Tipu Sultan on London Stages

Tipu Sultan, famously known as the Tiger of Mysore, was a formidable adversary of the British in India. Unlike any other Indian ruler, Tipu Sultan captured the fascination of the average British citizen. Stories of his bravery and ruthless treatment of captured British soldiers spread throughout England, creating a mythical image of him. British mothers were known to threaten their crying babies with the 'arrival of Tipu' in order to silence them. 

British artists painted significant events of Tipu Sultan's life, from his defeat in the Third Anglo-Mysore War in 1792 to his death in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799. These paintings were exhibited in various halls across London.

Some of these notable paintings include 'The Reception of the Mysorean Hostage Princes by Marquis Cornwallis'; 'Tippoo Saib's Two Sons taking Leave of their Mother'; 'Tipu Sahib taking Leave of his Children'; 'Tipu Sultan's Two Sons Delivered up to Lord Cornwallis'; 'The Delivery of the Definitive Treaty by the Hostage Princes to Lord Cornwallis'; 'Return of Tippoo Saib's Two Sons to Their Mother'; 'The Storming of Seringapatam'; 'The Last Effort and Fall of Tipu Sultan'; 'Sir David Baird Discovering the Body of Tipu Sahib'; 'The Body of Tippo Sultaun Recognised by His Family' among others.

anderton as tipu sultan

From 1791 to 1829, numerous dramatic portrayals of Tipu Sultan were staged in London's theaters. Among these productions were:

Tippoo Saib or British Valour in India (1791): The first in this series, Mark Lonsdale's pantomime ballet 'Tippoo Saib or British Valour in India', was premiered at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, on 1 June 1791, at a time when only limited information about the beginning of the 3rd Mysore war had reached England. The show featured a battle dance and a representation of an English and Indian Grand Martial Procession. The show was performed for a second time on June 7. The cast included Mr. Follett as Tipu Sultan, Mr. Byrne as an English Colonel, Miss Francis as the Colonel's lady, and Mr. Bannister who composed an Indian war song.

Tippoo Sultan, or the Siege of Bangalore (1792): Staged at Astley's Amphitheater on April 9, 1792, this play depicted Cornwallis' assault on Bangalore in February and March of 1791. Advertisements referred to it as a "Compiled, Whimsical, Oriental, Tragic, Comic, Pantomimical Sketch."

The Madras Courier of December 13, 1792, featured a critique of the production, stating: 

"If Astley had spent all his life in Mysore and its surrounding regions, he could not be better informed than he is respecting the manners and customs of Tippoo Saib, his court and subjects. In the opening scene, Tipu is seated at a table, surrounded by his nobility, dressed in the Turkish manner. Instead of turbans, they wear Armenian caps adorned with plumes and feathers. His guards, who are seen at a distance, are clothed in tiger's skins and armed with halberds, resembling very much the Beef Eaters in the Tower.

In the second Act the manners and customs of the people are introduced. The High Priest of the Sun, who comes forward attended by numbers of priests of various orders, having made his invocation, he retires to commence the sacrifices of the day, the victims for which are seen bound, with wreathes of flowers round their necks, and consist of Hares, Rams and Hogs."

Tippoo Saib, or East India Campaigning (1792): In April and May of 1792, Mark Lonsdale's musical entertainment, 'Tippoo Saib; or, East India Campaigning', featuring songs, dances, pantomimes, action, and spectacle, made its debut at Sadlers Wells Theatre. Music was by William Reeve.

Tippoo Saib's Two Sons (1792): This play was staged on August 20, 1792 at Astley's. It is divided into three parts: the first, introduces "the affecting, pleasing and interesting" departure of Tipu's sons from their father at the gates of Srirangapatna; the second provides a glimpse of the fort and depicts the reception of the hostage princes; and the third part showcases an oriental military festival that occurred during that event.

In 1799, the fall of Srirangapatna was commemorated with a production at Sadlers Wells, which is believed to have been Tippoo Saib; or, The Plains of Hindostan.

Tippoo Saib or the Storming of Seringapatam (1823): On January 20, 1823, J.H. Amherst's "Tippoo Saib, or the Storming of Seringapatam" was performed at the Royal Coburg Theatre. In this play, Henry Stephen Kemble took on the role of Tipu Sultan. A version of it aimed at children's toy theaters.

kemble as tipu sultan

The Storming of Seringapatam, or The Death of Tippoo Saib (1829): The final installment of the Tipu series, 'The Storming of Seringapatam, or The Death of Tippoo Saib', was the Easter Monday attraction of 1829 at Astleys. The drama culminated in a spectacular attack on the fortress. John G. Cartlitch as Tipu Sultan 'looked very fierce and roared as loud as any of the tigers of that royal Sultan ever did'. Mr. Gomeral also made a memorable appearance as Colonel Arthur Wellesley.

cartlich as tipu sultancartlich as tipu sultan


Tiger of Mysore: Life and Death of Tipu Sultan By Denys M. Forrest
Images - The New York Public Library


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