the dwindling but gallant band of members of

The Indian Cavalry Officers’ Association,

who truly cared about India and their sowars,

this book is with admiration dedicated.


The Nizam’s Daughters is a work of fiction: the princely state of Chintal never existed. However, the story is firmly rooted in what was happening in India just after Waterloo in the build-up to the third Maratha war. And Chintal (even with its singular rajah) is, I would maintain, not untypical of the minor princely states whose precarious existence depended increasingly on the Honourable East India Company. They were states where young Englishmen like Hervey — as soldiers, administrators or tutors to the royal household — often had disproportion-ate influence.

India had its own military language, of course, and in this story I use some of that language, though in a way, I trust, that will not bar understanding if the words are unfamiliar. But just a few words of explanation of the different terms used by the Honourable East India Company’s army — and others — may be of help. The list is by no means exhaustive, and it must be remembered that terms (and spelling) varied between the Company’s three ‘presidencies’ (Bengal, Madras, Bombay), and were in unofficial use long before being formalized:

Sowar — cavalryman of the lowest rank

Sepoy (sipahi) — infantryman of the lowest rank

Jemadar — junior officer (second lieutenant/lieutenant), infantry or cavalry

Subedar — next senior officer (lieutenant/captain), infantry

Rissaldar — next senior officer (lieutenant/captain), cavalry

Subedar-major — most senior officer (major), infantry

Russaldar-major — most senior officer (major), cavalry

Daffadar — serjeant, cavalry

Lance-daffadar — corporal, cavalry

Havildar — serjeant, infantry

Naik — corporal, infantry

Khansamah — butler

Khitmagar — servant (waiter)

Bhisti — water-bearer/sprinkler

Syce — grass-cutter

Ryot — peasant

Rissalah — a body of cavalry, one-or two-hundred strong

Jingal — gun mounted on and fired from a horse or elephant


I know that all classes of the people look up to me and it will be difficult for another officer to take my place. I know also that my presence would be useful in the settlement of many points… But these circumstances are not momentary… very possibly the same state of affairs which now renders my presence desirable will exist for the next seven years… I have considered whether in the situation of affairs in India at present, my arrival in England is not a desirable object. Is it not necessary to take some steps to explain the causes of the late increase in military establishment, and to endeavour to explode some erroneous notions which have been entertained and circulated on this subject… I conceive there-fore that in determining not to go into the Deccan, and to sail by the first opportunity for England, I consult the public interest not less than I do my own private convenience and wishes.

Major-General Sir Arthur Wellesley, to his brother,

the Governor-General, January 1805


I entreat the Directors to consider whether it was expedient to observe a strict neutrality amidst these scenes of disorder and outrage, or to listen to the voice of suffering humanity and interfere for the protection of the weak and defenceless states who implored our assistance against the ravages of the Pindarees and the Patans.

Lord Minto, Governor-General of India,

to the Court of Directors of the Honourable East

India Company, 1812


The Embassy of His Britannic Majesty

to the Court of the Tuileries, Paris, 13 August 1815

Captain Matthew Hervey had put on his best uniform. It was only the second time he had worn it. He was not even sure he should be in levee dress, for his orders to report to the Duke of Wellington’s headquarters had not been concerned with trifles. Yet dress, to a cavalry-man in his situation, could hardly be a matter of indifference, and so he had followed the regiment’s maxim that no senior officer could be affronted by seeing an excess of uniform, even if he were bemused by it. The newest captain of the 6th Light Dragoons was therefore waiting in an ante-room, with dress sabre-tache and mameluke hanging long from his girdle, and tasselled cocked hat, with its ostrich feathers, under his arm, in some degree of apprehensiveness. He wore no aiglets, however. He had bought two pair in London on learning that he was to be promoted and appointed to the duke’s staff, but he did not yet presume to wear those coveted insignia of an aide-de-camp. Indeed, his astonishment at his preferment was scarcely less than when first he had comprehended it only two days ago at the Horse Guards.

Lying full across the open doorway of the ante-room was a springing spaniel, old and ill-smelling, sound asleep and snoring with perfect regularity and constant pitch. It had not been in the least disturbed when the Staff Corps corporal had shown the new ADC into the room a quarter of an hour before, when both had had to step long over the outstretched animal to avoid entanglement of spur and coat, and Hervey, waiting in the otherwise silent embassy, pleased to find some distraction which might help keep his mind from disquiet, was now timing the length

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