The Indian Princess Mystery and Lt Gen Archibald Watson

Lt Gen Henry Archibald Watson and His First Wife?

Great, great grandfather, Sydney Grandison Watson, also know as “Grandie”, accumulated around 100,000 acres along the Upper Murray River (Then know as the Hume River) near Walwa and Tintaldra and in sight of the majestic Snowy Mountains, before sending three of his sons to settle at Gregory Downs in Queensland’s Gulf Country in 1877. Yet another three sons pioneered country on Cape York Peninsular at “Merluna” and “Watson River”.

All this is the subject of a book titled “Grandie” by Norman C Hutchinson published in 2010.        ISBN: 978-0-9585179-7-3 (pbk) Dewey number: 929.20994

Grandie was born in Calcutta, India, on July 22, 1816, the son of Scottish-born Major [later Lieutenant General] Henry Archibald Watson of the 49th Bengal Artillery Regiment and Governor of Fort Allalabad.

Archibald was born in January 1779 at Rhynd, two miles south-east of Perth, Scotland and at the age of 18 arrived at Bengal, India, as a 2nd lieutenant in the East India Company’s Bengal Cavalry. This was the time of the ‘Company Raj’ as compared with the later established ‘British Raj’, the Company being the Honourable East India Company which at the time mainly operated out of Calcutta and Madras. After going to Scotland for his schooling, and then enlisting in the navy to become a midshipman.

As to Grandie’s mother the position is less clear. The accepted story is that Archibald’s first ‘wife’, and the mother of his six children, was an Indian princess, the sister of Maharajah Karam Singh of Patiala, and so Grandie’s mother.

(Maharaja Karam Singh (1798-1845), who ascended the throne of Patiala on 30 June 1813, was born on 16 October 1798 at Patiala, the son of Raja Sahib Singh and Rani As Kaur. He was married to Rup Kaur, daughter of Bhariga Singh of Thanesar. Maharaja Karam Singh helped the British in 1814 in checking Gurkha incursions into the Punjab hills and secured in return a large tract in the Himalayan foothills. He was an able ruler and a devout Sikh. He had shrines built in honour of the Gurus at many historical sites within his state and outside, making endowments for their maintenance. Maharaja Karam Singh died at Patiala on 23 December 1845.)

 For convenience, or otherwise, Archibald’s first wife has more than once been recorded as ‘Sarah McCulloch’, such as on Grandie’s second marriage certificate and on Grandie’s death certificate. 

On July 30, 1821, while on leave in Scotland (On Leave December 1819 to 29 Oct 1823), and already having four children, Louisa Jessie [Jessie], Alexa [died young], Sydney Grandison and Alexina [Alexa] by ‘Sarah’, Archibald married his first cousin, Ann Scott (b1779-d1844) at Inchbrayock Cottage. Ann supervised the education of Watson’s children in Scotland and never went to India or bore him any children.

After his return to India, Archibald and ‘Sarah McCulloch’ had two more children, Emily Gershoma (b1828) and Harry Archibald (b1831)                                        

From Brian Watson, in a letter of February 7, 2010; Jennifer Carter, Painting the Islands Vermillion, pages 165 & 257-258, and an undated letter from Maxine Horsfall (b1927-d2020) to Mr Harvey of Walwa:-

Maxine wrote that she met the ‘God-like’ Maharajah of Patiala in Singapore when she was 14. (1941) At that time the Maharaja was reviewing Indian Troops during the war and met the Gumbleton’s by his request “A Distant Cousin”.(Would this have been the request of Maharaja or Gumbleton?)

It is believed that Jessie Watson? (b1844 d1943) told Maxine Horsfall’s mother, Winifred “Mimi” Gumbleton (nee Watson b1895 d 1969), in Maxine’s presence that a sister of Maharaja Karam Singh (ruled 1813 to 1848) was married to General Archibald Watson.

Grandie once referred to ‘Mama’ in a letter to his father.  Perhaps he was referring not to his natural mother but to Ann Scott.  It appears that being part Indian was never an issue for Grandie or his family. Norman C Hutchinson found only one contemporary reference to any of the family being of Indian appearance.

The eldest four of Archibald’s six children to Sarah McCulloch were baptised in Muttra or Calcutta, before he married his cousin Ann Scott, a sister of David Scott (b1786-d1831) and Robert Scott (b1877-d1844) of NE India.

On Watson’s children’s baptismal records, no mother’s name is given, however the name Sarah McCulloch appears on Sydney Grandison’s second marriage certificate (Grandie married twice) and his death Certificate.

The family have never been able to trace any details of Sarah McCulloch.

Was Sarah McCulloch really an Indian Princess?

Direct descendants of the Indian Princess, the sister of the then Maharajah Karam Singh of Patiala have recently (2018) denied the marriage. Crystal Jordan, researcher and author with the Australian Indian Historical Society replied to the question:-

“I am a friend of Amrinder Singh and is a direct descendant of Karam Singh.  Amrinder would have been the current Maharajah of Patiala. He informed me that Karam Singh only had two sisters and they were both well married to Indian Sardars of high standing and neither of Karam’s sisters had an affair or any children to Archibald Watson”

Who then was Sarah McCulloch?

Maxine Horsfall was totally dismissive of Sarah McCulloch being the mother of Grandie, saying that no one knew anything of her.

Maybe she was just a convenient name to fill in a blank on a form to hide the true parentage.

Could Maharaja Karam Singh have had other sisters, or was it a cousin?

Records show that Karim had two sisters married to Sardars as well as one brother.

His father, Sahib Singh was married three times with his second wife being the mother of Karam. Records mention that there was also issue from the third wife, however no details are given and there is no mention of issue from the first wife.

Archibald was on leave from India from December 1819 to 29th October 1823. It was during this time that he married his second wife Ann Scott on 30th July 1821. It was presumed, then, that his first wife had died, maybe as early as 1819, so that he was free to marry again. If the first wife was alive when he first went on leave and died in Scotland, she would most likely have been buried there after a Victorian funeral, which would have included the children and certainly Grandie would have known what had happened. If, on the other hand, she died in India, before he went on leave, then she would most likely have been cremated there in a private ceremony.

It is believed that Ann Scott refused to go to India with Archibald when he returned there.

It may have transpired that Archibald had chosen to forget about his previous marriage, as if it hadn’t happened and maybe it didn’t (notwithstanding the issue of 4 or 6 children). There appears that there is a strong case to suggest that the mother of his first four children may have been his mistress and not his wife. In either case, then it is unlikely that the Maharaja would have requested a meeting with the Gumbleton’s in Singapore.

Had Archibald been allowed to marry a Princess it may have been for political ends and to improve the relationship with Britain. Was she maybe not a recognised princess but another child of the Maharaja, less favoured? It has been said that many of the Princes of Patiala were endowed with a significant libido.

On January 13th 1850, after an active and distinguished career, Major General Archibald Watson took leave to return to the British Isles where he was promoted to Lieutenant-General. His address was the United Services Club, Pall Mall, London. (For officers not under the rank of Commander in the Navy, or Major in the Army, or retired officers who have held these ranks)

In a letter from Grandie to his father at the United Service Club, London on 22nd October 1853 he write’s:- “The earrings sent by Poor Mama have come safe but the bracelets area a good deal broken.” Was this his real mother or Anne Scott?

Lt Gen Henry Archibald Watson passed away in Abbethune, Forfarshire, Scotland on the 22nd August 1855 aged 75 and left his entire state to his daughter Louisa.

Maxine recalls, her mother Mimi, telling her that Uncle Archie, the General’s grandson, would on occasion visit his cousins in India. Otherwise nothing else is known.

There appears little actual evidence to be had from the Watson side. It remains anecdotal. There may still be a high probability of Grandie being half Indian / half Scot; and given the political influence of his father, that his mother could have been from within the ruling family; though whether a sister or a cousin of Patiala’s remains unclear. Maxine had previously said to that it was the sister, but it is now too late to determine if this was exaggeration or truth. 

Her son Harry states that he has never seen nor has any letters that would substantiate the Princess story.

The Scott Family Letters

There is a touching story told in the Scott family letters (See items 5 and 6 below) involving the three young children of David Scott and his ‘natural’ children born outside of wedlock. In August 1831, letters sent to Robert Scott in England reveal the untimely death of his younger brother, David. Many of these letters appear to be sent by Lieutenant General Archibald Watson, David and Robert Scott’s brother-in-law, as he married their sister Ann. Watson also edited the Memoir of the Late David Scott, published in Calcutta in 1832. Letters sent by Watson and other colleagues of David Scott reveal – apparently to the surprise of Robert Scott that David was father to three young children, all of mixed British-Indian heritage: a six year old girl, and a younger boy and girl between the ages of two- and-a-half and three-and-a-half.

Archibald Watson was the cousin of Robert and David and Ann Scott so he knew David Scott (1786 – 1831) who died in Cherrapunji.  One of the letters is about David Scott’s ‘natural’ children with perhaps two Indian women.  Archibald Watson wrote a memoir of David Scott but these children were not mentioned.  There is a letter about the position of ‘natural children’ in Scotland. There is also a letter from Louisa to Ann, who she referred to as ‘Mrs Watson’.  Archibald was clearly very fond of his daughter Louisa as he left his entire estate to her with instructions in his will that it was for her use only despite the provisions of the Jus Mariti. 

Several letters discuss the care and financial situation of these children, although less so their mothers. by Christmas 1831, the children of David Scott appear to be living under the care of Archibald Watson himself.

Further Scott family letters naturally discuss rather mundane matters, however scattered amongst these are testaments of love, details of estranged spouses (it would seem that Archibald Watson and his wife, Ann (née Scott), were separated following a suspected affair), and descriptions of voyages and journeys to India. Watson sent his children to be educated in Scotland under the supervision his wife Ann with whom he did not have children nor did she ever travel to India. Interestingly the papers include letters relating to the position of “natural” children in Scotland. Watson’s son Sydney Grandison emigrated to New South Wales in 1836 after finishing his education.

Through the letters, Archibald Watson and his colleagues tell a rather interesting story about David Scott’s three children. According to the letters, the three children were David Scott’s children with two different Indian women (two little girls and a boy, who really wanted some colouring pencils according to one letter!) Following David’s death, Archibald took responsibility for the children, although requested financial support from Robert. As far as can be ascertained, the children were certainly sent to school and supported, and one of their mothers died. The letters from Archibald to Ann veer between extremely loving, quite vitriolic and accepting – a draft letter from Archibald to Robert describes the couple as ‘estranged’ and seems to suggest that an affair was involved

Further Research and Bibliography:-

  1. Grandie Watson had a son, also called Archibald, who was implicated in the capture of Kanakas as slaves. After escaping charges of piracy and kidnapping he studied medicine and later became Professor of Surgery and The University of Adelaide. Archie was the subject of a book by Jennifer M T Carter called “Painting the Islands Vermillion: Archibald Watson and the Brig Carl” (1999) The research papers for this book were donated to the University of Adelaide in 2015. Included with these papers is material on General Archibald Watson including Carter’s notes on the possible Watson Connection with the Maharajas of Patiala.
  2. A number of letters from Grandie to his father, Archibald have been transcribed by Cynthia Aked (Nee Watson, born 1937) who is a direct descendant of Grandie’s second wife Constance Armstrong. These letters were provided to Norman C Hutchinson, the author of “Grandie”, by Grandie’s great granddaughter Maxine Horsfall through her daughter Katie Scully.
  3. Coralie Peddie wrote a book about the Armstrong family (Grandie’s second wife’s family) titled “Irish Enough for Sure” (1997 ISBN 0 646 32205 2) Address: PO Box 22, Inglewood, SA, 5133. Although Grandie’s father Archibald is mentioned briefly, there is no mention of his mother.
  4. A letter from researcher, Judith Farrington to a Mr Emery dated 12 November 1980, refers to a “List of Officers of the Bengal Army 1758-1834” compiled by Major V.C.P Hodson, that records Archibald’s marriage to his cousin Ann, and then goes on to query an earlier marriage as untraceable.
  5. An email from Will Quekett of East Grinstead, West Sussex dated 2nd February 2021. ” I came across this in the course of researching my great great grandmother’s family as I inherited a deed box full of letters about her father’s business Scott, Fairlie and Co, an East India Company house of agency in London. My great great grandmother was born Isabella Scott, her father Robert Scott was the nephew of David Scott (1746 – 1805) who was the Chairman of the East India Company. Robert Scott (1777 – 1844) and his brother David (1786 – 1831) went out to India in the late 18th and early 19th Century. Robert returned to London but David stayed. Their sister Ann (1779 – 1844) married Archibald Watson (1779 – 1855) in 1821 and supervised the education of Watson’s children in Scotland. She never went to India and did not have any children with Watson. The deed box contains a number of personal letters between Ann and her husband and between Ann, her husband and the Watson children. There is one from Louisa to her father in 1832 shortly after the birth of her daughter, she was in Lucknow and he was in Calcutta, but none that I saw from Sydney Grandison. There is also a letter concerning the position of ‘natural children’ in Scotland and one or more concerning sending Louisa to India. The letters will be auctioned in Edinburgh on 24 February 2021. I am hoping they will end up in the British Library’s East India Company collection where they will be conserved and digitised for research purposes in the years to come.”
  6. The East India Company: Robert Scott, Fairlie and Company, Agency Houses and papers of the Scott tin Deed Box, 29 x 41 x 30cm, containing a large quantity of correspondence, the majority sent to Robert Scott (1777-1844) and his Agency Firm, Robert Scott, Fairlie and Company, dating from the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries, discussing East India Company trade, dealings involving colonial plantations, and family matters in both India and BritainFootnote: Provenance: Robert Scott, 1777-1884; his daughter Isabella Mary Anne Quekett (née Scott), 1816-1872 and her husband, John Thomas Quekett, d.1861, founder of the Quekett Microscopical Society in London; and thence by descent Note: This collection comprises the Deed Box and papers predominantly sent to Robert Scott, 1777-1884, and his company, Robert Scott, Fairlie and Company. The company acted as a Scottish Agency House, a middleman between the East India Company, local people in India and other areas of the British Empire and Western owners of plantations in these places. In his work, The Scottish Connection with India 1725-1833, George McGilvary rather succinctly describes the role of such organisations: Without Scottish Houses of Agency (such as Scott & Co., Fairlie Fergusson & Co., Alexander & Co., Colvin Bazett & Co.) acting as middle-men and purveyors of capital for indigo plantations and production in Bengal, for salt farms and saltpetre, and most of all for opium and cotton, the EIC would not have fulfilled its primary commercial function or been able to remit moneys to London. A quantity of the documents contained in the deed box refer to this company. For example, a letter dated 10th April 1836 from another such company states: “We have of course no means of forming any opinion as to the present value of the Belvedere Plantation but have always considered it would be extremely advisable of the parties invested to dispose of the whole of their property in the Island should an eligible opportunity occur…” Whilst more exact details of the contemporary costs of estates, spices and land can be gleaned from other documents, providing a valuable insight into colonial trade in the early 19th century: Statement of the Claim of the State of the late Capt. Francis Salmond on that of the Late M. William Baskett. Feb. 1824 The Purchase Money of the Spice Plantation at Bencoolen? Called Fir Grove MsRs 5000… Add Live Stock on Plantation valued at 300…” However, the contents of the deed box also provides fascinating insights into the life of a British family who were heavily involved in the East India Company. Robert Scott’s uncle, David Scott (1746-1805) and moved to India in 1763 as a teenager, making his fortune through his company, Scott, Tate and Adamson. Being the younger son of Robert Scott of Dunninald, he decided to purchase the estate from his older brother, Archibald in 1786, forming friendships with figures such as Henry Dundas, at the time Head of the India Board of Control, and William Pitt. These connections proved beneficial for David Scott’s two nephews, Robert (1777-1844) and David (1786-1831). Robert Scott would follow his uncle’s lead to become a writer with the East India Company and owner of Scott, Fairlie and Company, whilst David Scott would head out to India in 1801, becoming a judge and magistrate and the agent responsible for the North East Frontier and revenues from the Assam Valley by 1824. One of the most touching stories told in the family letters involves the three young children of David Scott the younger, his ‘natural’ children born outside of wedlock. In August 1831, letters sent to Robert Scott in England reveal the untimely death of his younger brother. Many of these letters appear to be sent by Lieutenant General Archibald Watson, David and Robert Scott’s brother-in-law, as he married their sister Ann in 1821. Watson edited Memoir of the Late David Scott, published in Calcutta in 1832. Letters sent by Watson and other colleagues of David Scott reveal – apparently to the surprise of Robert Scott – that David was father to three young children, all of mixed British-Indian heritage: a six year old girl, and a younger boy and girl between the ages of two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half. Sent on the 19th October from Gowlpara, signed ‘Rutherford’, one letter reads: My Dear Sir, I have made enquiries with reference to your note of the 7th… And it appears that the [?] of the eldest child of poor Mr Scott now at Goahulty is about 6 yrs – it is a Girl – there are two others nearly about the [?] age 3 – The mother of two of them is said to be a native of this place, now I’ve not [?] doubt in that case that she would live here readily if any security for a provision was given, the other is I believe a native of [?] in Apaur, if she would have an objection to residing at this station, [?] it would decidedly be the best place… Several letters discuss the care and financial situation of these children, although less so their mothers. by Christmas 1831, the children appear to be living under the care of Archibald Watson himself. An earlier letter from General Archibald Watson to Robert Scott, discussing life in India, also offers a valuable insight into British colonial attitudes and opinions at the time. In one such letter, he writes about the Indian mutiny at Barrackpore in 1824, and his personal opinions about the future of the British Empire in India: A very serious business has just happened at Barrackpore – a Regiment of Infantry mutinied and refused to march to join the troops in the Burmese Country – in Consequence of which 2 Regiments of Europeans were ordered from Calcutta with their guns; paraded in front of the mutineers; who, on refusing either to march or lay down their guns, were ultimately blown to pieces… The Effects of this severe Example I fear will be rather sinister throughout the Country… …I do not think we shall ever lose our Eastern Empire – but I do not in the least doubt that it will fall to pieces… Further family letters naturally discuss rather mundane matters, however scattered amongst these are testaments of love, details of estranged spouses (it would seem that Archibald Watson and his wife, Ann (née Scott), were separated following a suspected affair), and descriptions of voyages and journeys to India. Watson sent his children to be educated in Scotland under the supervision his wife Ann with whom he did not have children nor did she ever travel to India. Interestingly the papers include letters relating to the position of “natural” children in Scotland. Watson’s son Sydney Grandison emigrated to New South Wales in 1836 after finishing his education. Watson died in London, leaving his entire estate to his daughter Louisa. Further papers relating to the Scott family in India can be found in the India Office Records, whilst the lot also contains handwritten ‘Extracts from the Letters’ and ‘David Scott: Some Pages from the Life of an Indian Civil Servant 1800-1831’ compiled by Mrs A.E. Quekett in the 1920s.

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