A humble clerk courts a woman who night after night awaits for the return of her lover.
Historian and author William Dalrymple travels to the Deccan Plains of India to trace the romantic love affair between a British diplomat and a young Muslim princess. James Achilles Kirkpatrick was the British East India Company resident at the court of Hyderabad when he risked everything, converting to Islam and, sources suggest, even becoming a double agent, to marry Khair un Nissa 'Most Excellent among Women.' Pursuing this compelling story of seduction and betrayal through the archives across both continents, Dalrymple unearths a world almost entirely unexplored by history. Kirkpatrick's behaviour might appear to breach the conventional boundaries of empire, but it was not unique. At the turn of the 18th century, one in three British men in India, known as white mughals, lived with Indian women, wore local dress and adopted Indian ways, much to the embarrassment of successive colonial administrations. To protect them from growing disapproval their mixed race children were sent back to England for their education and were ultimately absorbed into Victorian society.