Old letters are very interesting to read. Those were often very warm, personal and written with much integrity. In the present era of emails, personal letters are becoming rarer and in the emails you miss the personal warmth and sometimes the sincerity of purpose.
Letters from Royalty and men of authority are a class by themselves. It also rewinds history. It can be very amusing, informative and thrilling to go through such letters.
I have with me this original handwritten and signed letter of Maharaja Moolam Thirunaal Ramavarma of Travancore (who reigned between 1885 and 1924) dated 4th January 1893 and addressed to one John Rhode of the erstwhile Travancore Civil Service.
The Maharaja’s handwriting is very clear and the language is beautiful, to say the least. It is reproduced below:
Trivandrum, 4th January 1893
My dear Sir,
Your kind letter of the 5th December reached me duly and I was very pleased to hear that Mrs. Rhode and yourself have been in the continued enjoyment of good health. Permit me to offer you my best wishes at the commencement of another new year. I trust it may be a very happy and prosperous one to MRS. Rhode and yourself. I have to thank Mrs. Rhode for so kindly sending me the very pretty Almanac. I need hardly say how highly I value it.
I am very glad to hear you have been enjoying your stay in England and sincerely hope that you will be greatly benefited by the change.
H.E. the Governor’s visit went off very well. The weather was very bad on the Hills where H.E. and party were there. Still everything passed off satisfactorily and H.E. was able to shoot a tusker.
Mr. Hannyngton retired soon after H.E’s visit was over and you might of course have heard that Mr. Grigg has succeeded him.
I am sorry to learn from your letter that Mrs. Rhode will not be returning to India with you. I suppose you intend staying at home the whole of your furlough.
Mr. and Mrs. Hannyngton are still at Bolghatty. Mr. Hannyngton was appointed to settle some long pending boundary dispute between Cochin and the British Government and this work has occupied him all this time. I believe they will be going home only after the winter is over.
I am thinking of paying a visit to HE Lord Wenlock about the end of this month and will be away from Trivandrum for about a month. With kindest regards and again thanking you for your good wishes,
Yours very sincerely
· Mr.Rhode who was in the Travancore Civil Service obviously had been to England for holidays when this letter was written. I got possession of this letter from London.
My little and amateur work after the names mentioned in the letter reveal some interesting details of the people.
· The mention of H.E. the Governor refers to Beilby Lawley, 3rd Baron Wenlock (1849-1912) the Governor of Madras for the years 1891-95.
He was educated at Eton College and at Cambridge University and was commissioned into the Yorkshire Hussars in 1869. He was also the Member of Parliament for Chester in 1880, and Governor of Madras 1891–1895. Wenlock was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1901, and made a Lord of the Bedchamber to George, Prince of Wales.
The work on the Nilgiri Railway Company in Ooty line was started in August 1891 by Lord Wenlock. In 1895, he also laid the foundation stone of the Summit Hall of the Kodaikanal Observatory, which boasts of one of the world's oldest extant telescopes.
The maharaja mentions in his letter that “H.E .was able to shoot a tusker.”In those Raj days, hunting was an essential pastime when the Viceroy or the Governor visited the princely states. These were done with much opulence and fanfare and detailed arrangements.It may be ironic that the nephew of this Governor, and the son of Sir Arthur and the Governor of Madras during 1906-11, died accidentally in another hunting expedition thus blighting considerably, the enthusiasm of the family for hunting.
19th Century Flag of Travancore.
Raja Sir Vira Kerala Varma - 1888 - 1895 (Chingamasathil theepeta Maharaja) was the ruler of Cochin during this period. He had played a prominent part as Elaya Raja and he was knighted by the British, even before the installation. He was well educated, well intentioned and amiable. His address during the installation was follows:
"Gentlemen, It has been the Will of Providence that the important and difficult task of ruling this ancient State should now, devolve on me by the sad and premature demise of my beloved and revered brother. Though I am a novice in the art of governing just now, and therefore cannot any promise of success, I can assure you that , with the kind and valuable advice of Mr Hannyngton as the British Representative at our Court and as a sincere and intimate friend of mine having the prosperity of the State always at heart, and with the support and protection of the Government, I shall try my utmost to perform the responsible and the sacred duty of promoting the welfare of my subjects to the best of my ability, by endeavouring , though difficult, to follow the footsteps of my late lamented brother."
Dewan T. Govinda Menon, the capable Dewan under the former Raja, retired after a year following the above installation. Dewan Govinda Menon had established the Raja's Court of Appeal and it was during his tenure that the outstanding boundary disputes between Cochin and Travancore were resolved, in which Mr. Hannyngton also played a significant part.
Was it not interesting to go through a bit of history from the details of this letter?