The Private Life of an Eastern King
The writer William Knighton (c.1824–1900) spent much of his career in Sri Lanka and India. Published in 1855, this is an account of the court of the notorious Indian King Nussir-u-deen (c.1803–37), written from the viewpoint and using the testimony of an anonymous British member of the King's retinue. Richly descriptive, it is an intimate portrait of life in the service of a hedonistic sovereign so hated and paranoid that he feared his own family would try to poison him. He is characterised as a cruel and frivolous man who only trusted his sycophantic barber. As well as describing the lavish royal lifestyle, the narrator documents the King's thirst for hunting, for exotic-animal fights and for abusing and humiliating members of the royal family. This is a lurid and engrossing tale of a monarch in decline and the corruption and favouritism that led to his eventual assassination.