The Exile of Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, the Last King of Kandy, … amidst other Banished Potentates

Robert Aldrich, University of Sydney

In 1815, in completing their conquest of Ceylon, the British deposed, captured and exiled the last king of Kandy, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, banishing the king, members of his family and servants to Vellore, India, where he spent the remainder of his life.  I am currently doing research on the circumstances of the king’s deposition and exile, the fate of the former sovereign and his entourage in exile, and the place of the king and the Kandyan dynasty in Sri Lankan memory, history-writing and commemoration.  Of interest, too, is the exile of leaders of the 1817-1818 resistance movement against the British to Mauritius.

capture pf Sri Vikrama Capture of Sri Vikrama Rajasinha

Sri Vikrama Rajasinha Sri Vikrama Rajasinha

This research is part of a larger project, funded by a grant from the Australian Research Council, on the deposition and banishment of indigenous rulers as a strategy of colonial governance in the 1800s and early 1900s.  The project covers a number of case studies – the British exiled the last Mughal emperor to Burma and the last Burmese king to India, they sent Indian maharajahs into internal exile, and rulers from Africa were banished to St Helena or the Seychelles.

The French exiled three emperors from Vietnam, the last queen of Madagascar, and various African chiefs.  The Dutch and the Portuguese similarly displaced rulers who mounted opposition to colonial takeover of their countries.  My project looks at some of individual lived experiences of these figures.  It also analyses general tactic of the dethroning of rulers (and sometimes the abolition of dynasties) and exile of monarchs by colonial overlords.

In connection with Sri Lanka, I have also been researching the taking of the regalia of the Kandyan king in 1815, and the return of the throne and crown of the monarch (along with several other royal objects) to Sri Lanka in the 1930s. My sources include scholarly studies, published works from the period concerned, and archival materials, particularly from the India Office records at the British Library.

Forthcoming publications on Sri Lanka by Robert Aldrich:

Out of Ceylon: The Exile of the Last King of Ceylon’, in Ronit Ricci (ed.), Exile in Asia, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, scheduled for publication in late 2015.

The Abolition of a Monarchy and the Fate of its Regalia: The Kandyan Kingdom and the British Colonial State’, in Robert Aldrich and Cindy McCreery (eds), Crowns and Colonies: European Monarchies and Overseas Empires, Manchester University Press, Manchester, scheduled for publication in early 2016.

Banished Potentates: The Deposition and Exile of Indigenous Rulers by Colonial Authorities, Manchester University Press, Manchester, for publication in 2017.

Robert Aldrich is Professor of European History at the University of Sydney.  His recent publications in colonial history include Vestiges of the Colonial Empire in France: Monuments, Museums and Colonial Memories.  He has edited The Routledge History of Western Empires (with Kirsten McKenzie) and The Age of Empires.  He is also the author of Cultural Encounters and Homoeroticism in Sri Lanka: Sex and Serendipity. …



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