Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi


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It is apparent to me that Lakshmibai was an innocent victim of the brutal British suppression of the revolt; none of the modern authors I've read give much credence to the accusations made against her. However she is also the victim of an unholy alliance of the worst of the British Imperialists who wanted her to be a rebel to justify their actions, and Indian Nationalists who wanted her to be a rebel to be an inspiration for their cause. At least the latter had right on their side. It is sad to see modern Indian writers repeating the slanders of the British, albeit with a nationalist tinge. It is over 40 years after the publication of Dr S. N. Sen's book, 1857, which effectively repudiated those claims. I have always found the truth to be far more fascinating and wonderful than legend. Lakshmibai the woman is many more times the hero than Lakshmibai the legend.

A search on the WWW reveals a handful of sites which retold her story but much of it is about Lakshmibai the icon, the legend, not about the woman, and historical accuracy was not always the first imperative. I was fortunate in finding The Warrior Queens by Antonia Fraser which devoted a whole chapter, 25 pages, to the Valiant Rani. Subsequently I came across The Great Mutiny by Cristopher Hibbert which provided another though shorter perspective of her story, and a longer one on the Rebellion itself. John Keay's History of India also provides a short account. Since then my Lakshmibai library has grown.

During my perambulations on the web I found what could be a personal link with the Rebellion. On the Family History in India site is a list of all the British troops who received the Indian Mutiny Campaign medal. One of them is a Thomas Copsey who served with the 54th Foot (West Norfolk). Since Copsey is not a common name and my paternal family come from West Norfolk, Thomas Copsey is quite possibly a relation. Further my maternal family name is Doel, also an uncommon name, and there are two men listed, Aaron and Joseph Doel, who served with the same regiment, 1st Battalion, 13th Foot, and were presumably brothers, and also possible ancestors. Neither the 13th Foot nor the 54th Foot were involved in the Central India Campaign.

I don't have the resources to examine and investigate the original material and all I can do is retell in my own poor fashion what these have told me. I have tried to present as facts only those of which I am reasonably certain are facts. Where I have repeated something which is apocryphal or uncertain I have flagged it so. I have not suppressed any awkward facts. My opinions are scattered throughout is flagged as such and I hope will not be confused with fact. Where possible and sensible I have used direct quotations Mistakes and opinions are my own.

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Last modified: 2006-08-21 21:25:56.000000000