The Hostage Princes: Surrender of Abdul Khaliq and Muiz-ud-din to Lord Cornwallis

Tipu Sultan was defeated in the 3rd Anglo-Mysore war (1790-1792) by the British East India Company and its two allies, the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas. On 24th February, 1792, Tipu Sultan was forced to accept the terms of a treaty of peace dictated by the Governor-General Charles Marquess Cornwallis. These terms included:

1. One half of the dominions of which Tipu Sultan was in possession before the war, to be ceded to the allies [Haripant from the Maratha side; and from the Nizam's part, Sikander Jah, son of Nizam Ali Khan, and his minister Azim-ul-Umra].

2. Three crores and thirty lacs of rupees, to be paid by Tipu Sultan. One crore and sixty-five lacs, to be paid immediately; and the rest, to be paid in three installments, not exceeding four months each.

3. All prisoners of the four powers, from the time of Hyder Ali, to be unequivocally restored.

4. [Any] two of Tipu Sultan's three eldest sons to be given as hostages for a due performance of the treaty.

In this post, we are exploring the momentous occasion of the surrender of the young princes, Abdul Khaliq (aged ten) and Muiz-ud-din (aged eight), the second and third sons of Tipu Sultan, to Lord Cornwallis as hostages. 

Beautiful Paintings by Robert Home and Mather Brown:

Robert Home, who accompanied the army of Cornwallis in Mysore, captured the handover of Tipu Sultan's sons as hostages in a stunning painting titled 'The Reception of the Mysorean Hostage Princes by Marquis Cornwallis'. He also included a self-portrait of himself, wearing a green jacket, and carrying a portfolio under his arm, on the left side of the painting.

Reception of the Mysorean Hostage Princes by Marquis Cornwallis, by Robert Home
'The Reception of the Mysorean Hostage Princes by Marquis Cornwallis', 26 February 1792; Oil on canvas by Robert Home - National Army Museum, London

Lord Cornwallis instructed the vakils, who had conducted the negotiation, to inform Tipu that he wished to pay a visit to his sons as soon as they arrived at their tents.

On 26th of February 1792, around noon, the two young princes left the fort of Srirangapatna to proceed to the headquarters of the British army. The ramparts were crowded with people, and Tipu Sultan himself was on the rampart above the gateway. As the princes approached the British camp, they were saluted with 21 guns from the fort. 

The vakils Ghulam Ali Khan and Ali Raza Khan escorted the princes Abdul Khaliq and Muiz-ud-din, to a grand tent that had been sent by the Sultan for their reception and had been pitched near the mosque redoubt, about a mile from the fort. Here, they were welcomed by Sir John Kennaway, the Personal Secretary to Lord Cornwallis, and the Maratha and Nizam's vakils, who attended them, accompanied by an escort to the British headquarters.

The princes were adorned in long white muslin gowns, and vibrant red turbans. They wore several rows of large pearls around their necks, from which hung an ornate piece featuring a ruby and an emerald, encircled by dazzling brilliants. A sprig of exquisite pearls adorned their turbans. Abdul Khaliq had a dark complexion, with thick lips, a small, flat nose, and a long thoughtful face. Muiz-ud-din, on the other hand, was remarkably fair, with regular features, a small, round face, large expressive eyes, and a more lively appearance.

Mounted atop their richly caparisoned elephants, each of the two figures were seated in a silver howdah and attended by their fathers' vakils and other attendants, all of whom were also riding elephants. The procession was led by several camel harcarras, and seven standard-bearers carrying small green flags suspended from rockets, followed by 100 pike-men with spears inlaid with silver. Their guard of two hundred Sepoys, and a party of horse, brought up the rear. As they approached the head quarters, the battalion of Bengal Sepoys commanded by Captain Welch formed a street to receive them in a grand and impressive display.

Upon entering the camp, they were greeted with a thunderous salute of nineteen guns. Lord Cornwallis warmly embraced the princes as they dismounted from their majestic elephants; and, then led them in one in each hand, to his tent. Ghulam Ali Khan, the head vakil, addressed Lord Cornwallis with these words. "These children were this morning the sons of the Sultan my master; their situation is now changed, and they must look up to your Lordship as their father". Cornwallis assured him and the young princes that every possible attention would be shown to them. At this, their little faces lit up with joy, as Major Alexander Dirom noted.

After engaging in conversation, Cornwallis presented each of the princes with a luxurious gold watch and a selection of other exquisite trinkets. He then distributed betel nut and attar of roses, before leading the princes back to their elephants. Cornwallis embraced them once more before they departed, escorted by their entourage and the battalion, back to their tents.

On the following day, the 27th, Cornwallis paid another visit to the princes at their tents. Sir John Kennaway, the Maratha and the Nizam's vakils, were also in attendance at the conference. The princes welcomed them at the entrance, and Cornwallis took his seat with the eldest prince to his right and the younger prince to his left.

The Hostage princes with Ghulam Ali Khan; Oil painting by Robert Home - Tipu Sultan Museum, Daria Daulat Bagh, Sriringapatna (

"Abdul Khaliq appeared less serious than yesterday; and when he spoke, was not only graceful in his manner, but had a most affable, animated appearance. However, Muiz-ud-din appeared to be the favourite with the vakils; and, at the desire of Ghulam Ali Khan, recited some verses in Arabic, which he had learned by heart from the Koran, and afterwards some verses in Persian, which he did with great ease and confidence, and showed he had made great progress in his education", says Major Dirom. "The princes themselves, in the whole of their demeanor showed a degree of gracefulness which clearly discovered that their education had been treated with very particular attention", adds R. Mackenzie.

The princes presented Cornwallis with a fine Persian sword, and in return he bestowed upon the eldest a fusee (flintlock gun), and the youngest a pair of pistols. Betel and attar were then brought in, and after partaking in the offerings, the princes escorted Cornwallis out of the tent. He embraced them warmly and bid them farewell.

Besides their own guards, the hostages were further safeguarded by the 28th battalion of Bengal Sepoys under the command of Captain Welch. Captain Doveton was also in attendance, acting as their interpreter. 

On the morning of the 28th, a royal salute was fired from the fort, announcing the Sultan's satisfaction upon hearing the reception and treatment his two sons had received from Lord Cornwallis.

However, some difficulties and delays arose on the part of Tipu regarding the final adjustment of the definitive treaty. The demand for Coorg came as a surprise to Tipu; he argued that since the territory of Coorg was very close to his capital, and not adjacent to the countries of the allies, it could not be demanded according to the preliminary articles of peace. Nevertheless, Cornwallis was determined to take possession of Coorg and made preparations to resume the attack.

On 14th March, escort of the princes were strengthened by 19th light dragoons and were instructed to march towards Bangalore. Their guards were disarmed and taken captive. The young princes were deeply affected by this sudden shift in their circumstances. In this dire situation, Tipu had no other choice but to agree to full submission. The princes' guards were then returned to them, and the following morning was set for the delivery of the treaty to the confederates.

The Treaty of Srirangapatna (19th March, 1792)

On 19th March, the young princes, attended and escorted in the same manner as they had first arrived in camp, arrived at the head-quarters at ten o'clock to perform the ceremony of delivering the definitive treaty, [which is now known as the Treaty of Srirangapatna] to Lord Cornwallis and the allies. Tipu had already made the first payment of one crore and sixty-five lacs of rupees. Upon their arrival, Lord Cornwallis was presented with the parcel containing the treaty in triplicate by Abdul Khaliq, the elder prince. After completing the ceremony and delivering the final testimony of their father's submission, the princes took their leave and returned to their tents. Afterwards, they accompanied Lord Cornwallis to Madras.

"They are at present in much anxiety to reach Madras, and in particular, to see a ship and a coach. A balloon has been described to them; but they wre unwilling to believe in it, even when vouched by the Lord", noted Captain Wight.

Return of the Hostages:

Cornwallis requested Sir Charles Oakley, Governor of Madras, to provide a suitable residence for the princes, and the grand and historic Paul Benfield's House in Fort St. George was secured for their use. Upon their arrival at Madras, the princes and their entourage were moved into this house, and a special officer, Captain John Doveton, was appointed to look after them, and arrange their education. The princes stayed in Madras for 20 months and 23 days as hostages, until March 1794 when they were finally returned to their father upon the fulfillment of his promises.


A narrative of the campaign in India, which terminated the war with Tippoo Sultan, in 1792 By Major Dirom

A sketch of the war with Tippoo Sultaun: or, a detail of military operations, from the commencement of hostilities at the lines of Travancore in December 1789, until the peace concluded before Seringapatam in February 1792 By Roderick Mackenzie

Selections from Calcutta gazettes of the year 1792 By W S Seton-Karr, C.S