In the British Library, there is a portrait of Raja Chandu Lal, the famous minister to the Nizam of Hyderabad from 1809 to 1843. He was an influential figure who was so powerful that the British suspiciously regarded him as the proxy ruler of Hyderabad. The on-line catalogue entry for the portrait says that it was a gift from 'Mrs Moore'. Who was she, and why did she have a painting of a man who Hyderabad’s British resident, Sir Charles Metcalfe, described as having 'the plausibility ascribed to Satan'?
British Library, Foster 16 – Portrait of Raja Chandu Lal (1809-1843) by John Godwin Williams (fl.1813-1837), c.1836. Given to the India Office by Sophia Stewart Moore, née Yates (1808-1905), probably in the 1870s.
Sophia Stewart Yates was born at Madras in 1808. Her parents, Richard Hassels Yates of the Madras Army and Benjamina, had ten children. Sophia and her sisters were probably married off quite young, and her brothers would have been sent into the army. On 29 July 1827, when she was 19, she married John Arthur Moore, an employee of the Nizam of Hyderabad from 1817 to 1838. He began as a soldier in Hyderabad’s army, then served as the Nizam’s Military Secretary and Auditor of Accounts for 14 years. He retired from the Nizam’s service for health reasons and returned to Britain with Sophia in 1839.
The painting of Raja Chandu Lal was printed in London as a mezzotint in 1841 by Charles Turner. The caption below the mezzotint, written in English and Persian, celebrates Raja Chandu Lal as the 'Rajah of Rajahs… the devoted servant of Asuf Jah who is the Roostum of his Age'. It is impossible to say why the mezzotint was commissioned, but it might relate to Raja Chandu Lal granting Major Moore a generous pension.
British Museum, 1861,0810.148 – Mezzotint of John Godwin Williams’ portrait of Raja Chandu Lal. Engraved in 1841 by Charles Turner, 50 Warren Street, Fitzroy Square, London.
Unfortunately, the East India Company’s directors in London blocked Major Moore from receiving the pension of 500 rupees a month, claiming that it was 'extremely inexpedient for the Local Government to allow British Officers to be pensioned by the Nizam’s Government or by that of any other Native Prince or Chief'. Several 'influential men petitioned the Company to allow him to collect the pension, including Charles Metcalfe, the resident at Hyderabad who once described Raja Chandu Lal as 'Satan'.
John Arthur Moore died on 7 July 1860, when Sophia was 52. Following the East India Company’s liquidation and absorption into the British state, Adolphus Warburton Moore (1841-1887), John and Sophia’s son, became the India Office’s Political Secretary in the 1870s. He prompted his mother to give the portrait of Raja Chandu Lal to the India Office.
Sophia died in 1905, at the age of 97. It is intriguing to think that Raja Chandu Lal, a man who the British caricatured as evil, was the subject of a portrait that John and Sophia Moore cherished. One wonders if young Sophia, who moved to Hyderabad as a teenager and left in her early 30s, personally knew Raja Chandu Lal. It seems he was kind to her and her husband.
CC-BY Jennifer Howes
Art Historian specialising in South Asia
Creative Commons Attribution licence
Account of John Arthur Moore’s service in India, including letters of support from Charles Metcalfe and Lord Elphinstone to receive a pension from the Nizam of Hyderabad. British Library, IOR/F/4/1780/73179, f.1v-5.
Archer, Mildred. The India Office Collection of Paintings and Sculpture (London: 1986), 47-48.
Foster, William. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Paintings, Statues, &c. in the India Office (London: 1924), 16.
Raja Chandu Lal. 'Translation of a note from the Minister, under date 27th November 1838 to the Resident'. British Library, IOR/F/4/1780/73179, f.19.