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James Achilles Kirkpatrick landed on the shores of eighteenth-century India as an ambitious soldier of the East India Company. Although eager to make his name in the subjection of a nation, it was he who was conquered??”not by an army but by a Muslim Indian princess. Kirkpatrick was the British Resident at the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad when in 1798 he glimpsed Khair un-Nissa—’Most Excellent among Women’—the great-niece of the Nizam’s Prime Minister. He fell in love with Khair, and overcame many obstacles to marry her??”not least of which was the fact that she was locked away in purdah and engaged to a local nobleman. Eventually, while remaining Resident, Kirkpatrick converted to Islam, and according to Indian sources even became a double-agent working for the Hyderabadis against the East India Company.
Possessing all the sweep of a great nineteenth-century novel, White Mughals is a remarkable tale of harem politics, secret assignations, court intrigue, religious disputes and espionage.