Monday, August 23, 2010

The Female of the Species

Maharani Jindan Kaur by George Richmond

"Women are never entirely to be trusted - even the best of them"

While I'm not sure I entirely agree with Sherlock Holmes verdict on the Fair Sex, it is an approach that is not without merit(1). Wargaming is my one refuge from the world of the skirt swishers and the responsibilities they bring. My others, smoking and books, are shared with a few very select female friends - but wargaming for me at least is an entirely masculine occupation(2).

With that in mind I think the likelihood of the Rajah of Kaala-Akhaata induling in a maiden guard is rather slim. Apologies Adbul old chap.

The rather formidable looking woman up above is the Maharani Jindan Kaur, the mother of Dilip Singh the last independant ruler of the Punjab. I've taken quite an interest in the Sikh Wars of late and I've come across three distinct portrayals of her in the available literature.

The first tends to ignore her entirely, she's mentioned, but only as the mother of Dilip Singh and as an annoyance to the British. This seems to be the most mundance and sadly the most likely to be the closest to the truth.

The second casts her as a independant woman who struggles against the British for Indian independance. This strikes me as post-colonial mythmaking - an entertaining hobby energetically pursued in bars across Ireland most evenings, unless the footballs on.

The third and to my mind, rather more interesting, portrayal is one I came across in Ian Hernon's "Britain's Forgotten Wars" which depicts her as a sexual predator who used the Briitsh to break the power of the Khalsa in retribution for the murder of her brother. Unfortunately, my copy is packed away since the move, but I am growing ever more curious about his sources for this characterisation. From a dramatic perspective I find this a lot more interesting than the other two, I even considered writing a novel about it once, though George MacDonald Frazer beat me to it.

I've always been interested in spin, my dissertation for my degree in Journalism was about portrayals of Irish troops in the Lebanon in the Israeli media, so I will be interested to learn about how this story developed.

More on this anon.

(1) Mrs. Kinch is alright, for a girl. If you like that sort of thing.

(2) I once accidentally outed a fellow wargamer to a friend of mine, who was unaware that our mutual friend was a homosexual, I expected his response to be one of mild surprise or blissful unconcern. He was to my surprise, absolutely shocked "Really? Are you sure? He can't be! He paints figures!".

This attitude seems to me to be dashed unfair - the Friends of Dorothy like nothing better than a well made chap in a uniform. It would be a shame to deny them. Wargaming may be a masculine occupation, but there's no reason it should be an exclusively hetrosexual one.


  1. By coincidence, I just posted a picture of a Rani (from Foundry) I painted for my future Colonial forays. She's carrying a rather formidable sword!
    (and, in real life, I know at least one woman who enjoys painting miniatures and gaming with her husband. As Wells said "the superior sort of girl". :) )

  2. p.s. and let's not forget that other famous line "the female of the species is more dangerous than the male". ha ha

  3. And I believe that it was I who suggested a "maiden guard" (but felt that your bride might object).

    -- Jeff

  4. I feel sure that this was the redoubtable lady that I remember reading about in Saul David's "Victoria's Wars" that I recently (mini) reviewed...

    With regard to the other thread - I'd love to know how the Spartans would have taken to being called a "friend of Dorothy".... :o))))))

  5. As a friend of Dorothy's, and a wargamer of 25 years, I much prefer to be described as Richard Holmes wrote of Eugene of Savoy, "he was rumoured to charge with the lightest of cavalry". It is also interesting to note that many of the great captains of history were gay (homosexual is such an old-fashioned term Conrad)lol.

  6. I tend to regard Flashman as the ultimate authority on such things and his memoirs support view number 3 of the Maharani. Some good Sikh war. Memoirs available on line via Google,

  7. Jeff, on closer inspection you are absolutely right - my apologies. Mrs. Kinch has expressed no strong feelings either way - though I suspect she would be against it as it would mean buying more figures.

    Steve - I suspect they would take it with their well known sense of humour.

    Dave H - And why not? It would be surprising I suppose for the chaps in the light cavalry to restrict themselves to the hegemony they enjoy in the world of fashion, the Arts and musical theatre. As for euphemisms, probably two of the best I've heard (admittedly this was from a retired Brigadier who was not happy with me) were...

    A Herbert - This is apparently a reference to Kitchener.

    "the sort of chap who ends up in the Guards"

  8. I tend to regard Flashman as the ultimate authority on such things and his memoirs support view number 3 of the Maharani. Some good Sikh war. Memoirs available on line via Google,

  9. I would agree with you Ross. I've never fact checked Frazer and found him to be wrong. I must go back to the book and see if it lists his sources.

  10. Dave H - my (sincere) thanks for the first chuckle of the day (and hopefully there'll be more) - "he was rumoured to charge with the lightest of cavalry"...

  11. Steve-The-Wargamer, glad you got a chuckle out of it. It tickled me too when I read it. Conrad, I am sorry I forgot to add that I am finding your blog very entertaining and enjoyable.

  12. Priceless discussion thread!

    Best Regards,