Monday, 9 December 2013

Nur Begum


This fairly unremarkable grave lies at the entrance to my town's parish church. To be honest you would walk past it and not really notice it and for many years I did just that as I trotted through the churchyard on my way home from many a shopping trip.

It is the grave of a lady called Helene Bennett and it is aligned to Mecca despite being a burial in a C of E churchyard. Helene or Nur Begum, to give her back her original name, was born in 1770 to a prosperous Muslim family in Lucknow. She married a French mercenary called General Benoit de Boigne and followed him to London along with their two children in 1797 where he retired, a very wealthy man. He renamed her Helene Bennett and together they moved in the upper echelons of society. He received British denization in January 1798 but sadly this did not satisfy his ambitions nor did his current marriage. Instead he remarried a member of the exiled French nobility called Charlotte D'Osmonde. His children were baptised as Catholic and he moved Helene out first to Enfield and latterly a small Sussex village. Considering his vast wealth she received a relatively modest annual allowance and prominent members were so appalled by his harsh treatment of her that they offered to help her to legally lay claim to his money. She however, refused and quietly lived out the rest of her life. Known as "the dark princess" she may have provided Shelley with inspiration for his writing.

Arilx

5 comments:

  1. I find this sort of info fascinating, Aril. Did you have to research or was it readily available somewhere else you'd not noticed? lol Amazing the amount that escapes our gaze/interest while running about our dailies :) Fab post!

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  2. Thanks for your comment K. I am an avid reader and note taker so often I bring bits together from different sources. I also have a Dad who is of a similar ilk and he's a mine of useful info. On this occasion my friend had researched this lady for a newspaper article about different faiths [she's pagan] locally- she reminded me of the name and then I used the internet to fill in the gaps.
    Arilx

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  3. Hi. I am reading William Dalyrmple's 'White Mughals' these days and this woman is mentioned there in a few paragraphs, as one of the many local noblemwomen who married European colonial soldiers/officers. I don't know what it was but I found her story to be really tragic and it sort of incensed me to learn that her worthless husband is much better known when I googled the couple. I am thinking of creating a Wikipedia page for her just as a sort of way so that she is not completely relegated to oblivion.With your permission, may I use this image to put it up on the Wiki page?

    -Nav

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  4. Yes of course you may. It was taken by my husband.
    Arilx

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  5. Thank you! I will put a link to the page in the source credits.

    -Nav

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