This is the story of one of the most remarkabie women in the early days of the East India Company, told against the background of Calcutta; a fitting subject for that City’s tercentenary in 1990.
Her lifespan covered the period during which the East India Company rose from the humble status of a commercial trading company to become the paramount power in India with its borders on the Sutlej river. Her contemporaries, and in most cases her personal friends or acquaintances, are names with a familiar historical ring- Stringer Lawrence, Robert Clive, Eyre Coote, Sir Arthur Wellesley and his brother Lord Mornington, Lord Lake, Warren Hastings and Lord Cornwallis, to name but a few.
There would be times for rejoicing victories at Wandiwash, Arcot, Plassey, Buxar and Seringapatam. There would also be times of anguish – the Black Hole and the Patna Massacre. But all in all, to those who survived the climate and the disease, life was pleasant, comfortable and exhilarating.
The author weaves these varied elements into a coherent fabric around the person of the Begum. She was married four times and one of her grandsons became Prime Minister of England, as Lord Liverpool, in the year of her death, 1812, when she was aged 81.
The author has a personal interest in the subject as theBegum was his great x5 grandmother, so he inherited along tradition of service in India going back as far as 1689 which he continued by joining the Royal 3rd Sikhs,FrontierForce Regiment in Kohat in 1935. He saw action on the Frontier and in the Burma Campaign when he was mentioned in Despatches, before retiring from the Indian Army in 1947 and joining the RAF regiment in Aden, Jordan, and Germany. On leaving the forces in 1959 he went into education and found time to write “A John company General- The Life of Sir Abraham Roberts“, published in 1983 as a forerunner of the present title. Sir Abraham had married as his first wife Frances Isabella Ricketts, the great grand-daughter of the ‘The Begum’.