Catalogue description Shakespear, Sir, Richmond Campbell, 1812-1861

This record is held by Royal Society for Asian Affairs

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Reference: RSAA/SC/S/RS
Title: Shakespear, Sir, Richmond Campbell, 1812-1861

Papers of Sir Richmond Shakespear. Largely correspondence (predominantly family correspondence), the papers include a number of documents concerning Shakespear's role in the release (in 1840) of more than four hundred Russians held prisoner at Khiva, and their return to Russia under Shakespear's escort, events that resulted in his knighthood (in 1841).


Richmond Campbell Shakespear was the youngest son of John Talbot Shakespear, of the Bengal Civil Service, and his wife Emily, the eldest daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray (father of the Victorian novelist) and also of the Bengal Civil Service. He was born in India on 11 May, 1812. Sent to England for his education, Richmond Shalespear attended Charterhouse School (in the company of his cousin, William Makepeace Thackeray, the novelist to-be), and then entered, in 1827, Addiscombe College, near Croydon, the military training establishment of the East India Company. In 1828, he obtained a commission as Second Lieutenant in the Bengal Artillery, arriving in India 10 February, 1829, and serving at various stations in Bengal until 1837, when he was appointed Assistant at Gorakhpur.


In 1839, he was appointed Political Assistant to Major d'Arcy Todd's Mission to Herat, his principal duty to provide instruction in gunnery. Shakespear was sent by Todd to negotiate with the Khan of Khiva for the release of the many Russians that it then held captive, and whose captivity provided constant provocation for an unwelcome strategic Russian advance into Central Asia.. Shakespear was successful in his negotiations, and marched with 416 Russians, men women and children, to Orenburg, where the arrival of his weary convoy was received with both astonishment and gratitude. From there, Shakespear was posted to Moscow and thence to St Petersburg, where he was received by the Tsar. He eventually returned to London and was knighted by Queen Victoria on 31 August, 1841, at the age of twenty-nine. This was to be his last visit to England. Palmerston's recommendation records the important political dimension to Shakespear's actions, noting that he "deprived the Russian Government of all Pretence for the renewed attack upon Khiva, which that Government would otherwise have attempted, and thus Captain Shakespear has very especially promoted British interests in Asia...."


In 1842, Shakespear was appointed Secretary to Major-General George Pollock, who commanded the force assembled at Peshawar for the relief of Sir Robert Sale at Jallalabad. In 1843, he was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Sagar, and promoted to Brevet Captain. Later in the same year, he was transferred to Gwalior, where he remained in political charge until 1848. In 1844, he married Marian Sophia, third daughter of George Powney Thompson, of the Bengal Civil Service, by Harriet Fendall, daughter of John Fendall, Governor of Java. In 1846, Richmond Shakespear was promoted to Regimental Captain. At the outbreak of the Second Sikh War, in 1848, he returned to military duties, and was present at the actions at Ramnagar, and at Sadulapur. In 1849, he commanded a battery of heavy guns at Chillianwalla, and at Gujerat, where he was wounded. Mentioned in despatches, he received the war medal with two clasps, and was promoted to Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel.


Richmond Shakespear returned to civil duties at Gwalior towards the end of 1849. In 1851, he was transferred to the political agency at Jodpur. In 1854, he was promoted to Brevet Colonel. In 1857, he was appointed Resident at Baroda, and he became Political Commissioner of the district in 1858, taking acting command of the Northern Division of the Bombay Army, in addition to his political duties. He was promoted to Regimental Lieutenant-Colonel in 1858. In July, 1859, he became Agent to the Governor-General for Central India, residing at Indore. He was made a Companion of the Bath (Civil Division) in 1860. Sir Richmond Shakespear died of bronchitis, at Indore, 29 October, 1861. He was survived by Lady Shakespear and their family of three sons and six daughters.


(Source: DNB.)

Date: 1835-1988
Held by: Royal Society for Asian Affairs, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Physical description: 338 files
Link to NRA Record:

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