Story of the Forgotten Prince I
Prince Jamal-ud-din - From Calcutta to Liverpool
100cm x 70 cm, Graphite on Drafting film. 2023
Prince Jamal-ud-din, one of the 16 sons of Tipu Sultan, arrived in Liverpool, England on a ship named Bland on the 31st of May, 1835 never to return to India again. He checked into the King’s Arms’ Hotel with his suite and waited for the customs to clear his baggage. The announcement of this arrival in the daily papers as the son of ’Tippoo Saib’ surely didn’t go unnoticed as it was only 36 years ago that the House of Mysore was plundered, looted, and destroyed in the aftermath of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war between Tipu Sultan and the East India Company.
The 41-year-old prince saw his diary fill out quickly with his earliest engagements an official interview at the East India House on Leadenhall Street. The following week, as one can only imagine, consisted of a series of surreal events for a deposed prince who had spent a languid life confined to the limits of Calcutta. He was invited to visit the King and to spend the night at Windsor Castle. He attended the famous Caledonian Fancy Dress Ball, and the following day dined with MPs and other officials.
Prince Jamal-ud-din’s absence from the pages of history books cannot deny his position as the first of Tipu’s sons to visit England on a quest to have his pension reinstated. Instead, his elusiveness fires in the imagination a scenario for many firsts as he encountered his father’s trophies in various spaces of power during his seven years in England.
The throwing of a sheet to cover the vitrine holding the book of Dreams at the EIC Library, the “awful circumstance” of innocently leading the prince into a room in Windsor Castle in which the celebrated tents of his father, Tipu Sultan, were displayed, as reported by the Morning Herald, The News, the Whitehall Evening Post, Albion, and the Star. The panic and widespread false news of occupying the same hotel as Dowager Cornwallis at the Tontine Hotel, Greenock. The surprise of seeing him at the Grand Caledonian Ball, in a plain cashmere Eastern dress rather than full of shimmering tinsel of the Orient. That he was not a prince laden with grievance but of legitimate right to claim, earned him acceptance and invitations from the Windsor Castle, important parliamentarians, and the wider British high society.
“Imagination cannot picture a more affecting sight” was recorded by Peter Gordon as he narrates Prince Jamal-ud-Din’s visit to the Oriental Repository at the India House. On one hand, was his father’s famous handwritten Journal of Dreams (which a captain leading the tour hastily covered with a piece of cloth), and on the other, the famed personal Quran with annotations - the bust of Duke of Wellington in the middle of the room invigilating the testing scene. The prince was stopped from entering the adjoining room, as in that room, on proud display, was the armour and helmet of the Sultan himself. Gordon, in an unusually contemporary and post-colonial manner, highlights the irony of the gun salute that he hears marking the King’s birthday and contrasts it with the pitiful presence of the young prince who is just a room away from the very tiger cannons that perhaps once announced his birth.
Fisher, M. (2004). Counterflows to colonialism : Indian travellers and settlers in Britain, 1600-1857. Delhi: Permanent Black : Distributed by Orient Longman.
Ehrlich, Joshua. (2020). Plunder and Prestige: Tipu Sultan's Library and the Making of British India. South Asia, 43(3), 478-492.
Peter Gordon, ‘The Oriental Repository at the India House’, in Alexander’s East India and Colonial Magazine, Vol. 10 (1835), pp. 542–53 (pp. 546–7).
Digital Collections, British Library
British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)