Book Review: The Last King in India: Wajid Ali Shah by Rosie Llewellyn-Jones


  • ISIN: 9781849044080
  • Genre: History / Nonfiction / Biography
  • Publishers: Random House
  • Price: Rs. 599/- (P.S: I got this book for review from the publisher)

The Last King in India is the story of an extraordinary man whose memory still divides opinion sharply today. Was he, as the British described him, a debauched ruler who spent his time with ‘fiddlers, eunuchs and women’ instead of running the kingdom? Or, as most Indians believe, a gifted poet whose works are still quoted today, and who was robbed of his throne by the East India Company?

Somewhere between the two extremes lies a complex character, a man who married over 350 women, who directed theatrical events lasting a month and who built a fairytale palace in Lucknow. Wajid Ali Shah was written out of the history books after his kingdom was annexed in 1856. Some even thought he had been killed during the mutiny the following year. But he lived on in Calcutta where he spent the last thirty years of his life trying to recreate his lost paradise. He remained a constant problem for the government of India, with his extravagance, his menagerie and his wives — in that order. For the first time his story is told here using original documents from Indian and British archives and meetings with his descendants.

Behind The book

Source: Google Images

About the author

Rosie Llewellyn-Jones (PhD) graduated from SOAS in Urdu and is now an acclaimed historian of the colonial history of India from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. She has published extensively on this period and her particular interest is in the political interaction between the British and their Indian subjects. She is also Secretary to the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia and editor of its journal Chowkidar.

Me thinks

When I began reading this book the only thing I had in my mind was history. It has always fascinated me, especially of our country which has such rich cultural heritage that any amount of books on it seem less to capture the beauty our country had in those days. Reading such biographies that too by authors who are so very well qualified on the subject is an absolute treat for they know what they are talking and it is backed up by immense research which shows in those pages as you turn them one after the other.

The first few pages of the story of Wajid Ali Shah was jaw dropping for me, someone who had 350 wives and such deep interests in poetry or other creative things definitely is. As I moved ahead I realized how his love for few things actually led to his eventual fall where he had to live in disguise for the last three decades of his life. The book also has some amazing photographs from that era which add on to the magic to the whole thing. It was like watching a movie as each scene came to life one after the another.

I somehow can never comprehend an existence like this where your desires and likes need to be curbed. Maybe that’s why I connected to this king so much. He did all that he loved till his last breath not worrying about the consequences and I believe in the same too. What is it to live on someone else’s terms and conditions, after all you have only one life to live.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, made me fall in love with my country’s history yet another time and gave me one more reason to add to my never ending list of reasons for having been born in the wrong century. I need to be there, witness the grandeur the author talks about on my own.The author has done an excellent job in recreating those times through this book and I would surely recommend it for a reading to people who enjoy and devour such books.

Foodie Verdict

This book is like Mughlai Shahi Paneer  - 
yummy, delicious, mouthwateringly amazing with all its royalty intact.
Source: Google Images