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FANE, SIR HENRY

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FANE, SIR HENRY (1778-1840), commander-in-chief of the British Indian army, who visited the Punjab in 1837 on the occasion of the marriage of Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh, Maharaja Ranjit Singh`s grandson. Sir Henry Fane`s visit to Ranjit Singh was an event of considerable interest. He was highly impressed by the extraordinary discipline of the Maharaja`s troops and the splendour of his court. In his several meetings with the British commander-in-chief, Ranjit Singh questioned him on the strength and composition of the British army, on the extent of Russian influence in Persia, and on the ability of the Shah of Persia to give effective aid to the Russians.

The Maharaja paraded before Sir Henry his troops for a grand review and inspected the contingent of British lancers and horse artillery, which had accompanied the commander-in-chief to Lahore. The latter was invited to participate in the Hoii festival at Lahore and was entertained by a mock battle of the zenana corps of Amazons. He also saw the Sikh crown jewels including the celebrated KohiNur which he described as a badly cut diamond plainly set in gold. Sir Henry Fane made a detailed appraisal of the Sikhs` military power which, according to him, consisted of 6070 regiments of infantry, 700 pieces of artillery and innumerable cavalry.

His confidential report to Lord Auckland, the Governor General, contained speculations on the ability of the British to destroy the military might of Ranjit Singh. According to J.D. Cunningham, a young British officer prepared during Sir Henry`s visit a map of the Punjab which formed the groundwork of all maps used during the first Anglo-Sikh war. One significant event during tlic commander-in-chief visit was the establishment by the Maharaja of the Order of the Auspicious Star of the Punjab with which he decorated his British guest. Sir Henry Fane died at sea on board the Malabar off St. Michael`s in the Azores on 24 March 1840.

References :

1. Hasrat, Bikramajit. Life and Times of Ranjit Singh. Nabha, 1977
2. Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, vol. I. Princeton, 1963
3. Buckland, C.E., Dictionary of Indian Biography. London, 1906

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