| Our Empire Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. Traces the development of the British colonies from days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Includes stories of the five chief portions of the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Ages 10-16 |
THE FIRST BRITISH AMBASSADOR GOES TO THE COURT OF THE EMPEROR OF INDIA
 WHEN the first English adventurers sailed to India, the
Dutch treated them kindly. But very soon the struggle
between English and Dutch became as fierce as the
struggle between Portuguese and Dutch had been. For a
long time Bantam, in the island of Java, was the only
town where the English had a factory, and in some
places the natives were so afraid of the Dutch that
they would not trade at all with the English. Yet the
English trade grew, and almost every year the East
India Company sent out new ships. Now, instead of
giving the vessels names like the Red Dragon or
the Roebuck, they called them the
Peppercorn, the Clove, ,
or Merchant's Hope.
Finding it difficult to found factories in the East
India Islands, the English next tried to do so on the
mainland. The first factory which they succeeded in
founding was at Surat. Sir John Hawkins, one of our
great English "sea-dogs", was the first to land there.
But he found it very hard to trade, for the Portuguese
were still in power. There he met "a proud Portugal"
who "tearmed King James King of Fishermen and of an
Island of no import. And a fig for his commission!"
There, he says, "I could not peepe out of doores for
fear of the Portugals, who in troops lay lurking in the
byways to give me assault to murther me."
 The kings of India were not like the savages of Africa
and America. They were great potentates living in
splendour, although the people over whom they ruled
were miserably poor. They sat upon golden thrones
studded with jewels, they bathed in golden baths and
ate and drank from golden vessels. Their clothes
glittered with gems and were fringed with pearls.
The Great Mogul was the chief of these kings. He was
Emperor of all India, and the other kings paid him
money or tribute, and acknowledged him as "overlord."
Over those states which lay near his capital at Delhi
he ruled like a tyrant, but over distant states he had
little power. There the kings did very much as they
It was often very difficult for the English to get
leave to trade in the dominions of these proud tyrants.
For the curious thing was that in those days they
thought little of Europeans. The King of Great Britain
was to them merely the ruler of a tiny, barbarous and
poor island somewhere far away in the cold bleak seas.
It seemed to them that they were being very kind, and
that they stooped from their high state in listening at
all to the wishes of such a petty prince.
The Great Mogul was haughtiest of all. He was quite
willing to take presents from the King, but he was not
willing to do anything in return. So at last it was
decided to send an ambassador from England to live at
the court of the Great Mogul to see what he could do
for British trade.
Sir Thomas Roe was the first ambassador who went from
Great Britain to India. He was also the first
gentleman who had to do with the East India Company.
For at the beginning they had said, "We purpose not to
emploie anie gent in any place of charge, but to sort
 business with men of our own quality." Even now,
although many of them thought that it was a good idea
to send an ambassador to the court of the Great Mogul,
they were very fearful lest the King should send some
gay favourite of his own who would cost them much and
do but little good. "A mere merchaunt" would do just
as well and cost them far less they thought. But in
the end the choice fell on Sir Thomas, who was both
courtly and wise. He was used to kings and courts, he
was courteous and polite, but he made up his mind that
the dusky Eastern kings should treat him with honour,
as became a messenger from a ruler greater than
So from the beginning Sir Thomas held himself proudly.
"If it seeme to any," he says, "that shall heare of my
first carriadge that I was eyther too stiff, to
Punctuall, too high, or to Prodigall, lett them
Consider I was to repayre a ruynd house and to make
streight that which was crooked."
When Sir Thomas Roe landed at Surat he did so in great
state. The ships in the harbour were decked with flags
and streamers, cannon fired, and before him went a boat
in which a band played, and when he reached the shore
eighty soldiers marched around him as a bodyguard.
Roe's troubles soon began. The Mogul was not at Surat,
but at Ajmere, about six hundred miles away. To get
there the ambassador needed men and horses. But the
Mogul's servants and the governor of Surat delayed and
delayed. They said one thing and did another. They
promised easily and broke their promises just as
easily. "In all their dealinges ther was new
falshood," says Sir Thomas, and in every way they
tried to hinder him.
 At last he overcame all the difficulties and started on
his long journey. The country through which he passed
he found miserable and barren. The towns and villages
were all built of mud, and the houses were so miserable
and dirty that there was hardly one fit to rest in.
To-day that same region is rich and fertile. Green
fields and gardens are everywhere to be seen, and
well-built prosperous towns and villages are dotted
The journey was long and difficult, and Sir Thomas fell
ill on the way and did not reach Ajmere until
Christmas. A few days later he went to see the Great
Sir Thomas kept a diary and wrote many letters when he
was in India. In them he tells of much that he did and
saw, and of the troubles he had to bear.
Among other things he tells us exactly how the Great
Mogul spent his days. Every morning as soon as he rose
he showed himself at a window called the Jharukha" or
interview window. Here the people came to do honour to
him. While he worshipped the sun they cried out,
"Live, O great king! O great king, life and health!"
Here too the Great Mogul gave and received presents,
letting them down and pulling them up with silken
cords, From this window he reviewed his troops and
gave judgments, never refusing the poorest man's
complaint, says Roe. At nine he went away, and at
midday he came back to the window again to watch
elephants and other wild beasts fight. After watching
for an hour or two he went away to sleep. At four he
appeared at the Durbar or audience, when he received
the great men who came to visit him, and did the
business of the state. Then after supper he went
 into another room which was very private, and where
only the most honoured guests were allowed to come.
Every day was exactly the same as another, so that Sir
Thomas said it seemed to him that the Great Mogul was
as much a slave as the poorest in the land. For had he
failed to show himself for one day the people would
have broken out into riots.
It was at the Durbar that Roe first saw the Mogul.
When eastern princes came to visit the Mogul they bowed
themselves to the earth and fell upon their faces. But
Sir Thomas refused to do any such thing. He was a
stiff-necked Englishman with a very good idea of the
importance of the King and of himself. He was quite
willing to be as polite and courteous to the Great
Mogul as he would have been to a European prince, but
Sir Thomas found the Mogul seated upon his throne, and
surrounded by his nobles who stood in three rows, one
below the other. As Sir Thomas passed each row he
bowed, and at last stood before the Mogul.
"SIR THOMAS STOOD BEFORE THE MOGUL."
The Mogul was very gracious to Sir Thomas and seemed
pleased with the presents which he had brought. What
pleased him most was an English sword and scarf,
although, pretending to be very grand and dignified, he
did not pay much attention to them at the time. But at
ten o'clock that night he sent for one of Roe's
servants to come to show him how to wear the sword in
English fashion. Then he strutted up and down the
hall, drawing it and flourishing it like a child with a
new toy, and for a month he was never seen without it.
But although the Great Mogul continued to be very
friendly, Sir Thomas could get little out of him but
 empty promises. Neither he, nor his sons, nor his
counsellors were willing to bind themselves to any
For nearly three years Sir Thomas remained in India.
He followed the court about from place to place, seeing
many wonderful and some dreadful sights. At last,
finding that he could do but little good, he begged to
be allowed to go home. This he soon did, carrying with
him a letter from the Great Mogul to King James full of
flowery language but little more.
It almost seemed as if Sir Thomas had failed in what he
had been sent to do. But this was not so. He failed
indeed to get any real treaty signed, but when he left
India the position of the British there was far better
than it had been. They were allowed to trade much more
freely, and Sir Thomas had shown that Britons must be
treated with dignity and that they were not to be
trampled upon. Above all, danger from Portuguese
rivals was over.
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