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

Tipu Sultan suffered defeat in the 3rd Anglo-Mysore war (1790-1792) at the hands of the British East India Company and its two allies, the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas. As a result, he was forced to negotiate terms of peace.

On 24 February 1792, preliminary articles of a peace treaty were agreed upon between Tipu Sultan and the allied armies. The terms presented to Tipu by Governor-General Charles Marquess Cornwallis were as follows:

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 will be delving into the reception ceremony of the young princes Abdul Khaliq, the ten-year-old second son of Tipu, and Muiz-ud-din, his eight-year-old third son. They were ceremoniously handed over to Lord Cornwallis as hostages.

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 February 26, 1792, around noon, the young princes left the fort of Srirangapatna to proceed to the headquarters of the British. The ramparts of the fort were crowded with people. Tipu Sultan himself stood on the rampart above the gateway. As the princes approached the British camp, a salute of 21 guns was fired, which was reciprocated by an equal number of shots from the fort.

The princes were dressed 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 large brilliants. A sprig of exquisite pearls adorned their turbans.

Abdul Khaliq had a dark complexion, with thick lips, a small flattish 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.

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 Tipu for their reception. The tent was set up near the mosque redoubt, about a mile away from the fort. Sir John Kennaway, the Personal Secretary to Lord Cornwallis, along with the Maratha and Nizam's vakils, welcomed the princes upon their arrival at the tent. They were accompanied by an entourage to the British headquarters.

Each of the princes rode on a beautifully adorned elephant, seated in a silver howda, accompanied by their fathers' vakils and attendants, also riding on elephants. The procession was led by several camel harcarras, and seven standard-bearers carrying small green flags attached to rockets, followed by 100 pike-men with spears inlaid with silver. Their guard of two hundred Sepoys, and a group of horsemen, brought up the rear. As they neared the head quarters, the battalion of Bengal Sepoys commanded by Captain Welch formed a street to welcome them.

Upon their arrival at the camp, a salute of nineteen guns greeted them. Lord Cornwallis warmly welcomed the princes as they dismounted from their elephants, embracing them before leading them by the hand to his tent. Ghulam Ali Khan, the chief vakil, spoke to Lord Cornwallis in the following manner. "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 reassured both Khan and the young princes that they would be treated with the utmost care and respect. At this, their little faces brightened up, as Major Alexander Dirom noted.

After engaging in conversation, Cornwallis presented each prince with a gold watch and various other trinkets. Betel nut and attar of roses were then distributed among the group. Cornwallis then escorted the princes back to their elephants, embraced them once more, and they departed, accompanied by their entourage and the battalion, to their tents.

The next day (27), Cornwallis once again visited the princes at their tents. Sir John Kennaway, the Maratha, and the Nizam's vakils, were also present at the meeting. The princes welcomed them at the entrance. Cornwallis took his seat with the eldest prince to his right and the younger prince to his left.

"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," noted 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 gifted Abdul Khaliq with a fusee (flintlock gun), and Muiz-ud-din with a case of pistols. Betel and attar were then brought in. Following this, the princes escorted Cornwallis outside the tent, where he embraced them warmly before taking his leave.

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

The following morning, a royal salute was fired from the fort, announcing Tipu Sultan's satisfaction upon learning of the reception and treatment his sons had received from Lord Cornwallis.

However, there were some difficulties and delays that arose on Tipu's part regarding the final adjustment of the definitive treaty. Cornwallis' unexpected demand for Coorg caught Tipu off guard. He argued that since Coorg was very close to his capital and not adjacent to the countries of the allies, it should not be demanded according to the preliminary articles of peace. Nevertheless, Cornwallis was determined to take possession of Coorg and even began making preparations to recommence the attack.

On March 14, escort of the princes were strengthened by the 19th light dragoons and were ordered to proceed towards Bangalore. The guards of the princes were disarmed and treated as prisoners, which greatly affected the young princes. In this dire situation, Tipu had no choice but to give his consent for 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 (March 19, 1792)

On 19 March, the young princes, accompanied and escorted in the same manner as when they first arrived in camp, arrived to carry out the ceremony of delivering the definitive treaty, now known as the Treaty of Srirangapatna, to Lord Cornwallis and the allies. They reached the British headquarters at ten o'clock.

Tipu Sultan had already made the first payment of one crore and sixty-five lacs of rupees. Abdul Khaliq handed over the parcel containing the definitive treaty in triplicate to Lord Cornwallis. After completing the ceremony and presenting 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, the Governor of Madras, to provide a suitable residence for the princes. The grand and historic Paul Benfield's House in Fort St. George was chosen for their accommodation. Upon their arrival in Madras, the princes and their entourage were moved into this house. Captain John Doveton was specially appointed to oversee their care and education.

The princes were held as hostages in Madras for a period of 20 months and 23 days. It wasn't until March 29, 1794, that they were eventually reunited with their father, as he had fulfilled 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