Military bungling, bloody rebellion - and a scandal that reached as far as Queen Victoria
In 1891 the hill state and principality of Manipur erupted in violence, the worst bloodshed in India since the Great Mutiny, 34 years earlier. The Manipuris even chopped off the head of the Chief Commissioner of Assam and those of his entourage including the British Resident, handsome Frank Grimwood, leaving his beautiful young wife Ethel alone and the only woman in a world gone mad. The rising resulted in the largest colonial expedition ever mounted on the North-East Frontier of India and the worst fighting there until the Second World War. William Wright unlocks the secret government files, long buried and hushed-up, to reveal a story out of the pages of Somerset Maugham or Conrad, one of colossal military ineptitude alongside VC-winning heroism, involving pornography and paedophilia. You will never think of the Empire-builders in quite the same way again! There were no Maxim guns, so no mowing down of helpless natives, just hard slog, with Ethel playing a brave part in the retreat from Manipur, not knowing her husband had already been beheaded, his feet also lopped off and thrown to the pariah dogs. Behind the bravery, the scandal was complex. The following trial of the Manipuri princes was not legal and even Queen Victoria asked for them to be found not guilty but the Viceroy was determined to aid a cover-up. Ethel preferred the company of her handsome step-brother to that of Frank, her husband. And then we have Frank - whose hobby was photographing nude young girls ... which perhaps led directly to his gruesome death.
Journalist William Wright is the former chairman of the Victorian Military History Society. He has had many articles published in journals such as 'Savage and Soldier' and 'Soldiers of the Queen'. He is the author of 'A Tidy Little War: The British Invasion of Egypt 1882', 'Warriors of the Queen: Fighting Generals of the Victorian Age' and 'Battle Story: Omdurman 1898'.