Digital Rare Book:
A Freelance in Kashmir : A tale of the great anarchy
By Sir George Fletcher MacMunn (1869-1952)
Published by Smith, Elder & Co., London - 1915
Read Book Online:
Download pdf Book:
The following romance is a story of the latter days of "The Great Anarchy," a name which has been given to the years following the death of the Emperor Aurangzebe and the dismemberment of the Mogul Empire to the bringing of peace to a distracted country by the rise of the English. In 1707 died Aurangzebe, the last of the great Emperors of Delhi. From that date the Empire crumbled as province after province fell away and one upstart after another tried to rule the puppet throne. Ever from the North, Persian and Afghan poured into the land, and the whole of Hindostan became a vast camp, in which each and all fought for his own hand, and the unhappy peasantry never knew who would reap the crops they had sown and tended. The last fifty years of the eighteenth century saw a small host of Europeans take service with the various contending chiefs, and even carve principalities for themselves. They organized the forces of chiefs on European lines, and contended with one another in opposing ranks. English, French, American, Italian, and Dutch, from runaway sailor to refugee Chevalier, their histories are packed with romance, adventure, and tragedy. Just before Lord Lake and General Arthur Wellesley crushed the power of the great Maratha usurpers of the Mogul throne, and broke up the Maratha Confederacy, the Savoyard De Boigne in the service of the Maharajah Scindiah had organized a large force on the Company's model. He had formed an officer's cadre with even a cadet service, recruited from Europeans of many races. The half-breed children of English officials and their Indian wives found a career in this service, notably James Skinner, the famous " old Sikander." Among the " freelances " as they were called were the Skinners, De Boigne, Perron, the Chevalier Dudrenac, George Thomas of Hansi, Walter Reinhart, nicknamed Sombre (corrupted into Somru), Hyder Hearsey, and many another, while in somewhat later days there were the officers in the service of Runjeet Singh, of whom Avitabile, Allard Ventura and Van Cortland were the best known.
To the fascination of the days of the Freelanco proper, i.e. the last decades of the eighteenth century, must be added the traces of the Christian tradition, the strange legend of the Tomb of Christ in Kashmir, and the initials of the Cross on the Kashmir rupee, born of Jesuit travel. Behind, and yet mingling with this again, the Afghan origin, the descent from Saul, the tomb of the prophet Lamech with that curious and almost modern report of the presence of "Dan and the half of Manassah " in Bactria, with all the hint of Judaism that it involves. Then as a background to it all the ever-green memory, in village mouths to this day, of the great coming of Alexander
India is full of so much that strikes old broken chords to memory.
" Some arms deep rusted, an old-world rhyme,
A broken idol, a ruined fane."
A portrait of Begum Samru
Company School, circa 1810
watercolour on ivory, framed
Begum Samru (d. 1837) was born in Kashmir and married the European Walter Reinhardt, living with him on his estate at Sardhana. Following his death in 1778 she married the French adventurer Le Vassaoult. Later in her life she became a Christian and built a church at Sardhana with a chancel decorated with pietra dura work. She was extremely wealthy and lived to a great age, surrounded by her family, her doctor, Thomas Drewer, and a bishop, Father Julius Caesar.