Relations with Princely States

  • Before 1857, British had availed themselves of every opportunity to annex princely states. The Revolt of 1857 led the British to reverse their policy towards the Indian States.

  • Most of the Indian princes had not only remained loyal to the British but had actively assisted in suppressing the Revolt.

  • Canning declared in 1862 that “the Crown of England stood forward, the unquestioned Ruler and Paramount Power in all India.” Princes were made to acknowledge Britain as the paramount power.

Queen Victoria
  • In 1876, Queen Victoria assumed the title of the ‘Empress of India’ to emphasize British sovereignty over the entire Indian subcontinent.

  • Lord Curzon later made it clear that the princes ruled their states merely as agents of the British Crown. The princes accepted this subordinate position and willingly became junior partners in the Empire because they were assured of their continued existence as rulers of their states.

  • As the paramount power, the British claimed the right to supervise the internal government of the princely states. They not only interfered in the day to day administration through the Residents but insisted on appointing and dismissing ministers and other high officials.

  • After 1868, the Government recognized the adopted heir of the old ruler and in 1881, the state was fully restored to the young Maharajah.

  • In 1874, the ruler of Baroda, Malhar Rao Gaekwad, was accused of misrule and of trying to poison the British Resident and was deposed after a brief trial.