William Hodson, killer of last Mogul heirs and fall of Mogul rule - India

William Stephen Raikes Hodson;s death. Getty Images

Hodson arresting the last mogul ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar, alamy

William Hodson. Find A Grave com

 The Indian mutiny had been on since 1857 for some time and numerous towns in northern India were under the grip of mayhem, murder and riot. It showed people's loss of patience and their anger against the unjust British rulers. The rebels - mostly Indian soldiers and civilians,  in large number, marched into Delhi and finally took control over it. There  they met Bahadur Shah Zafar, the Mogul ruler  to lead the rebellion  to oust the British as he was a good man and liked both by the Hindus and Muslims. Bahadur Shah was the titular ruler of Delhi under the protection of the E.I.C's military and was getting yearly allowance from the government. What was once a big Mogul kingdom, over a long period of time,  became as small as a town. After long deliberations, Bahadur  half-heatedly agreed to lead  the rebellion as he himself  was a victim of British's diabolical  and dishonest policies. It was quite natural the young Mogul princes joined the foray and led the rebels around Delhi. Soon an unsavory incident happened for which Bahadur Shah  took the brunt. The rebels caught 52 British officers hiding in the palace  in fear of being caught by the rebels. The rebels never expected that they would encounter the  British within the four walls of the huge palace. Overwhelmed  with vigilante justice, with out mercy they killed them in retaliation against their unjust rule and  killing spree on innocent people  and this happened on the palace premises despite protest from Bahadur Shah.

This massacre  of  the British within the prescient of Mogul palace  took the rulers off guard and caused repulsion among the EIC officials. They wrongly concluded that  this bizarre incident had happened with the knowledge of Bahadur Shah under whose leadership the uprising was taking shape. The British were now after Bahadur Shah who was camping with his sons and the rebels just outside Delhi at Humayun's Tomb. 

William Hodson, a military officer was unpopular among the natives because he treated the last Mogul ruler and others shabbily. As far as the British were concerned,  he was a daring officer and a celebrated person.   It is believed that  Col. Hodson, resolved to capture the Mogul ruler and his sons, finally  got permission  from Colonel (later General) Archdale Wilson  to ride into the enemy's camp  with his men to capture the  ruler and others. Without any protest,  the ruler,  6000 mutineers and others laid down  their  arms, symbolic of surrender.   There was no untoward  incident whatsoever.  Nor were there any protests from the natives.

As a sign of surrender, the Emperor handed over his arms, including two amazing  swords, one with the name ‘Nadir Shah’ and the other with the seal of Jahangir engraved upon it. Hodson  later presented them to  Queen Victoria as  war trophy. Now, they are part of Queen's collections in London.

As for the  sons and grandsons of the Mogul ruler, the princes  were against unconditional surrender ordered by Hodson.  They suspected something fishy  about Hodson's move and categorically wanted guarantee for the safety of their lives. Finally, the army collected the arms from a huge gathering of mutineers there and the princes were later taken to Delhi on a bullock cart with escorts, supposedly for further interrogation.

 Near the city gate before entering Delhi, suddenly Hodson ordered the three princes to get off the cart and  remove their top garments in the presence of a huge gathering around them. No sooner had their signet rings, turquoise arm-bands and bejeweled swords  been removed, than in a flash, without any scruples, Hodson took a carbine from one of his troopers and shot them dead. A cold blooded murder had been committed right before the people who stood there frozen. Hodson had the bodies of three Mogul princes  displayed in front of a Kotwali  as a warning to the future rebels. It was a crass  and dirty display of military power and  arrogance and  thus Hodson took the credit (rather discredit) of felling the last Mogul ruler Bahadur Shah's  legal heirs  to the throne. 

Young princes  Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan and his grandson Mirza Abu Bakr lost their lives in their young age, fighting against the British. In broad day light, they were  murdered in cold blood without any inquiry or interrogation.  Over night, Hodson, a well- trained and abled military cum civilian officer became an assassin. The gate near the place where they were killed is still called the Khooni Darwaza or 'Bloody Gate'.

Hodson's grave, Lucknow. Wikipedia

Lucknow, India Hodson's tomb. ranasafvi.com

 Above image:  Hodson's grave, Lucknow, UP, India.  Here lie the mortal remains of a notorious man  who shot dead Bahadur Shah Zafar's two sons and his grand son in cold blood and "arrested" Bahadur Shah Zafar the last Mughal King of India.   He put an end to the Mogul dynasty in India. He  was shot dead in Lucknow by a "mutineer" . He fought with death in Kothi Hayat Baksh, now the residence of Governor of UP.  After death on 11 March 1858 he was buried the next day in the garden of La Martiniere College. Lucknow,  Together with Harry Burnett Lumsden,  he takes the credit by  being jointly responsible for the introduction of the khaki uniform or drab, which many be considered as a precursor of modern camouflage uniform...................

William Hodson.Tornos India

During  the Mutiny, the British did not spare the Mogul ruler Bahadur Shah II and his family members. Numerous   male members  were done away with  by East India Company forces. They  imprisoned or exiled the surviving members of the Mughal dynasty;  Bahadur Shah II, who was already old, was tried on four counts, two of aiding rebels, one of treason, and being party to the murder of 49 people. However, he was sent to Burma in exile  as Hodson had previously guaranteed his life, and there  the Emperor eventually died  of old age  with a broken  heart - the end of the long reign of the  Mogul dynasty in India. Now E.I.C's enemies in India were the valiant Marathas and Hyder Ali and Tipu of Mysore kingdom in the later period.

Hodson's service record  clearly showed him in bad light. He had often behaved in an  arbitrary fashion before, which was not a good trait of a well-experienced, talented military cum civilian  officer. This led to his removal from  civil duties by the then Governor General of India, Lord Dalhousie. His erratic action and execution of three young heirs of the old Mogul ruler near kotwali in Delhi invited lots of criticism.  Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, then a junior officer serving in the Delhi campaign,considered it  a "blot" William W. Ireland, it is believed,  called into question the urgency  of his actions.  However, in parliamentary speeches made on 14 April 1859, the Prime Minister Earl of Derby, and the Minister for India Lord General Hugh Gough paid glowing tribute to Stanley who recaptured Delhi from the rebels in 1858. In his dual role of cavalry leader and intelligence officer, Hodson played a large part in the recapture of Delhi from the rebels.

Hodson's widow received a posthumous award  from Her Majesty Queen Victoria in the form of an  apartment at Hampton Court Palace "in consideration of the distinguished service of her late husband in India".

Apart from the  dissenting voices from other members of the military, there were also a few politicians who  condemned the killing and felt the killing of Mughal princes by Hodson had been 'dishonorable'.

 On March 11, 1858, when he and his men stormed Begum Kothi's palace, Hodson  was shot dead by the rebel and he fell on the ground, uttering the last words, "I hope I have done my duty". Hodson's grave  is in La Martiniere College in Lucknow city, Uttar Pradesh. On the evening of 12 March 1858, his body was buried in the garden of La Martiniere, Lucknow. The memorial bears the inscription "Here lies all that could die of William Stephen Raikes Hodson"

The paradox is 'it was from the Mogul ruler the British got a chance to hold their firm foot in India in 1600s  as mercantile traders  and  generations later, the same British, now rulers of land, made the Mogul rulers bow before them. In a fitting finale to show their gratitude to them, the British Bobs, now masters of the land, mercilessly  uprooted the last young legal heirs of the last Mogul ruler. In the annals of 19th century British-India history, it is the most despicable and nauseating act on the part of the colonial rulers under the E. I. C. They all possessed the traits of Devil from the Deep Sea.  General Hugh Gough said of this devilish officer:
 "A finer or more gallant soldier never breathed. He had the true instincts of a leader of men; as a cavalry soldier he was perfection; a strong seat, a perfect swordsman, quick and intelligent"