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  • Britain’s ‘Indian’ Prime Minister January 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    lord liverpool

    Did you know that a nineteenth-century English Prime Minister was of Indian descent? Well, many of our text books tell us that this was the case. Lord Liverpool (Robert Jenkinson) (obit 1828), who presided over such questionable events as the Congress of Vienna and the War of 1812, had an Indian grandmother. Here is one of those weird facts that are sometimes brought out to show what a pleasantly multicultural country Britain really is. Unfortunately this particularly fact seems not be true…

    No misunderstandings please. Beach loves the idea of Indian DNA directing the Peterloo Massacre: karma of sorts for what came before and some of what came after. But when he looked for proof this morning there came that unmistakable horse-dung smell of cobblers…

    amelia watts

    Now, the facts. Lord Liverpool’s father Charles Jenkins married one Amelia Watts: pictured, note the characteristic Indian face (!). Amelia Watts was the daughter of William Watts. William Watts (obit 1764) makes the twenty-first century grade of fame. He has a Wikipedia page and, it transpires, that he was one of Clive’s agents in India.

    So far everything is going perfectly. East India Company men often had Indian  concubines before Victorian ‘morality’ brought an end to ‘fraternisation’. Wills from the late eighteenth century show that as many as a third of East Company men left money to children that they had had, outside of wedlock, with Indian women. It would have been the most natural thing in the world then for William Watts to have had an Indian mistress.

    We know for a fact that William married, aged about twenty-seven (1749), an English woman Frances Croke, who survived him. According to Wikipedia he also had relations with one Isabella Beizor a ‘Portuguese Indian Creole’. However, in this the great W almost certainly errs.

    We say this because a certain Isabella Beizor married one Edward Crooke in 1726. It could be another Isabella, of course. But this Edward Crooke was Frances’ father so it seems unlikely. Either, in fact, Isabella was married first to the father and then had an affair with the son-in-law or Wikipedia (Wikipedia’s source?) have got it all wrong. This blogger’s past experience suggests – call it Beachcombing’s Law- that it is more likely that Wikipedia will be wrong than that history will be interesting.

    Lord Liverpool did not have then an Indian grandmother but, at best, an Indian great-grandmother. But even that is stretching it a bit. After all, ‘Isabella Beizor’ is a very Portuguese name and she presumably belonged to the substantial eighteenth-century Portuguese community in India  Did she have any Indian blood in her veins? Given some of the unfortunate attitudes that were floating around at the time the very fact that Edward married her suggests not. A ‘Portuguese Indian Creole’ would have been for the bedroom not for the church and the drawing room.

    If she had come out from Portugal then Lord Liverpool did not have even a finger’s worth of Indian DNA. If, instead, Isabella’s family had been in India for several generations then it is possible that a grandparent had been Indian and that this ‘indiscretion’ was distant enough that Isabella’s bloodline did not obstruct a marriage with Edward Croke. If that was, indeed, the case then PERHAPS a thirty-second part of the British Prime Minister was Indian. By Beach’s calculation that is about half of his left foot… The bit peeping out of his gown above say.

    If anyone can retrieve Britain’s Indian Prime Minister then Beach would be extraordinarily grateful because he likes the idea of a sub-continental  ‘first among equals’. But he fears the worst… drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Several hours later. Having thought about this  it is striking that Isabella married Edward on the east coast (Madras). The last Portuguese colonies in the east disappeared in the seventeenth century. That would suggest that she came from an old European line. Of course, we have too little data. She could have met Edward on the boat coming out…