Historian William Dalrymple travels to Hyderabad in India to explore the remarkable 18th-century love affair between a British diplomat and the Muslim princess he married.
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In the centre of the Indian city of Hyderabad,
there lies this extraordinary building.
Within the walls of this perfect villa, I stumbled across a story
that challenged everything I thought I knew
about the British in India.
James Achilles Kirkpatrick, the East India Company representative
at the court of Hyderabad, had apparently converted to Islam.
He married a beautiful local noblewoman
and, apparently, he became a double agent.
I found that James, once intent on conquering India,
was instead conquered himself.
This passionate love affair between a high-ranking
East India company officer and a Mughal princess
came during a period of religious and ethnic tolerance
that has been wiped from the history books.
Beneath the familiar tale of the British conquest of India,
I began to uncover a more intriguing and surprising story.
The Indian conquest of the British imagination.
My research has revealed
that many merchants and soldiers who settled here
fell so in love with their adopted country
that they shed their Britishness like an unwanted skin.
Immersing themselves completely in Indian culture,
becoming White Mughals.
But this moment of cultural hybridity and renaissance
was also a time of looting and empire building.
And for James Kirkpatrick and Khair un-Nissa,
their love had to prevail in a time of war.
In May 1841, a party of guests arrived to take tea at Swallowfield,
a grand English mansion in the Berkshire countryside.
On entering the front door, one of the women in the party
saw something that caused her to burst into tears.
Up on the staircase, instantly recognisable,
was a George Chinnery portrait
of two children in oriental dress.
The woman in tears was Kitty Phillips nee Kirkpatrick.
And she hadn't seen the picture since she sat for it
35 years earlier in Madras.
The picture showed Kitty and her brother
wearing Hyderabadi court dress.
Her brother gazes confidently out at the viewer,
but his little sister has an expression of infinite sadness
Brought up in England an Evangelical Christian,
Kitty until now had been cut off from her Indian past.
But the portrait brought back half-forgotten memories
of a previous life when she'd been known not as Kitty Kirkpatrick,
but as Noor un-Nissa, Sahib Begum,
the Light Among Women,
the Lady of High Lineage, a Mughal princess.
To find out more about Kitty's origins,
I travelled to the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.
In the late 18th century, Hyderabad was a wealthy and dynamic place
which controlled the world's greatest diamond mines.
Situated high on the Deccan Plateau,
it was a key strategic location in the heart of India.
It was to these streets in 1795 that Kitty's father,
James Kirkpatrick, arrived as a young man.
He was already a high-flying officer who had proved
himself in battle against the Sultanate of Mysore.
My first stop was the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad,
where they had recently rediscovered an early portrait of James
painted in his first few years in the city.
And here he is. Here's our hero, James Kirkpatrick.
He would have been about 29, 30.
A young man for the job.
And what a good-looking guy he is!
If you are going to have a romantic lead, this the man, isn't he?
James' employer, the East India Company, was probably
the most aggressive and ruthless corporation in world history.
It was transforming from a mercantile business,
trading silks and spices,
into a colonial power in its own right,
with its own private army.
James would rise to the role of the Resident,
the equivalent of ambassador.
And it was James' job to make sure his rivals, the French,
didn't win in the battle for influence in Hyderabad.
In India in the 1790s, you have the British
and the French with trading interests on the coasts,
you have the Mughal Empire in the north,
the long-standing, major power in South Asia,
and then in the south, you have a bunch of princely states.
And the British and the French
are interested in expanding their influence into these regions.
Moving in from the trading posts that they've set up on the coasts
and duking it out in order to get more and more military control.
The century-long war for global dominance
between Britain and France was escalating.
And several Indian rulers looked to France as a potential liberator
from the British stranglehold.
James was almost tailor-made for the job of winning hearts
and minds in Hyderabad.
He was born in India, but educated in England.
And he had a foot in both camps.
In this picture of him at 16,
James looks every bit the British officer he was.
Yet his first language had been Tamil.
And later, he became fluent in Persian and Hindustani.
He wrote Urdu poetry, dressed in Indian clothing
and even grew Indian-style mustachios.
At this moment of cultural renaissance in India,
a number of the merchants and officers who settled here
fell in love with their adopted country.
They copied Indian habits and embraced local customs.
They became White Mughals.
James was by no means the first British man
to live the life of a White Mughal.
This fellow, happily smoking his pipe in Lucknow,
was, in fact, a Yorkshire accountant named John Wombwell.
While this man, who, in Delhi,
insisted on being addressed as Nasir-ud-Daula,
or Defender of the State,
was known in the Highlands of Scotland as Sir David Ochterlony.
Sir David is drawing deep on his hubble-bubble.
Given his glazed look, it's not clear that he's smoking tobacco
while watching his 13 Indian wives dance.
His Highland relatives, hanging in the portraits above his head,
may be wondering what happened to Oor Davie
after all those years in the Indian sun.
The Metropolitan Museum in New York
has recently mounted a major exhibition on the Art of the Deccan,
the region which centres on Hyderabad.
The pictorial record shows that Europeans had long been attracted
to the art and culture of the Deccan.
The tolerance and openness of this world
had a great appeal to outsiders.
So you have, in this textile here,
Armenians, Europeans, Dutch, French,
some Mughals, some Indian Muslims, all mixing together.
What was it that attracted foreigners to this place?
The Deccan was very receptive to foreign influences,
especially because of its coastlines that welcomed lots of European
traders and travellers.
And in the period preceding that exchange,
you already had the Middle East and Africa
meeting on Indian soil in this region.
What's fascinating is you can see a very cosmopolitan Deccan world.
You can see Europeans.
You've got a figure with a ruff around his neck.
Some of the eyes actually look blue to show foreign eyes.
You've even got a dog, which is...
-Haram in Islam.
-Right. That's true.
But they're quite often associated with foreigners and Europeans.
And this one's been given wonderful tiger stripes and a hatched belly.
In this 17th-century painting of the Dutchman Cornelius van der Bogard,
we can already see the beginnings of a fusion
in Indian and European styles.
The interesting thing is that the costume he wears, although
European in style, is actually made out of local textiles, as well.
He's seated leaning against bolsters...
-Under a canopy. A man with a fly whisk.
And so, when Kirkpatrick arrives in Hyderabad,
he's coming on the heels of 100 years of European influence.
Absolutely. I think that it was a very welcoming world in its own way
to adventurers, to traders. Many of them settled down for many years.
So settled, indeed, that by the end of the 18th century,
one third of British men in India were living with an Indian woman.
When I researched further at the British Library,
I found that James Kirkpatrick
had shared the details of his own life as a White Mughal,
professional and personal,
in candid letters to his elder brother William.
The Kirkpatrick papers had recently been bought
by the India Office Records.
And there were nearly 100 files newly catalogued.
A lot of the more interesting passages were in code.
Eventually, I found a transcription over one of the passages.
And it was a simple number/letter correspondence.
And in James's decoded letters, I found compelling evidence
of a great scandal in Hyderabad
which would threaten to overwhelm him.
The heart of political power in the old city
was the Chowmahalla Palace.
If an incomer was to succeed, they needed to win the favour
of the man who'd been on the throne for 35 years.
Nizam Ali Khan was a Muslim of Mughal descent
ruling a mainly-Hindu population.
By brilliant diplomacy, he had established a prosperous state
at this pivotal position in South-Central India.
As his letters recorded, James' success with the Nizam
was the envy of British diplomats
in other cities, like Calcutta and Madras.
"The people of Madras, I am told,
"are at a loss to conceive by what magic I always continue
"to work my ends at this Durbah.
"I will inform you in a few words that it consists merely
"in treating old Nizzy with a great deal of respect and deference.
"Humouring him in all his innocent whims and wishes."
Typical of his courtesy was to send to Calcutta for a warm quilt
when the cold weather set in as, he said, "The old man feels the chill."
"You have no idea how kindly these marks of attention are taken by him.
"I may truly say that by such attentions,
"I have gained his warm heart."
James' diplomatic talents didn't end with his kindness.
He genuinely enjoyed life in Hyderabad and admired its culture.
He was a man who knew how to enjoy himself.
Fortunately, so did the Nizam.
To get an idea of the sort of man Nizam Ali Khan was,
you only have to know he abolished his father's morality police
and instituted instead a ministry
called the Office of the Lords of Pleasure.
The job of this extraordinary ministry
was to provide lavish court entertainment.
From music and poetry recitals to dance displays.
The court dancers were admired as much for their poetic talents
as their other skills.
They were privy to all the court gossip
and were happy to sell this information.
James skilfully exploited this trade,
setting up a remarkably-efficient network of spies.
He made sure he was fully absorbed socially into Hyderabad society,
mixing freely with the noblemen.
He hunted with trained cheetahs
and afterwards, would organise performances by the city dancers.
Chief amongst these was the famous Mah Laqa Bai Chanda,
a courtesan who was also a celebrated poet.
She built a library filled with books on the arts and sciences
and was an advisor at the Nizam's court.
No wonder one Hyderabadi historian thought her,
"An extraordinary woman.
"A unique combination of body and soul."
In this painting by Venkatchellam
which shows all the nobility of the Nizam's court out hunting,
she fills the top right-hand side of the canvas
sitting in her stately palanquin,
the only woman in a landscape full of men.
Under James, the Residency participated in the life
and festivals of the city in a way it had never done before,
or would ever do again.
He gave money to the Sufi shrines,
he broke the Ramadan fast with the Nizam,
he came here to Maula Ali during the annual festival
and every Muharram, he presented himself
with his head covered at the annual recitations.
This painting shows him attending a wedding
during his early days as Resident.
From a diplomatic point of view, his adoption of local customs
was clearly advantageous,
but it seems to have gone far deeper than this.
A fellow officer described
how he wore a Mussulman's dress on all occasions.
He smoked a hookah, grew Indian-style mustachios
and even painted his fingers with henna.
He also wrote Persian poetry
and commissioned masterpieces from the city's miniature painters.
To learn more about the art James so loved,
I'm going to visit Jagdish Mittal at his home,
where, over 70 years, he has assembled
the world's greatest collection of Deccani miniature paintings.
These are gorgeously-coloured, jewel-like images
designed to be passed from one person to another.
And this fabric is also Deccani.
This is called ikat.
And is this how the Deccanese sultans would have stored their...?
So, they were never shown in frames, or on walls...?
-We're doing it in the authentic manner?
-Very good. Ah!
Ah! And he was a great friend of Kirkpatrick himself, wasn't he?
That's right. Yes.
Kirkpatrick really loved this atmosphere here in Hyderabad.
Over and over again, James' letters to his brother are suffused
by his intoxication with India.
He was now a powerful young diplomat on the rise in a country he adored.
Every day, the bustle and noise and the heady mix of Mughal
and South Indian culture thrilled him.
And he was even entranced by the local cooking.
-So Hyderabad biryani.
Whoa-ho! Look at this!
So this is biryani.
This is Hyderabad's most famous dish. Hyderabadi biryani.
And even 200 years ago, in my research, I found that
French mercenaries were taking service in Hyderabad
just so that they could eat this dish.
They described it as the most magnificent dish in India.
They had rice, fowls, lamb
butter and loads of spicery.
And you can smell the cinnamon, the cumin just wafting up.
Sad you can't have the smell on the telly, I'm afraid,
but trust me, it's unbelievably good.
Can I have some?
James was known throughout the city for his love of Hyderabadi cuisine.
The Nizam often sent him a dish of aubergines
cooked in the palace kitchens
that he knew was a personal favourite.
For James, the key to living in India
was not to try and impose European ways of living,
of dress, of attitudes, but to adopt those of India.
And in terms of food, this was certainly much more delicious.
James' increasing absorption into Mughal society
meant he avoided the sort of mistake
made by other, more clumsy British diplomats.
He was somebody the Nizam felt he could trust.
And he was a frequent and welcome visitor
here at the Chowmahalla Palace.
But despite winning the respect
and even the affection of Nizam and his ministers,
he was still as far as ever from his main goal,
the ousting of the French.
Newly arrived at the East India Company Headquarters in Calcutta
was the ambitious new Governor General, Richard Wellesley.
Unlike James, he had little respect for Indian culture or people.
He wanted to use the East India Company
and its massive private army to add India to the British Empire.
Richard Wellesley is part of a family of very talented
and ambitious aristocratic officers.
His mission is to eliminate French threats within the subcontinent
and to assert the primacy of the East India Company
as the leading territorial power.
But the French were led by a charismatic general, Michel Raymond.
By lending mercenary troops for his local wars,
Raymond had cultivated the Nizam of Hyderabad.
It was now vital for James' career that he satisfy
the new East India Company demands,
voiced by Governor General Wellesley.
The French must be dealt with by James, no matter what the cost.
He opened secret treaty negotiations with the Nizam
that the British would support him unambiguously in any future conflict
if only he would disband his French mercenary army.
But then something else happened.
Near the old French garrison lies the tomb of General Raymond.
Nobody knows who was really responsible,
but with negotiations ongoing,
Raymond was found dead in his bed one morning,
with all the evidence pointing to the use of a slow-acting poison.
For many years thereafter, the Nizam,
on the anniversary of Raymond's death,
used to send a box of cheroots and a bottle of beer to the tomb,
in memory of his old ally.
But with their charismatic leader gone
and discipline slipping in the French garrison,
James Kirkpatrick was quick to take advantage of the situation.
Finally, on 1st September 1798,
the Nizam signed the treaty negotiated by James.
The French garrison was to be disbanded
and four battalions of British troops stationed in Hyderabad.
The Nizam took himself away to the fortress of Golconda,
leaving the rival Europeans to sort it out.
But he invited the British in
without inviting the French to leave.
The citadel here was Nizam Ali Khan's refuge of last resort
and in times of political crisis, such as now,
he retreated here and locked the gates behind him.
On the morning of October 22 1798,
the French garrison, on the banks of the River Musi,
awoke to find themselves surrounded.
James watched anxiously from the Residency
on the other side of the river.
Within a few hours, the largest French force in India,
nearly 16,000 men, lay down their arms
and surrendered without a single shot being fired.
James watched the whole thing through a spyglass
from the roof of the Residency behind us
and wrote to his brother, William,
that it was the finest sight he had ever seen.
James' Hyderabad Treaty with Nizam was a triumph,
and his political career was guaranteed.
Governor General Wellesley was delighted.
But of unquestionably greater importance,
for the course of James' life,
were the victory celebrations that took place afterwards.
It was here that that he first met Khair un-Nissa.
This noble princess came from one of the leading Hyderabadi families.
She was of Persian origin,
and a Sayyida, directly descended from the Prophet himself.
Only one portrait of her survives
and in her expression you can see, beneath the innocence,
a strength that might be interpreted as defiance
in a less serene face.
With only the painting and James' letters to go on,
I tried to look deeper.
I knew that she was already engaged to someone else
and any relationship with James could only cause a major scandal,
with the men of her family certain to disapprove.
So why did she do it, I wondered?
Why did she take such a colossal risk?
Were there any surviving manuscripts which gave her point of view
or that of her own family?
After months of research in Hyderabad,
I was wandering through the metal workers' bazaar,
looking for presents to my family,
when I had an extraordinary stroke of luck.
I had got chatting to the owner of this bookshop.
When I told him what I was working on,
he said he had something to show me.
Previously undiscovered first person testimony from 200 years ago
is hard to find
yet here, from a pile of manuscripts, he produced
an old Persian book
which turned out to be the 600 page autobiography of a cousin
of Khair un-Nissa and it included his thoughts on the affair.
And when was this written?
-It was probably before 160 years, sir.
What's interesting is he doesn't blame Kirkpatrick for the scandal,
which engulfs his own life, he blames the women.
He says that Kirkpatrick is a man of honour, a fine poet.
He's built a beautiful garden.
The person he blames is Khair un-Nissa's mother,
Sharaf un-Nissa, and he said that she has been infected by what
he calls the immorality of Hindu India.
Falling in love in the 18th century for a young Muslim woman
would have been risky.
She is 15.
She probably lives her whole life clustered in the harem.
I can imagine that she found him very appealing.
He was tall, he was good looking, he was wealthy.
If you want to break an engagement in the 18th century,
and you're a Muslim woman from a respectable family,
you can't just say I'm not in the mood to get married.
You have to have another option lined up
and so I think this is maybe the way out of that.
In a culture where honour killings were routine,
she was literally taking her life into hands.
As an historian, you can spend as long as you like in libraries
accessing endless documents, but you're rarely much wiser
about people's motives and, in this story,
the big mystery is why in a strict Muslim Persian Shia family,
Khair un-Nissa's mother encouraged her to start
a relationship with Kirkpatrick.
I think that's the big 64,000 question, isn't it?
I mean, look, there's two ways to run it.
One is she thought there was some political advantage to be gained
and that the person that Khair un-Nissa was already
engaged to wasn't maybe politically worth it any more.
Another way to run it is that she wanted to see her daughter
have a better relationship than the circumstances she was in.
-She had been married off young and widowed.
And widowed young, right, and so this may have been her way
of seeing her daughter out of that system.
If Sharaf un-Nissa thought she was saving her daughter
from an unhappy marriage, she may have been encouraged by examples
of successful marriages between British officials and Indian women.
As I sifted through the records, searching for examples,
I came across references to someone sharing my own surname.
It soon became clear that not only did I have an ancestor
who lived in India,
but that he himself had married an Indian woman from Hyderabad.
Lieutenant Colonel James Dalrymple,
who, according to this inscription,
commanded the Honourable East India Company's forces
serving with His Highness The Nizam.
This guy, Dalrymple,
turns out to be a very similar figure to Kirkpatrick.
He was also married to a local noblewoman, a Shia called
Mooti Begum, the daughter of the Nawab of Masulipatam
from the coast
and a cousin of Mumtaz, who's buried in the Taj Mahal.
It was obviously a very affectionate marriage.
Dalrymple left instructions that the inscription on his tomb
be repeated in Persian so his wife could read it.
But this strain of Anglo-Indian blood had been entirely
wiped from my family records in the years following his death
and I had no idea about it.
But now Dalrymple comes into this very story.
He was ordered to confront a man whose captive he had once been.
Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore.
He was the French-backed enemy of both the Nizam and the British.
And true to the Hyderabad treaty,
Colonel Dalrymple led an Anglo-Indian force to war.
But crucially, with him
went the male members of Khair un-Nissa's family.
He sent off a massive force to attack Tipu in his island fortress
at Srirangapatna and with that force went Baqar Ali Khan,
the Nizam's paymaster, and Khair un-Nissa's grandfather.
This left the coast clear at home for Khair's mother,
Sharaf un-Nissa to completely rewrite plans
for her daughter's future.
One evening, Sharaf and Khair un-Nissa
paid a visit to the women's quarters of the British Residency,
ostensibly to call on family friends.
Their real purpose was quite clear, especially to Kirkpatrick himself.
In a letter to his brother, he described the meeting.
"That I did safely pass the fiery ordeal of a long nocturnal
"interview with the charming subject of the present letter."
He reassured William that he had not succumbed,
and that he had been careful to honour his position.
"I managed to abstain from the tempting feast
"I was manifestly invited to."
But eventually he says, after two weeks of this...
"I must have been something more or less than a man
"to have held out any longer."
So basically he's saying it's her fault - what could a boy do?
And he ends the letter saying, back off.
"I must therefore entreat you, dear Will,
"to spare me if possible the pain of any further discussion of this."
And of course in that matter, his wishes were not granted.
But William's opinion was the least of his worries.
One very interested party who had remained in Hyderabad
was the Prime Minister, an astute and brilliant politician
called Aristu Jah.
He saw James' secret affair as the perfect opportunity for blackmail.
Perhaps Aristu Jah could even turn James to act,
not just in the British interest, but that of Aristu Jah himself.
Soon after the victorious army had returned to Hyderabad,
two local newsletters were published making shocking accusations.
They claimed that James Kirkpatrick had forced Khair un-Nissa
to sleep with him.
In a brilliant strategy, the Machiavellian Aristu Jah
had actually leaked the gossip in order to catch out James.
When Lord Wellesley heard the allegations,
he asked the Prime Minister to investigate.
James was summoned to an interview,
his job and future in India now in the hands of Aristu Jah,
the very man who had planted the rumours in the first place.
If he chose to help the Minister persuade Wellesley to sign various
treaties helpful to Hyderabad, then he could keep Khair un-Nissa.
If he chose to resist then, sadly, the minister would have no option
but to confirm all the charges
and he would lose both Khair and his job.
There was, in fact, no real choice.
It was checkmate.
According to a Hyderabadi chronicler writing at the time,
James promised Aristu Jah to...
"Strive for the best interests of your government
"and obey all your orders as long I am Resident."
In other words, to become a Hyderabadi double agent.
With these assurances, Aristu Jah now confirmed
James' innocence in the affair to Wellesley.
He had James in his pocket.
Yet James was sure that the two countries interests were the same
and that by building an alliance between the British
and the Mughals of Hyderabad,
he was serving Khair un-Nissa's interests too.
James had survived but he hadn't been entirely honest with
He'd omitted to tell him the crucial fact that
he was in fact sleeping with Khair un-Nissa.
Following further family complaints in Hyderabad,
he was advised to stop seeing her,
and by the summer it looked as if the whole thing had blown over.
But the situation was actually about to get a great deal more
complicated, for Khair was pregnant with James' child.
James was now in serious trouble.
He had promised to end the affair,
and it was now obvious that he had not kept his word.
Moreover, under Islamic law,
as a Christian he was not permitted to marry Khair un-Nissa, but
her grandfather felt she had been dishonoured and sought an abortion.
Then James showed how far he would go to
prove his love for this woman.
He decided to convert to Islam.
Khair un-Nissa's family withdrew their objections and in a secret
ceremony in January 1801,
Khair un-Nissa and James were married.
When two months later, Khair gave birth to a son,
James wrote on a tiny scrap of paper which still survives...
"On Wednesday the 4th March, at about four o clock in the morning,
"a son was born to me in the city of Hyderabad.
"His mother, from a dream she had,
"wishes him to be named Mir Ghulam Ali, to which I mean to add
"that of Sahib Allum, which means, little Lord of the World."
But Governor General Wellesley's intolerant attitudes meant
that prospects were increasingly grim for the kind of enlightened
White Mughal that James represented.
He was now married with a young child,
but to his masters in Calcutta,
he still claimed he had cut off all relations with Khair un-Nissa.
James even had to keep his brother in ignorance,
as William had recently been employed
as Wellesley's personal secretary.
But James' reticence to reveal his mixed race marriage
was a reflection of the new racism of the Wellesley regime.
James wrote privately of Wellesley,
"Oceans of blood and treasure
"have been wasted in his pretended plan of general pacification
"which was a mere pretence for the general subjugation of India."
In this period, I think everyone is getting anxious about racial mixing,
not just the British,
but certainly Indians are getting more anxious about this as well.
There's a real drop off of certainly respectable or elite women
entering into these relationships.
Any inter-racial relationship was frowned upon by James' superiors.
So Khair un-Nissa and their son remained in the family home
in the Old City, as he felt unable to move them into the Residency.
But he was not the only victim of Wellesley's new racist agenda.
I love this picture.
This is, I think, one of the most charming images of a family group
to survive from the entire Indo-British encounter.
It shows General William Palmer, the Resident in Poona,
and his Mughal wife Faiz Baksh, she was Khair un-Nissa's best friend.
And just as the two women form a bond, so do the two men,
and they share in their correspondence
their misgivings about Wellesley's nakedly hostile attitude to Indians.
Palmer was a relic of a more tolerant age.
When he and Faiz were married 15 years earlier,
such an inter-racial liaison would have been unremarkable,
but now things were different.
About the same time as Khair becomes pregnant,
Wellesley sacks Palmer because he's got a Mughal wife
and because he has a sympathy with Indian culture.
But despite his troubles,
James was still committed to make all he could of life in Hyderabad.
His legacy is this remarkable building, the Residency.
And it says much of the value that the Nizam put on his new
British alliance that he funded its construction,
to James' own conception.
It's a women's college now, and somewhat faded.
But judging from his letters,
it was an achievement of which he was hugely proud.
It remains one of the very greatest buildings in India.
It used to be thought that it was designed
by the Hyderabad military architect, Samuel Russell,
but it's very clear from Kirkpatrick's letters
that he knocked it together himself in his spare time
with the assistance, he says, of Maestri architects from Madras.
Now, Maestri architects are basically master builders,
they're Indians, so this perfect, British-looking Palladian mansion,
sitting here in the middle of Hyderabad is, in fact,
like everything else in Kirkpatrick's life,
an Anglo-Indian collaboration.
Despite the fate of his friend, William Palmer,
James could not tolerate living apart from Khair un-Nissa.
He had genuinely become a family man.
He finally decided to bring her to live in the Residency
in the summer of 1801.
The reason he later gave for taking this politically risky decision
was that he did, "Hearken to the voice of nature, pleading
"eloquently in the engaging form of a helpless and innocent infant."
He missed his little boy.
James built them a Mughal-style zenana, or women's quarters,
in the Residency grounds.
Known as the Rang Mahal, or palace of colours,
it was later described as a very elegant
and highly finished specimen of Hindustani architecture.
I love this painting depicting the women arrayed
around the fountain of a Deccani pleasure garden
on a hot afternoon.
I imagine that James's zenana would have been set in a garden
very much like this, with a veranda whose walls
and ceilings were gilded with great taste.
Indeed, it was painted by the Nizam's court artist,
Venkatchallam, who was a good friend of Kirkpatrick's.
The detail is a delight, especially the three women dancing
and the others gossiping while the musician plays her sitar.
Sadly today only the entrance gateway to Khair's zenana survives.
She may have been a secret from the government in Calcutta,
but this zenana was a measure of his commitment to his young wife.
Well, I'm just astonished by this building,
I've been here before but seeing it again, this amazing harem
built by a British diplomat for his Indian wife.
And these solid walls around me here are living proof of this
world of the White Mughals.
It was destroyed in the 19th century by a Victorian Resident
who described it as 'smacking of native immorality'.
But even at the time, it didn't make Kirkpatrick any friends.
He was saying very firmly that he was allying himself culturally
with the people of Hyderabad,
and with his Muslim wife,
and the British officers in the army cantonment to the north
regarded this as tantamount to treason.
Already unpopular for his Mughal lifestyle,
James now uncovered systematic embezzlement
among the British military, and relations between the Residency
and the garrison deteriorated further.
James very honourably exposed the corruption
and was immediately grassed to Calcutta by the embezzlers.
His marriage to Khair was exposed.
When Lord Wellesley discovered that he had been lied to for two years
he was, not surprisingly, hopping mad.
900 miles away in Calcutta,
Governor General Wellesley fumed that James behaviour was,
"An outrage upon the general principles of normality,"
and that he had, "Debauched the granddaughter of Baqar Ali."
He launched an immediate inquiry.
In what must be one of the most sexually explicit manuscripts
to survive from the East India Company, witnesses to the affair
are asked incredibly detailed and intimate questions
about what passed between Khair and James.
And to read it is a slightly uneasy sensation you get
like opening Kirkpatrick's bedroom windows and peering in.
All the most intimate details are recorded -
when and where sex took place, the pregnancy,
James' last-minute intervention to prevent an abortion.
There's also Kirkpatrick's incredibly romantic declaration
that whatever the results of this investigation,
he was determined not to desert this woman or her offspring.
These are moments when the whole remoteness of history evaporates,
these are immediately recognisable and human and familiar situations.
The inquiry concluded that James had been lying
to his superiors for over two years.
He faced an almost certain dismissal
and would have been forced leave Hyderabad in disgrace.
In the end, it was his brother William who took the rap.
He had been ill for some time and had now decided to resign.
He told Wellesley that James had shared all the relevant information,
but that it was he who had failed to pass it on.
In other words it was William's fault, not James'.
This did the trick.
Wellesley acquitted James and announced that he had resolved
to continue him in the station he has filled with so much credit.
In this portrait painted shortly afterwards,
James' thinning, grey hair and tired expression
betray the stress he had been living under for so long.
Henceforth, he takes refuge in domesticity,
in his beloved wife, in his little son,
and now a daughter, born in the middle of this latest trouble.
Noor un-Nissa, Sahib Begum, the Lady of Light,
the little lady of high lineage.
James loved his children,
and you can see evidence of this throughout the Residency's grounds.
At the back of the women's quarters where Khair un-Nissa
and the children lived, there is another intriguing survival
from this period, though in an even worse condition than the Residency.
When I was working on the Kirkpatrick papers in London,
in the British Library, I found a letter from James
asking for dolls to be sent out to India in court dress,
perhaps to show his children what Europeans dressed like,
they'd never seen it. So that's what I think we have here.
We have a gorgeous 18th-century doll's house
built by Kirkpatrick for his beloved children.
James' designs can still be seen today.
He laid out the sort of informal parkland that was
fashionable in the England of his youth.
He had a paddock well stocked with deer
of nearly a mile in circumference and, to keep them company,
he ordered from Bombay some elk and a herd of Abyssinian sheep.
Creating a Capability Brown-style parkland in the middle of India
was not without its problems.
Kirkpatrick's lawns soon withered in the Deccani heat
and he was forced to write to Bombay for,
"An English fire engine, or two, in order to water my pleasure grounds."
James was now comfortably established.
His diplomatic skills had brought peace to his station and a
grateful Nizam had set him up in a building that befitted this success.
This picture shows a state visit by the Nizam's court
to the completed building.
The somewhat busty sphinxes were later torn down
by prudish successors and replaced with a pair of suitably dull lions.
But James' political legacy was more secure.
The treaties he had negotiated ensured Hyderabad never suffered
a military confrontation with the British
and it remained a sovereign state for the next 150 years.
There follows five years of real domestic bliss.
The children were brought up as Hyderabadi Muslims -
they spoke Persian, they went to all the Shia ceremonies
in the Old City, they ate Indian food, they wore Indian clothes.
They did not mix with the other children in the Residency,
but they did mix with aristocratic families from the Old City,
and it's as if there is a little island of the Old City of Hyderabad
erected here in the Rang Mahal in the middle of the British Residency.
James continued to have grave misgivings about the way
Wellesley was running things from Calcutta but he only voiced
these privately in his letters to his friend, General Palmer.
Things, however, were about to change to his advantage.
Ever since he arrived in India, Governor General Wellesley had
seemed unable to accept that he was employed by a mercantile enterprise.
Instead, his aggressive policy of expansion had turned
the company into empire builders - at vast expense.
What Lord Wellesley in his arrogance had forgotten
was that the East India Company was, ultimately, a business.
His extensive wars across India and his extravagant building projects,
such as the massive Governor General's House behind me,
had left them £30 million in debt.
The directors had had enough.
Using the excuse that he had turned his office into a despotism,
they had him sacked.
The new Governor General was Lord Cornwallis,
a man after James' own heart.
Kirkpatrick had endured five years of hostile investigations
into his public attitudes and his private life.
Now he hoped it would be different.
He'd been out of touch with Lord Wellesley and his incredibly
aggressive imperial ideas, but Lord Cornwallis announced
that he wanted justice, moderation, and, above all, he wanted peace.
James was profoundly pleased by this new appointment,
but his pleasure was tinged with personal sadness.
In Hyderabad, the Light of the World, little Sahib Allum,
was now four years old.
Khair un-Nissa had always known that her children would be sent away
to be educated in England,
but it was an idea to which she was instinctively and bitterly opposed.
James and Khair un-Nissa meant to travel with the children
as far as the port of Madras.
But James was struck down with a fever,
and Khair remained behind in Hyderabad to nurse him.
On the 9th September 1805, little Sahib Allum
and Sahib Begum set off to Madras.
James and Khair would never see their children again.
In Madras, the children were to have their portrait painted
by the Anglo-Irish artist, George Chinnery.
While Chinnery was at work on this picture,
a letter arrived from the new Governor General in Calcutta.
Lord Cornwallis wanted Kirkpatrick to go and brief him
on the diplomatic situation.
But at this crucial juncture, Kirkpatrick's big moment,
he's lying upstairs with severe rheumatism and terrible hepatitis.
He hasn't left his bedroom for a month.
But he knows he has to go, so he hauls on his uniform,
he gets onto his horse and he heads off down the coast road to Madras
through pouring monsoon rain.
He had hoped to see his children off in Madras,
but they sailed the day before he arrived.
His fever was now worse and he was sufficiently worried
to write a will, dividing his now considerable fortune
between his children and beloved wife Khair un-Nissa.
He then boarded a ship for Calcutta.
James sailed up the Hooghly River on the evening of October 7th 1805.
At the quayside, he was taken off the ship on a stretcher
and carried to the house of his niece.
He was now critically ill.
He slipped in and out of a coma.
A week later, he died.
He was only 41.
The same evening he was buried here, in Park Street cemetery.
Just before he passed away, he heard the news that Lord Cornwallis,
on whom all his hopes of a new era in India were pinned, had died too.
The journey that killed him had been in vain.
Death was everywhere in Calcutta.
Two monsoons was the average lifespan of a European,
but for a man who had risked everything for love,
Kirkpatrick's end was especially lonely and tragic.
He died far from everyone who cared for him, his children,
his brother, his friends, his beloved wife, Khair un-Nissa.
None of them even knew he was dead as his coffin was
lowered into the wet Bengali earth.
There was a cold military salute in place of tears.
But what of Khair un-Nissa?
What happened to her after her husband,
the love of her short life, had died?
James's death meant that, in all likelihood,
she would never see her son and daughter again.
I have been researching this for four years,
scouring libraries and archives for an answer to this question,
but it seemed as if there was no-one who thought it sufficiently
important to record her fate.
She had been edited out of the official documents,
but following a lead to James' executor, Henry Russell,
the vain, cocky assistant at the Residency,
I found a single letter
that revealed the final chapter of the story.
In the autumn of 1806, Khair un-Nissa,
who had previously never left Hyderabad
took an extraordinary decision for a Muslim woman and travelled
to the other end of India to grieve at her husband's graveside.
Calcutta was at the peak of its golden age,
but it was a very different place to Hyderabad.
In the punishing humidity of the monsoon,
Khair found a city governed by the British from white stucco palaces
lining the streets and the river banks.
Bewildered in this alien environment, she consoled herself
with the painting of her two children that she had carried
all the way from Madras.
Initially, Khair un-Nissa is in deep mourning.
She spends her days near her husband's grave
but after a year or so she returns to life and, at the centre of that
new life, is her husband's ambitious former assistant, Henry Russell.
Russell was in Calcutta to settle the business of James' will
and was probably the only other person in the city
that Khair un-Nissa knew.
His correspondence become filled with references to Khair
and they are clearly spending a great deal of time together.
This young, vulnerable woman, who had suffered
such a series of tragic misfortunes, is drawn in by Russell's attentions.
She had this picture made in Russell's house,
it did not do justice to her beauty, Russell felt.
Soon afterwards they become lovers,
but Khair had made a dreadful mistake.
Henry Russell's a very different man from James Kirkpatrick.
He's definitely a social climber in a way that James Kirkpatrick
is not and my guess is that Henry Russell saw her
as a vehicle towards some kind of social mobility,
which worked for him.
Eventually, they set off on the long journey back to Hyderabad.
But news reached them en route that after taking up with another
British suitor, Khair was not welcome in her home city.
With nowhere to go, she found a house in a mosquito-ridden backwater
called Masulipatnam and there she waited for Russell to join her,
but Russell had other plans.
Shortly afterwards, he married an Anglo-Portuguese heiress, and,
too ashamed to tell Khair face-to-face,
he sent his brother instead.
Like Madame Butterfly, Khair wasted away.
By 1808, Khair un-Nissa was permitted to return to Hyderabad.
Henry Russell had now become the Resident himself
and was living in her old home, but the pair did not meet.
Then five years later, he received a brief note from his former lover.
It simply said, she was dying.
For once, Russell rose to the occasion.
He allowed her back to the zenana where she had once been happy.
There was no obvious reason for her condition he said,
she'd just turned her face to the wall.
She died on the bed where she'd once given birth to her daughter,
the little lady of high lineage.
She was aged only 27 years old.
Her mother, Sharaf un-Nissa, was at her bedside to the end.
Russell wrote, "You cannot imagine anything
"so distressing as the grief of the old lady.
"She was quite wrapped up in her daughter and seems to
"feel that the only object she lived for was taken from her."
Khair un-Nissa, most excellent of women,
had the saddest of lives.
In a society where women have few choices,
she had risked everything to be with the man she loved.
This fiery, passionate woman died of a broken heart.
A quarter of a century later,
on the staircase of Henry Russell's Swallowfield House,
Kitty Kirkpatrick, the girl in the painting, dried her tears.
All this time, she believed herself forgotten by her Indian family.
But this encounter with the painting was to set her on a new trail.
The name of Henry Russell meant nothing to Kitty.
Since arriving in England, when she was three,
she had been forbidden all contact with her Indian family.
Russell was not there at the time,
but he later claimed to have been given the portrait by Khair
and promised to leave it to Kitty in his will.
The picture was just one part of the loot
with which he returned from India.
He had amassed a fortune far in excess of his salary
and resigned from his post
just as he was about to get sacked for corruption.
Kitty smelt a rat and began to investigate Russell.
In the course of her research,
she discovered that her grandmother, Sharaf un-Nissa, was still alive.
The moving letters she then wrote to Sharaf are still in the possession
of David Vaughn, Kitty Kirkpatrick's great-great-great-grandson.
So this is Kitty writing to her grandmother...
"How dreadful it is to think that
"so many, many years have passed when it would have done my heart
"such good to think that you loved me.
"I often think of you and remember you and my dear mother too.
"I often dream that I am with you in India
"and that I see you both in the room that we used to sit in.
"I can well recollect her cries when we left her
"and I can now see the place in which she sat when we parted,
"and her tearing her long hair.
"What worlds would I give to possess one lock of that beautiful
"and much-loved hair."
And she ends the letter with this wonderful ending.
"Will this reach you
"and will you care for the letter of your grandchild?
"My own heart tells me that you will.
"May God bless you, my own dear Grandmother.
"Your affectionate daughter."
How wonderful. It's a tremendous ending, isn't it?
So this is mother and daughter,
Kitty and the gorgeous, gorgeous image of Khair un-Nissa.
Kitty had the same eyes and the same eyebrows
and the same centre parting.
A Muslim woman in a zenana
and an evangelical Christian in Torquay are such different worlds
and yet they're almost the same person physically.
Kitty now lived with her family
in the Victorian seaside resort of Torquay.
Her brother had died several years earlier.
Now she was renowned for her beauty and even inspired a novel,
Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle.
He had done nothing to disguise his inspiration.
Both the real Kitty and Carlyle's fictional Blumine
share the same middle name, Aurora.
Several months after Kitty wrote,
her grandmother's reply arrived at her home above the town.
It had been written in Persian and dictated to a scribe.
It was sprinkled with gold dust and delivered in a velvet bag.
All these years, her grandmother had kept a lock of her mother's hair
and now she sent it with her letter.
But despite the two women exchanging letters for several years,
their planned reunion never took place
and Sharaf un-Nissa died without ever seeing Kitty again.
Their worlds were not moving closer together,
they were in fact moving further apart.
James Kirkpatrick and the other White Mughals attempted to bridge
these two worlds and, to some extent, they succeeded in doing so.
But embarrassed Victorians erased this period of fusion and hybridity
from the history books and, even today,
we still have rhetoric about clashing civilisations.
As the story of James and Khair shows,
East and West are not irreconcilable and never have been.
Only bigotry, racism, prejudice and fear drive them apart,
but they have met and mingled in the past and they will do so again.
Historian and author William Dalrymple travels to the Deccan Plains of India to trace the romantic love affair between a British diplomat and a young Muslim princess. James Achilles Kirkpatrick was the British East India Company resident at the court of Hyderabad when he risked everything, converting to Islam and, sources suggest, even becoming a double agent, to marry Khair un Nissa 'Most Excellent among Women.'
Pursuing this compelling story of seduction and betrayal through the archives across both continents, Dalrymple unearths a world almost entirely unexplored by history. Kirkpatrick's behaviour might appear to breach the conventional boundaries of empire, but it was not unique. At the turn of the 18th century, one in three British men in India, known as white mughals, lived with Indian women, wore local dress and adopted Indian ways, much to the embarrassment of successive colonial administrations. To protect them from growing disapproval their mixed race children were sent back to England for their education and were ultimately absorbed into Victorian society.
Dalrymple tells the story of the Kirkpatricks and their children through the art and architecture of the time - from the classic Georgian portraiture of George Chinnery and Thomas Hickey to the fantastical Deccani miniatures of Venkatchellam and Tajully Ali Shah. And in this melding of influences, he asks why Christian and Islamic cultures cannot be at one again when once they made great marriages and produced such outstanding art.