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The Royal Insignia - Wajid Ali Shah period

Reproduced from the Family Sovenier

BIRJIS QUDR - An Appraisal

By Syed Zafar Imam, M. A.,Research Scholar, London School of Economics


       A salute of 11 guns fired in the reign of Amjad Ali Shah, the fourth King of Oudh, for the first time celebrated the birth of a grandson in the King's Palace. The new born Birjis Qadr, so named by the grandfather himself, was the fourth son of Prince Wajid Ali who happened to be the second son of His Majesty the King. But Prince Birjis had the unique honour of being the first son born to Prince Wajid Ali after the latter's installation as the Heir-Apparent. The place of birth was Nagina-wali Baradari, the Palace of his mother Ifthikharun-nisa Nawab Hazrat Mahal Saheba within the Kaiserbagh in Lucknow.

       Only brief period of 12 years intervened the birth of the young Prince and the stormy career that he chose. During these formative years of his life conspiracies were all the time afoot to usurp the kingdom of Oudh. And if he was too young to understand it, he was not so young to acquire a love for friends and a hatred for the strangers out to seize the country.

       Following the annexation of Oudh in 1856 King Wajid Ali quitted Lucknow with his elder sons leaving Prince Birjis to represent him in the kingdom. ( Tilism v.I no. 22 ) The change of regime turned out to be very unpopular. A repressive policy adopted by the alien Rulers sent the freedom fighters underground. But with the clarion call, peasants and soldiers alike took up arms against the English. The chiefs of Oudh wanted an eligible member of the deposed Royal Family to lead them. But who would risk his life ? After the defeat of the mighty Shujaud dowla at the hands of the English in Buxar there was hardly any hope of final victory. Yet Iftikharun-Nisa, ' the Pride of all women ", patriotically sacrificed her only son the young Prince Birjis for the cause of the country.

        The booming of 21 guns in Lucknow on July 5, 1857, decisively announced the installation of a Ruler. ('Lucknow and Oude'), Innes, London 1896.). Whether he would be the Nawab Wazir or the King, was left to the discretion of the Emperor Bahadur Shah. The Imperial recognition of King was again celebrated on August 6, 1857, by the booming of 21 guns when the Prince was formally crowned.

        Defeated in the following year, King Birjis with his mother Queen Hazrat Mahal retired into the regions of Nepal. However, the ideological war had not ended. In reply to Queen Victoria's Proclamation of November 1858, King Birjis issued a counter-Proclamation, which considerably undermined British prestige in the country. In spite of these hostilities, the Governor General repeatedly offered a handsome pension and a royal status if they returned home. But the proud Queen and her son, contemptuously ignored such overtures, went into voluntary exile in Nepal, and never compromised the rights to the Throne of Oudh by accepting a British pension of loyalty.

        After the death of Queen Hazrat Mahal in Kathmandu in 1879, what brought King Birjis back to Calcutta was again the love and respect of his countrymen so arduously earned. After Wajid Ali Shah's death in 1887 in Calcutta, none of his other sons aspired or qualified to succeed to the position of the deposed King of Oudh (Oudh Pension Papers pp. 6-8). Consequently where the Government of India were paying Rs 15,00,000/- per annum to Wajid Ali Shah to maintain his family and servants not even 10% in all was fixed for his Majesty's innumerable wives and children. And the 20,000 skilled labourers, artisans and men of letters were at once thrown out of employment. None in the family of the late King was capable of giving them succour. This resulted in widespread discontent in Matiaburj, Calcutta; and after years of effors and disappointments emissaries went for help to the eldest surviving son King Birjis Qadr in Nepal. This last and patriotic King of Oudh who had dedicated his life for his people since childhood, nobly responded. He arrived in Calcutta in 1892 to open with the Government a virtually closed chapter. "King Birjis put forth the legitimate claim that since he was the eldest surviving son of Wajid Ali Shah, and since also he was the most exalted and qualified among the sons of His late Majesty he should, according to the proposed Treaty of 1856, 'be given the allowance drawn by his late father enabling him to look after the members of the family as well as the 20,000 dependants. To pursue this case Birjis Qadr was preparing to leave for England when one of his relatives invited him for dinner. On return he started vomiting and soon collapsed. In course of a single night, King Birjis, his elder son Prince Khurshid Qadr, and a daughter, along with three companions succumbed to the treachery. ( Wajid Ali Shah, by R. N. Jafri). And thus according to historian Sherar,


       ( The official records to this day are treated as secret and untouchable. It is high time the Indian Archive at least now investigated the records of the relevant departments, and exposed the hands and the conspiracy behind this historical murder most cowardly perpetrated. - Secretary, House of Avadh )

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