Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ulrica Wheeler

Every 19th Century British War, in the Crimean, Afghanistan, India, was followed by fat volumes illustrated with steel engraved portraits, maps and illustrations. George Virtue was one of the publishers of War Histories; another was The London Printing and Publishing Company, Ltd.

The History of the Indian Mutiny by Charles Ball, was published in two thick volumes with engravings that for the most part looked like they could have appeared in the Illustrated London News. One engraving in these books caught my eye, titled ‘Miss Wheeler defending herself against the Sepoys at Cawnpore.’ It’s very penny dreadful-like in its depiction but turned out to be a myth. The legends are reproduced below.

Ulrica Wheeler was a half-caste; her father was Sir Hugh Wheeler, a general killed at Cawnpore, her mother was an Indian. In 1907 a missionary lady in Cawnpore was told by a dying Indian woman that she was Ulrica Wheeler, and that instead of being abducted she had been rescued from the bloody massacre and married her rescuer, an Indian sowar, or Sepoy.

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