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Eastern Encounters pattern
Eastern Encounters

Drawn from the Royal Library's collection of South Asian books and manuscripts

CAT. NO. 73

Letter from Azim Jah, Regent of the Carnatic, to Queen Victoria

Southern India (Chennai), October 1837

Manuscript written in nasta’liq script in black ink on gold-flecked paper with margins painted gold | 50.0 × 25.5 cm | RA VIC/ADDJ/1715B

This illuminated letter written in Persian dated 25 October 1837 was sent from Azim Jah, Regent of the Carnatic (1824–42), to the young Queen Victoria. He offers his condolences on learning of the death of William IV, ‘on which event all the ceremonies of mourning observed among the Musulmans have been performed as a token of my sincere and unfeigned sorrow’. The accompanying English translation made by an East India Company officer stationed at the palace of the Wallajah Nawabs, Chepauk Palace, continues with Azim Jah’s hopes that ‘Almighty God the Giver and Defender of the Kingdom of the Earth will make your accession happy and prosperous to Your Majesty as well as to Your Majesty’s faithful adherents, whether present or absent; and that he will prolong Your Majesty’s life, with the enjoyment of health and happiness, extending protection to all’. The letter ends with the supplication, ‘May the Star of Your Majesty’s Prosperity shine for ever.’[244]

By the early nineteenth century, the region of the Carnatic was under complete British rule. As soon as Azim al-Daula (r. 1801–19) ascended the throne he was compelled to sign a treaty handing over the civil and municipal administration of the Carnatic to the East India Company. Its nominal rulers nevertheless retained diplomatic relations with the British monarchy, and this letter was followed by another dated 31 March 1842 to mark the birth of Queen Victoria’s first-born son, Albert Edward. In this second letter, Azim Jah informed the Queen that he would be passing on his duties to his nephew, the Nawab, on his coming-of-age that August.[245]

Both letters are written on a narrow vertical panel set in the lower left of a much larger page surrounded by a wide gold margin and continue on smaller pieces of gold-flecked paper.[246] Also surviving in the Royal Archives are the equally ornate English translations sent with the letters, one of the original gold-flecked envelopes and both embroidered bags in which the letters were sent, one with its wax seal still intact. These bags embroidered with metallic thread and iridescent beetle wing are extremely rare survivals of royal letter pouches. 

  • [244] Translation in RA VIC/ADDJ/1715.b. A transcript of Queen Victoria’s reply dated 4 April 1838 can be found in IOR/L/PS/14/1, pp. 219–21.

    [245] RA VIC/ADDJ/1715.a.

    [246] Two earlier letters in Persian from the Nawabs of the Canatic survive in the Royal Archives (RA GEO/ADD/31/7 dated 1766 and RA GEO/ADD/31/9 dated 1814) and others can be found in the British Library. See Shakeb 1982. 

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