Saturday, 5 June 2010


Verne’s Begum’s Millions; I wonder if the novel was inspired (in starting premise) by the story of Begum Sombre? The woman ‘who ruled the tiny but wealthy state of Sardhana, perched between the declining Mughal and burgeoning British empires. Begum Sombre had entered the household of Walter Reinhardt, a Catholic mercenary, as a teenage concubine, perhaps even as a slave. Reinhardt gained a fortune by selling his military prowess to Indian rulers who were fighting the British. Part of that wealth was the principality of Sardhana’ [Jad Adams]. Begum Sombre inherited the territory and ruled it for six decades. (Begum Sombre seized the baby Dyce Sombre, great grandson of Walter Reinhardt (and no relation of hers) when he was a few days old in 1808 and brought him up as her own. ... In 1836 Dyce Sombre came to London, married a Viscount’s daughter, became an MP by in effect ‘buying’ the seat of Sudbury, in Suffolk, with ‘£3000 in untraceable gold coins’, but went mad.’

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