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Begum Samru : only Catholic ruler of Kashmiri decent in India.

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  • Begum Samru : only Catholic ruler of Kashmiri decent in India.

    Begum Samru : only Catholic ruler of Kashmiri decent in Northern India.

    The tale of Begum Samru is extraordinary.

    She was of Kashmiri decent. A courtesan specialising in traditional dances.

    Falls in love when she is 15 with an European Mercenary. Runs off with him.

    A twisted tale of Ambition, Love , betrayal, gains and losses and her conversion to Catholicism .

    A good story to explore.

    PS : we the Marathas benefited by her service and services of other European admirers of her.

    The fall of Napoleon and reduction of influence of French and other European countries resulted in loss of India to Great Britain.

    It is easy to fall in love with Farzana, or Begum Samru as she is commonly called. The dramatic events in her life are a function of the headstrong choices she made or didn't make. A failed attempt at romance brought out in her a fountain of pragmatism instead of heartbreak. Her overall conduct in life points towards an unnaturally high intelligence and effective leadership. Yet, there is something mysterious about her that keeps her story short of a satisfying read. I wonder about the proceedings that would have taken place deep in her mind and heart, and which like for most of the historic personalities remains in the realm of conjecture.

    Her legacy lives today. Though disputed for more than 100 years and reduced to a fraction of what it originally was, it still runs into several billions of US dollars. In its course, it made somebody one of the richest people in Britain but not before enacting a saga of treachery and deceit on her heirs.

    It all started in the eighteenth century India. Indian economy at that time was larger than that of all European countries put together. India hence was a natural destination for the dreamers. War being a constant in the subcontinent; it attracted a lot of European mercenaries. William Dalrymple in his books 'White Mughals' and 'The Last Mughal' has enumerated extensively the European migrants in diverse professions settled in India during that time.

    One such soldier of fortune was Walter Reinhardt. A German native, he got commissioned as a private soldier into the French East India Company. Due to his somber facial features, he got a nickname of 'Le Sombre' which in time got corrupted to Samru. A man of daring and adventure, he quickly built a reputation for himself and rose through the ranks. His loyalty was not to any king or kingdom, instead he built a private army that fought for whoever could pay. In one such successful campaign in the Delhi region and also because of the masterful politics he played between two of the emperor's generals; he got himself rewarded of a vast tract of land in the Gangetic Doab region. Sumru made Sardhana (22 kms from Meerut) his capital and ruled the land between the rivers Yamuna and Ganga and beyond Muzaffarnagar to Aligarh. His private army comprised mainly of European officers and native soldiers and this tradition was carried forward by his widow - Begum Samru. Sardhana it is said in those times resembled a regular European town with a Diaspora comprising of Frenchmen, Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotsmen, Italians, Portuguese, Germans, Polish, Belgians, Armenians, etc

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                  Church built by her and Palace by
                  Walter Reinhardt Sumru


                  • #10
                    The mercenary regiment she inherited became notorious for unfaithfulness and unreliability - see Swords for Hire -European Mercenaries in 18th Century India, Shelford Bidwell
                    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                      The mercenary regiment she inherited became notorious for unfaithfulness and unreliability - see Swords for Hire -European Mercenaries in 18th Century India, Shelford Bidwell
                      She was also was a kind of power broker, desperate to save her tiny kingdom.

                      Though majority of times she fought alongside us against the British. She ultimately fell victim to English Charm and diplomacy .

                      Had she remained with us her and Sombre's descendants would have continued to rule Sardhana till 1947. As It was under Maratha Confederacy. Under Scindia of Gwaliar.

                      British took advantage of her , destroyed her Kingdom . The heir to her fortune lost couple of Billions of Dollors worth of fortune. As it was valued in 1920's. Her stepson was declared insane by British. Had to fled to France.

                      He was declared normal by French and European Doctors. His wife was from British Aristocracy was the main culprit . He died in very bad conditions .


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