Lives of Mysorean Hostage Princes Abdul Khaliq and Muiz-ud-din in Madras

Tipu Sultan's defeat in the 3rd Anglo-Mysore war resulted in the surrender of his two sons as hostages to the British. Major Dirom and Roderick Mackenzie, contemporary chroniclers, provided detailed accounts of the reception of the hostages by Governor General Marquis Cornwallis. British artists such as Robert Home (An eye-witness to this remarkable event), Mather Brown and Arthur William Devis painted various versions of the Reception of the Mysorean Hostage Princes by Marquis Cornwallis.

The young princes, Abdul Khaliq aged ten, and Muiz-ud-din aged eight, were brought to Madras and housed in a beautiful residence at Fort St. George for nearly two years, from May 30, 1792, to February 27, 1794. They were under the care of Captain Doveton, a respected officer in the Madras army, while Ghulam Ali Khan and Ali Raza Khan, the vakils of Tipu Sultan, stayed with them in Madras.

Reception of the Princes at Fort St. George, Madras:

Upon their arrival in Madras, the British officials arranged a grand reception for the princes, similar to the one held in Srirangapatna. Governor General Cornwallis was also present in Madras at that time. On the morning of May 30, 1792, the young princes, who had been delivered as hostages by Tipu Sultan to fulfill the terms of the recent treaty, entered the fort in a procession led by Major Stevenson. As they entered the fort, a salute was fired from the garrison walls, and they were given the customary military honours as they passed along.

The princes were dressed in splendid attire, adorned with a profusion of jewels. They wore valuable strings of pearls around their necks, with a large diamond buckle featuring a colored stone of immense size at its center. Their turbans were also decorated with rare jewels, showcasing exquisite craftsmanship. From the verandah of their residence, the princes marveled at the sight of ships on the sea, expressing their delight and amazement.

The attendance of the princes was not only numerous but splendid in its kind. The cavalry bodyguard, as per protocol, was not allowed within the walls of the garrison. The infantry, comprised of nearly a hundred handpicked Sepoys of Tipu Sultan, entered alongside and led the princes. They were accompanied by forty to fifty pikemen, a group of boys carrying flags, and an equal number of messengers mounted on camels.


While in Madras, the princes were treated with great care and enjoyed the social scene, attending concerts, plays, and dances. "They have a charming house inside the fort, and everything in great style. They have their own servants. A handsome stage has been built for them that they may see the ships in the roads," writes Thomas Twining.

While residing in Madras, they attended performances featuring excerpts from Handel's Messiah, Judas Maccabeus, Esther, as well as amateur theatrical shows. Over the course of two years, the princes had 4-5 meetings with Carnatic Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah.

On June 29, 1792, Lady Oakley, the wife of Sir Charles Oakley, the Governor of Madras, hosted a grand ball in honor of Lord Cornwallis. The princes were seated on either side of Lord Cornwallis. General Medows, Nawab Umdat ul-Umara (son of Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah), Commodore Cornwallis (brother of Lord Cornwallis) and Tipu's two vakils were also present. Lady Oakley was dressed in a gown adorned with Lord Cornwallis' initials beneath a coronet embellished with laurel wreaths, all connected by purple foil. She also wore a bandeau in her cap with the word "Cornwallis" embroidered in foil.

"The minuets (ballroom dance), proved of too grave a cast to afford much entertainment to the young princes...but a cotillon (An elaborate 18th-century French dance) very well performed, and a strathspey (a slow Scottish dance), pleased them very much; their observations were frequently called forth, and their attention to the surrounding objects much remarked, from the anxious wish of their entertainer and her friends, that these extraordinary guests might be pleased," states the Madras Courier. Muiz-ud-din got a laugh by asking Lord Cornwallis which was his dancing wife. In July 1792, Lord Cornwallis departed Madras for Calcutta.

Thomas Twining's Meeting with the Princes: Lord Cornwallis commissioned the talented portrait painter, John Smart, to create portraits of the young princes. On August 8, 1792, Captain Doveton introduced Thomas Twining, an East India Company officer, to the young princes. Twining, accompanied by the Captain of the Ponsborne ship, visited the princes and later recounted the encounter in the following manner:

"On our entering their rooms they seemed quite glad to see us, asked us, through Colonel Doveton, to sit down, inquired whether we had breakfasted, our names and many other questions. There is not much difference in their size. The youngest is the most pleasing. He is fair, with large, handsome eyes. He was very cheerful and polite; talked a great deal to us, and very sensibly, though not eight years of age. When he heard that we should see Lord Cornwallis, he desired, with tears in his eyes, to be remembered to him, "Tell Lord Cornwallis that he is always with me." Mr. Smart, a miniature painter, who told me to my surprise that he had taken my mother's picture, was taking their likenesses. They are to be sent, when finished, to Tippoo Saib; for Lord Cornwallis having asked him if he would like to have his sons' pictures, "Yes," said he, "provided they be accompanied by Lord Cornwallis's." The princes gave us some betel-nut and some very fine attar of roses."

Cornwallis sent those portraits to Tipu Sultan, who observed that "the miniatures were very well finished, and the likeness remarkably strong."

Arthur William Devis also painted their portraits as part of his painting 'Lord Cornwallis receiving the two sons of Tippoo Sahib as hostages.'  A contemporary observer noted that while the Princes and their attendants posed for their portraits, they regularly corresponded with the Sultan, providing detailed updates on the artist's progress. They were thrilled to see themselves captured on canvas and dressed in their finest attire for Devis. The Princes took great care to ensure they were depicted accurately, even wearing the same clothes and jewelry they had worn when they left their father's palace. The youngest Prince, in particular, was eager to have his single ear-ring painted, a precious gift from his mother.

Dinner a la Seringapatam: One notable event during this time was a dinner hosted by the Princes for Sir Charles and Lady Oakley on August 15. The dinner, referred to as "Dinner a la Seringapatam" by the Madras Courier, featured a variety of dishes such as pulaos, curries, kabobs, and fruits. However, the presence of female guests and bottles of wine on the tables gave the event a more Western feel, otherwise, it would have been completely Musalmani.

During all of these occasions, Muiz-ud-din appeared cheerful and even attempted to speak English. "He seems of a gentle and mild disposition. The elder boy, who shows more mind, is more silent and reserved, and looks of a stern disposition and commanding aspect. We think we see the father in his countenance," writes Dr Andrew Bell, a Scottish priest and educationalist.


Some Unpublished Persian Letters of the Hostage Princes By Mr. I. H. Baqai
Selections from Calcutta gazettes of the year 1794 By W S Seton-Karr, C.S
Tiger of Mysore: Life and Death of Tipu Sultan By Denys M. Forrest
The London Chronicle
Image: Restored edition of John Smart's portraits from the British Museum