Queen Victoria: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

32
INDIAN MUTINY

'We are in sad anxiety about India which engrosses all our attention.'

HOSTILITIES IN THE CRIMEA had not long been formally concluded when news reached London of renewed fighting; this time in India, where for some time now unrest had been fostered by the agents of princes dispossessed by the British, and by agitators, troublemakers, fakirs, maulvis, and men who had cause to resent the rule of the subcontinent by the East India Company, the British Government's representative in the civil administration of India, which was also responsible for the armies of native infantrymen and cavalrymen, sepoys and sowars, maintained by the three Presidencies: Bengal, Madras and Bombay. Villagers collected to hear warnings of the designs of the firinghis (the foreigners who, so they were told, were bent on destroying their faith), and to listen to prophecies that the British would be forced to leave India in 1857, the hundredth anniversary of the defeat of Siráj-ud-Dawlah's forces by the East India Company's army under Robert Clive at Plassey. Sepoys were assured that the British were not invincible; that, following the Crimean War, Russia had conquered and annexed England; and that, since their country's population was less than a hundred thousand, the English could not -- even if the Russians let them -- reinforce their own regiments, known as the Queen's Regiments, in India. They were told that Lord Canning, the recently appointed Governor-General, had been sent out with the express purpose of converting them to Christianity, and that the widows of soldiers killed in the Crimean War were being shipped out to India where the principal land-holders would be compelled to marry

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