Tipu Sultan on London Stages

Tipu Sultan, also known as the Tiger of Mysore, was the most powerful enemy of the British in India. 

According to an article on The Hindu, no other Indian ruler has captured the imagination of the British public quite like Tipu Sultan. His tales of bravery and merciless acts of torture inflicted on captured British soldiers circulated throughout England, and 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 (1792) to his death in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799. These paintings were exhibited in various halls across London.

'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' and the list goes on. 

anderton as tipu sultan

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

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 staged at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, on 1 June 1791, shortly after news of the commencement of the Third Mysore War had reached England. The show featured a battle dance and a representation of an English and Indian Grand Martial Procession. On 7 June, the performance was repeated, with Mr. Follett playing Tipu Sultan, Mr. Byrne an English Colonel, and Miss Francis the Colonel's lady. Mr. Bannister composed an Indian war song for the occasion.

Tippoo Sultan, or the Siege of Bangalore (1792): Staged at Astley's Amphitheater on April 9, 1792, this play was all about 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 quoted the following critique about this production: 

"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. 

In the back part of the stage there are a number of people wrestling and others running races, a party of beautiful virgins urging them to victory and to the prize. Others are dancing, leaping, skating etc. etc."

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 staged on 20 August, 1792 at Astley's. The play 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 provided a glimpse of the fort and the reception of the hostage princes; and the third featured an oriental military festival.

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, with 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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