The Last Emperor

Worth remembering as the UK Chancellor is in India some salient history about how India become a formal part of the British Empire.

In May 1857, Indian soldiers from the Bengal 3rd Light Cavalry regiment marched from Meerut to Delhi after freeing 85 fellow soldiers who had been publicly humiliated and sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour for refusing to use rifle cartridges lined with pork and beef fat.

The soldiers had also killed several British officers in the aftermath of the incident. But this was a just a trigger. Resentments over inheritance, religion, taxes and power had been building up over the years and especially in the newly annexed Kingdom of Oudh.

Arriving in Delhi, on 12th May 1857 the soldiers persuaded Bahadur Shah Zafar, the Emperor – but in practice little more than the King of Delhi – to declare that the rights of the British East India Company – which ruled much of the Sub-continent – were forfeited. Thus started the Indian Mutiny. Violence and rebellion erupted through the North.

But it didn’t end well for the rebels. Within 18 months British forces had re-established control after many atrocities and mindless bloodshed on both sides. After a violent and bloody sack of Delhi by British forces, the Emperor and his three adult sons, Prince Mughal, Prince Abu Bakr and Prince Khirz Sultan were captured in 1858 nearby and brought back to Delhi with members of their families and an armed escort. Thousands gathered at the gates dressed in white to welcome back the Royal Family.

But when the cortège arrived at the Kabul Gate of Old City, Major Hodson ordered the three Princes to dismount and remove their shirts. Hodson then ‘acting on his on initiative’ shot dead the three bare-chested Princes in front of the assembled crowd at point blank range.

The Emperor was tried for treason, convicted and exiled to Rangoon, Burma where he died in 1862. And with him ended the Indian Imperial Family that stretched back to Ghengis Khan.

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