining his Oudh kingdom from the British.