Sword, Former kingdom of Indore, circa 1800. Steel, gold, diamonds, emeralds, rubies.

August 4, 2023

This jewelled sword with original scabbard once belonged to Maharaja Malhar Rao Holkar III of Indore (1806-1833). The parasol, an emblem of kingship, overlaid in gold on the blade indicates that it was a royal weapon. The gold hilt is embellished with 276 diamonds, 378 rubies and 38 emeralds.

MAHARAJA: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts

On 21 December 1817, British forces under the command of Sir Thomas Hislop (1764-1843) attacked the Holkar army which was led by the 11-year-old Maharaja and his elder sister Bhima Bai Holkar (1795-1858). Aided by a traitor in the Holkar camp, the British were victorious. The sword was seized, with other treasures, from the Holkar cavalry and after some debate was presented to John Malcolm (1769-1833), who was Hislop’s political agent and had commanded a division of the British troops in the battle. Under the subsequent Treaty of Mandsour, signed on 6 January 1818, Indore lost its independence and came under indirect control of the British.

RBSI - Sword, Indore, ca. 1800 Sword with metal hilt entirely covered with  sheet gold and set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds; the curved watered  steel blade polished bright; gold overlaid parasol

The V&A bought the sword for £150 in 1888 from a Miss Malcolm, with the information: ‘The sword was taken from the Maharajah Holkar at the battle of Mehidpor in 1817 and presented by the army (with the permission of the Government) to Sir John Malcolm’. Miss Catherine Malcolm (1815-1891) was the youngest daughter of Sir John Malcom.