top of page


October 11, 1784
Royal Collection Trust




The ‘Begums’ referred to in the charges against Hastings were the powerful matriarchs of Awadh (anglicised as Oudh or Oude), from whom he was accused of extorting large amounts of money when the young Nawab, Asaf al-Daula (r. 1775–97) (fig. 16), fell into arrears with his payments to the Company.[22] When Asaf al-Daula succeeded his father, Shuja al-Daula, he was forced to renegotiate Awadh’s treaty with the Company and signed over more than a quarter of his annual state revenue to them in subsidies, a commitment he then did his best to avoid fulfilling.[23] Despite gaining a reputation for decadent behaviour, the Nawab was well liked and Warren Hastings asserted that he did ‘not know a better tempered or better humoured man.’[24] Another Company officer described him as ‘mild in manners, generous to extravagance and engaging in his conduct’.[25] In August 1789, the Nawab sent a letter of congratulations to George III on the latter’s recovery from a bout of illness. With it he sent a donation of 50,000 rupees. Half the sum was intended for the King’s physician, Dr Willis, and the other half was to be distributed ‘in such a manner as His Majesty may direct for charitable purposes’.[26] While allowing his corrupt ministers to play politics with the British Resident, Asaf al-Daula focused his attention on fostering Lucknow as a capital of art and scholarship. With a ready market of local aristocratic patrons and Company officers, Lucknow became a haven for European merchants who considered it a far less oppressive atmosphere than Calcutta. The Nawab spent millions building magnificent palaces, mosques, tombs and gardens and rivalled even the Great Mughals in terms of his courtly splendour.[27] It was from the Lucknow library that a significant portion of Mughal paintings and manuscripts in the Royal Collection originate. Asaf al-Daula inherited an impressive library from his father but added to it with his own purchases including a number of imperial Mughal albums and manuscripts pillaged from Delhi in 1788 by the Afghan Ghulam Qadir. A Company officer writing to Warren Hastings in 1790 explained: I applied to the Shah [Alam II] in your name for permission to transcribe his copy of the Mahbharrut, and was assured that it would have been most cheerfully granted if the book had been in his possession, but his library had been totally plundered and destroyed by that villain Ghallam Khauder Khan, and he added, not without some degree of indignation, that part of the books had been purchased at Lucknow, that is by the vizier [Asaf al-Daula], and upon enquiry found this to be the case, for his Excellency produced some of them to the English Gentleman, boasting that they were the ‘king’s’.[28] Following Asaf al-Daula’s death in 1797, his son Ali ruled for only four months before he was deposed at the intervention of Sir John Shore (later Lord Teignmouth, Governor-General 1793–8). The late Nawab’s brother had immediately put forward his own claim to the throne and wrote to Shore: ‘I shall while I live manifest my zeal for the Interests of the Company on every occasion [and] in all matters whatsoever I shall incessantly endeavor to manifest my obedience to them.’[29] Shore set out for Lucknow to ‘adjust arrangements’ and installed Sa’adat Ali Khan II (r. 1798–1814) in Ali’s place, citing the ‘notorious spuriousness of his birth’ (it was widely assumed that Asaf al-Daula was homosexual) as justification.[30] It was at the time of Sa’adat Ali Khan’s installation in Lucknow in early 1798 that the Governor-General, a wellknown bibliophile, was presented with what was to become the Royal Collection’s most famous Mughal manuscript, the Padshahnama (cat. nos 26–34).[31] A memo written for George III some months later described how: a Book was produced for him [Teignmouth] out of the Nabob’s Library, as a most splendid specimen of oriental manuscripts and its acceptance was pushed upon him. Lord Teignmouth declined receiving it with an observation that it was fit for a royal Library. The observation however suggested the Idea, that as a literary curiosity it might be acceptable to the King of Great Britain & he mentioned afterwards to the Minister at Lucknow, that he would not hesitate to accept it, in the Idea of depositing it in the royal Library if his Majesty would think it proper to allow it. The Book, with five others selected by the Minister, as elegant specimens of Persian writing, were sent to Calcutta, after Lord Teignmouth’s Departure, & forwarded by his Attorneys to Europe. They have been latterly received by Lord Teignmouth, and are now in his possession; he will be happy to be honoured with his Majesty’s orders respecting them.[32] Teignmouth may have been tempted to accept the prized manuscript, which he noted had been purchased by the deceased Nawab for 12,000 rupees (about £1,500),[33] but Company rules stated that all gifts must be deposited in the Company’s toshakhana or ‘treasure house’ to be recycled as gifts to other local rulers, sold or paid for by the recipient should he desire to keep it. George III did accept the volumes (cat. nos 1, 21, 26, 37 and RCINs 1005017 and 1005018) and they were brought to George III’s library at the Queen’s House, now Buckingham Palace, where they were made available to scholars and visitors. Teignmouth helpfully sent a note with the manuscripts advising where the King might find published translations of the works.[34] Further volumes from the Lucknow library were presented to George IV by Sa’adat Ali’s successor, Ghazi al-Din Haider (r. 1814–27). Following the acceptance of a ‘perpetual loan’ of two million rupees to the British government on his accession, the Marquess of Hastings (Governor-General 1813–23) persuaded the new Nawab to assume the title of King and formally renounce his subordination to the Mughal Emperor. Hastings further recommended that he send a letter to the British King requesting recognition of his new title.[35] This arrived in 1821 with several gifts, but, when no acknowledgement of them was received, Ghazi al-Din Haider secretly sent a letter and further presents to George IV in the hands of private merchants, assuming the East India Company had intervened in the delivery of the first consignment. Their arrival was documented in The Times: The Glasgow Frigate has brought to England as presents from the Nabob of Oude to His Majesty, several articles of considerable value, being estimated at upwards of £200,000 […]. The whole are landed and will be presented by Captain Doyle to the King. A bird of paradise alive has also been brought to England on this ship, which we believe to be the only attempt of this kind ever made with success. A bull and cow of overall white breed, which the Hindoos worship, have also arrived as a present to the Princesses.[36] Amongst the gifts were probably two albums of Mughal paintings assembled in Lucknow (cat. nos 14, 15, 35, 36, 44, 45). Further presents of a sword and three chests of fine fabrics were sent to George IV with Lord Hastings when he returned to Europe.[37] These he presented to the King along with a gift of his own, a sixteenth-century Persian manuscript of the Shahnama: RCIN 1005013. George IV wrote to Lucknow with thanks for the ‘friendly and acceptable letter and the splendid presents with which it was accompanied’, and asked the King to accept a thoroughbred horse and silver harness in return.[38] By the time they were sent, Ghazi al-Din Haider had in fact been dead for three months. When this became known, a request was made to the Company to sell the horse on its arrival in India and remit the takings to the public purse. However, delays in communications meant the horse had already been delivered to the new King, Nasir al-Din Haider (r. 1827–37), who was delighted with his present.


Rate This BookDon’t love itNot greatGoodGreatLove itRate This Book

Your content has been submitted

Post Comment
Ratings & Review
Click To Close Comment Box
Click To Post Your Comment
Show Reviews

Ismail Mazari

average rating is null out of 5

Very good information.


The Mughal Images immediately took a much greater interest in realistic portraiture than was typical of Persian miniatures. Animals and plants were the main subject of many miniatures for albums and were more realistically depicted. To upload your images click here.

Mughal Library brings readers of our history and related subjects on one platform. our goal is to share knowledge between researchers and students in a friendly environment.


bottom of page