Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858

15. Frühe europäische Quellen und Quellen aus der Zeit der East India Companies

5. Zum Beispiel: John Mildenhall, 1599 - 1606

hrsg. von Alois Payer


Zitierweise / cite as:

Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858. -- 15. Frühe europäische Quellen und Quellen aus der Zeit der East India Companies. --5. Zum Beispiel: John Mildenhall, 1599 - 1606. -- Fassung vom 2008-05-26. -- http://www.payer.de/quellenkunde/quellen1505.htm                

Erstmals publiziert als:

Early travels in India 1583 - 1619 / ed. by William Foster [1863 - 1951]. -- London [u.a.] :  Milford, Oxford university press, 1921. -- xiv, 351 S. : Ill. ; 19 cm. -- S. 48 - 52, 54 - 59. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/earlytravelsinin00fostuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-05-19. -- "Not in copyright."

Erstmals hier publiziert: 2008-05-26


Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung FS 2008

©opyright: Public domain.

Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit  von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

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1. Über John Mildenhall


Nearly twenty years after the visit of Ralph Fitch and his companions to the court of the Great Mogul, another Englishman presented himself there, craving privileges of trade on behalf of himself and his fellow-countrymen. This was John Mildenhall or Midnall, whose experiences are narrated in the two documents printed below, the first of which is a summary of his journey from London to Kandahar, while the second is a letter (addressed to the Richard Staper already mentioned on p. 1) giving an account of his transactions in India and of his return journey as far as Kazvin [Qazvin / قزوین ] in Persia.

Of Mildenhall's previous career practically nothing is known, except that, like Fitch, he was a trader in the Levant. From his letter to Staper and subsequent references in the Court Minutes of the East India Company, it may be inferred that he was at one time in the service of that merchant—perhaps apprenticed to him in the first instance. That in making the present venture he had no special mission, least of all from Queen Elizabeth (as has been often asserted), is evident enough from his own narrative. Although in India he did his best to play the part of a messenger from his sovereign, this was clearly a mere pretext, for the purpose of gaining more easily the concessions he was seeking ; while the fact that he spent six months at Constantinople engaged in trade, took three years over his journey from Aleppo to Lahore, and was equally leisurely over his return to England, is a further proof that he made the expedition on his own account. Moreover, we learn from a document in the British Museum (Lansdowne MSS., no. 241, ff. 75, 78) that in March 1600 Mildenhall was contemplating a venture to Cairo, but then changed his plans and decided to go to Aleppo. This suggests that his journey to India was an afterthought, prompted, perhaps, by the receipt at Constantinople of the news of the attempt made in the autumn of 1599 to launch an East India Company in London. Though this scheme had failed for the moment, owing to the unwillingness of Queen Elizabeth to jeopardize the success of the negotiations then on foot for peace with Spain, there was every probability that it would become ere long an established fact ; and if Mildenhall could in the interim secure a grant of trading privileges in India, he might expect a handsome reward for his pains. [S. 49]

Over the details of his outward journey and his experiences in India itself we need not linger. A point of some interest is the question how long he spent in that country. Of his arrival he tells us only that it was in the year 1603 ; while of the date of his departure he says nothing, though it may be inferred that he had left Indian territory some time before the death of Akbar in October 1605, since he makes no mention of that important event. A little light is thrown upon the question by a letter from Father Jerome Xavier, written from Agra on September 6, 1604 (n.s.),1 in which he refers to an unnamed English heretic (doubtless Mildenhall) who had encouraged a discontented Portuguese to make accusations against the Fathers in the preceding June, the Englishman's object being to bring them into discredit and thus facilitate the grant of permission to his fellow-countrymen to frequent the Mogul's ports. Xavier adds that the Englishman bribed heavily but was disappointed, although he had spent two years in soliciting the grant. This would not be consistent (even loosely) with any later date than the spring of 1603 for Mildenhall's arrival ; while the time of his departure may be guessed at the summer of 1605, thus making the period of his stay a little over two years. We may note that when Robert Covert, one of the survivors of the Ascension (see p. 86), left Agra in January 1610, Father Xavier gave him 'his letters of commendations to one John Midnall, an English merchant or factor who had been in Agra three yeares'2—roughly speaking of course.

1 See an excellent article by Sir Edward Maclagan on 'Jesuit Missions to the Emperor Akbar', in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. lxv, part i ; also Father Hosten's article in the Memoirs of the same Society, vol. v, no. 4, p. 174.

2 Covert adds that he was unable to deliver the letter, because by the time he reached England (April, 1611) Mildenhall had started on his second expedition.

Abb.: Die Missionsreisen von Francisco de Xavier S.J. (1506 - 1552)
[Bildquelle. Wikipedia, GNU FDLicense]

It may appear surprising that he should have remained so long, considering that, according to his own account, the Emperor granted at once all his demands except that for permission to attack Portuguese ships and strongholds. The probability is that this was not exactly what Mildenhall required. So long as England was at war with Spain and Portugal, a mere permission for English merchant ships to visit the ports of the Great Mogul may well have appeared useless, unless the Emperor could be induced to go further and to veto any interference with them on the part of the Portuguese. If this was what Mildenhall really solicited, it is easy to understand why he attached so much importance to the point and why he remained so long in order to carry it. Whatever the exact nature of his demand was, it arrayed against him not only the Jesuit missionaries at court, whose [S. 50] influence was considerable, but also Akbar's principal advisers. The opposition of the latter may well have been due to an unwillingness to risk a breach with the Portuguese, of whose power at sea they were fully conscious ; but Mildenhall sets it down partly to bribery on the part of the Jesuits and partly to an acceptance of their contention that the real object of the English was to capture some of the Indian ports. He represents himself as triumphantly refuting this charge and overcoming the scruples of the Emperor, by undertaking that his sovereign would send an ambassador, with rich presents, to reside at the imperial court, where he would be, in effect, a hostage for the good behaviour of his fellow-countrymen. Thereupon, we are told, his demands were granted in full.

Passing over his letter from Kazvin, in which these events are related, the next we hear of our traveller is that, at a meeting of the 'Committees' [Directors] of the East India Company, held on June 21, 1608, letters were read, addressed by him to Mr. Staper, enumerating the privileges he had obtained and offering these, and his own services, in return for a payment of £1500. Evidently he had not yet reached England, for it was decided to adjourn the consideration of his proposals until his arrival either in this country or the Netherlands. In May 1609 the matter was again brought forward and was referred to a special committee, though at the same time his demands were pronounced to be unreasonable and he himself was thought unfit to be employed except as a mere factor. Evidently his concessions were considered to be of small value ; while the Company had a further motive for declining to purchase them on extravagant terms, inasmuch as they were expecting to receive at any moment news of the success of the mission of William Hawkins, who had been dispatched to Surat in 1607 with letters from King James to the Great Mogul. However, Mildenhall had another string to his bow. Towards the end of July 1609 the Company learnt with some alarm that he had presented a petition to the King, declaring that he had spent ten years in travel and had obtained, at a cost of three thousand pounds (?), privileges of trade in the dominions of the Great Mogul, and praying that, as the East India Company would pay no attention to his claims, he and his co-adventurers might be permitted to enjoy the said privileges. This petition had been referred by the Lord Treasurer to Sir Walter Cope and three merchants, of whom at least two were friends of Mildenhall. The Company at once appointed four representatives to confer with the referees, and apparently nothing came of the petition. A few months later there was some idea of the Company sending Mildenhall to the East as a factor, but on November 18, 1609, it was decided that he was 'for divers [S. 51] respects . . . not fittinge to be ymployed in the service of the Companie '.

For the rest of Mildenhall's career we have to depend chiefly on references in the correspondence of the Company's factors in India, which will be found in Letters Received, vols, ii, iii, and V, in Kerridoe's letter-book in the British Museum (Additional MSS., no. 936G), &c. From these we learn that, some time before April 1611, he made a second expedition to the East, carrying with him a quantity of goods belonging to Staper and other merchants, intended for sale in Persia. Mildenhall is stated to have betrayed his trust and to have fled with the goods, intending to make his way once again to India. Two Englishmen, named Richard Steel and Richard Newman, were sent in pursuit. They overtook the fugitive near the confines of Persia and forced him to return with them to Ispahan, where he surrendered goods and money to the value of £9,000 and received a full discharge. Being now free, he resumed his journey to India ; and Steel, who had quarrelled with Newman, undertook to bear him company. At Lahore Mildenhall fell sick, and Steel went on alone to the court of the Emperor, then at Ajmer, in Rajputana. By slow stages Mildenhall reached Agra, whence he proceeded to Ajmer, arriving in that town early in April 1614.

He was still very sick. Purchas (Pilgrimage, ed. 1626, p. 528) says that he 'had learned (it is reported) the art of poysoning, by which he made away three other Englishmen in Persia, to make himself master of the whole stock ; but (I know not by what means) himselfe tasted of the same cup and was exceedingly swelled, but continued his life many moneths with antidotes '. The story, which is evidently based upon Withington's assertions (given later in the present volume), is scarcely a likely one, and Mildenhall's illness was probably due to natural causes. However, after lingering some time, he died in June 1614. As he belonged to the old faith, his body was conveyed to Agra and interred in the Roman Catholic cemetery there. The tombstone marking the spot was discovered in 1909 by Mr. E. A. H. Blunt, who has prefixed a photograph of it to his Christian Tombs and Monuments in the United Provinces. It is in good preservation, and the following inscription in Portuguese is still plainly legible : Joa de Mendenal, Ingles, moreo aos 1 [ d]e Junhou 1614. One may say with confidence that it is the oldest English monument in India ; and a tablet with an English inscription has now been placed upon it by the orders of the local government.

Abb.: John Mildenhall's Grabstein in Agra, Römisch-katholischer Friedhof
[Bildquelle: a.u.a.O., nach S. 50]

Just before his death Mildenhall made a will, leaving his property to two children he had had in Persia by an Indian woman during his first expedition. As executor he appointed a Frenchman named Augustin, who had accompanied him in [S. 52] his second journey and had undertaken to marry his daughter and bring up his son. To him. also, he bequeathed his papers, including a diary which would now be of the greatest interest ; unfortunately, it was burnt by the executor together with the rest of the documents, immediately after Mildenhall's death. There is reason to believe, by the way, that this Frenchman was none other than the 'Austin of Bordeaux' whose name is often associated with the decoration of the Taj Mahal (see the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, April 1910, and the Journal of the Panjab Historical Society, vol. iv, no. 1). Meanwhile, at the instigation of Steel, the East India Company's factors at Surat had dispatched one of their number, Thomas Kerridge (afterwards President at Surat, 1616-21 and 1625-8), to lay claim to Mildenhall's goods on behalf of his employers. Kerridge reached Ajmer on the very day of the fugitive's death, which was at once followed by the sequestration of the estate on behalf of the imperial exchequer, in accordance with the prevailing practice in the case of aliens dying in the country. Then ensued a struggle between Kerridge and the executor, each striving to obtain a grant of the estate from the Emperor. Kerridge had in truth a weak case, being unable to produce any authority from those on whose behalf he was supposed to be acting, and having against him the discharge given by Newman ; while his adversary was supported by the Jesuit Fathers, whose sympathies were naturally with the deceased. Kerridge bribed heavily, but without result, for the Emperor, after hearing both sides, concluded that neither had sufficient right thereto and decided to appropriate the estate himself. Nevertheless, Kerridge persevered, and in the end succeeded in recovering most of the money, which was duly transmitted to England for distribution amongst Mildenhall's creditors.

The two documents here printed are taken from Purchas His Pilgrimes, part i, book iii, chap. 1, § 3. They were found by Purchas among the papers of Richard Hakluyt, who may have obtained them from Staper. In the foregoing account of Mildenhall's career I have drawn freely on an article of my own published in The Gentleman's Magazine of August 1906, supplementing this from later information.

2. Text von John Mildenhall


Casbin, the third day of October, 1606.

Worshipfull Sir, my duty remembred. Not having any other of more auncient love then your selfe, I have thought good to rememberthe manifold curtesies received, and partly to requite them with the first newes of the successe of this my voyage unto the court of the Great King of Mogor and Cambaia.

At my arrivall in Lahora the of 1603, I dispatched a poste for the Kings court, with my letters to His Majestic that I might have his free leave to come unto him and treat of such businesse as I had to doe with him from my Prince ; who foorthwith answered my letters and wrote to the Governour of Lahora to use nice with all honour and curtesie and to send a guarde of horse and foote with me to accompanie me [S. 55] to Agra, where his court was, beeing one and twentie dayes journey from Lahora. And beeing neere arrived, I was very well met, and an house with all things necessarie was appointed for mee by the King ; where reposing my selfe two dayes, the third day I had audience and presented His Majestic with nine and twentie great horses, very faire and good, such as were hardly found better in those parts (some of them cost me fiftie or threescore pounds an horse), with diverse jewels, rings, and earerings to his great liking. And so I was dismissed with his great favour and content.

The third day after, having made before a great man my friend, he called me into his Councell ; and comming into his presence, he demanded of me what I would have and what my businesse was. I made him answere that his greatnesse and renowmed kindnesse unto Christians was so much biased through the world that it was come into the furthermost parts of the westerne ocean and arrived in the court of our Queene of Englands Most Excellent Majestic ; who desired to have friendship with him and, as the Portugals and other Christians had trade with His Majestic, so her subjects also might have the same, with the like favours ; and farther, because there have beene long warres betweene Her Majestic and the King of Portugall, that if any of their ships or portes were taken by our nation, that he would not take it in evill part, but suffer us to enjoy them to the use of our Queenes Majestic. All this the King commanded to be written downe by his secretarie, and said that in short space he would give me answere. With that I withdrew my selfe (with leave) and went to my house. Within eight or ten dayes after, hee sent me home in money to the value of live hundred pound sterling, the first time with very comfortable speeches. Shortly after, as I was informed, hee sent to certaine Jesuites which lived there in great honour and credit, two in Agra and two others in Lahora,1 and shewed them my demands ; whereat the Jesuites were in an exceeding great rage ; and whereas before wee were friends, now we grew to be exceeding great enemies. And the King asking [S. 56] their opinion in this matter, they flatly answered him that our nation were all theeves and that I was a spye, sent thither for no other purpose to have friendship with His Majestie but that afterward our men might come thither and get some of his ports, and so put His Majestic to much trouble ; saying withall that they had eleven yeares served His Majestic and were bound by their bread and salt that they had eaten to speake the truth, although it were against Christians. With these and many more such speeches the King and his Councell were all flat against mee and my demands, but made no shew thereof to me in any respect ; but I knew it by friends which I had in his court. Afterward they caused five commandements to bee drawne and sent them mee, with all things that I had written, saving they had left out the taking of the ships and the ports of the Portugals ; which when I had read, I presently went to the court and made demand of the other articles. The King answered that hee would againe speake  with his Councell and make answere.

1 The two at Agra were Jerome Xavier and Anthony Machado, while those at Lahore were Manoel Pinheiro and Francisco Corsi ; see Sir Edward Maclagan's article already mentioned.

In this manner rested my businesse, and every day I went to the court, and in every eighteene or twentie dayes I put up Ars [Hind, arz] or petitions ; and still he put mee off with good words and promised that this day and tomorrow I should have them. In this manner seeing my selfe delayed, and being at exceeding great expenses of eighteene or twentie servants (horsemen and foot), I withdrew my selfe from going to the court, in so much that in thirtie dayes I went not. At length the King, remembring me, sent to call for me. At my comming, he asked the cause why I came not as I was wont. I answered that I had come into his countrey only upon the great renowme of his excellencie and had wasted five yeares in travaile, and could not obtaine so much as a commandement at his hands which was wholly for his profit and nothing for his losse ; adding that if I had asked some greater reward of him, hee would much more have denyed me. With that he presently called for garments for me of the Christian fashion very rich and good, and willed me not to be sad, because every thing that I would have should be accomplished to mine owne content.

So with these sweet words I passed sixe monethes more. [S. 57] And then, seeing nothing accomplished, I was exceeding wearie of my lingring, and could do nothing ; and the rather for that I was out of money. I should have declared before how the Jesuites day and night sought how to work my displeasure. First, they had given to the two chiefest Counsellors that the King had at the least five hundred pounds sterling a piece, that they should not in any wise consent to these demands of mine ; so that, when I came to present them, they would not accept of any thing at my hands, although I offered them very largely ; and where I had any friendship, they would by all meanes seeke to disgrace me. But God ever kept me in good reputation with all men. Moreover, whereas I had hired in Aleppo an Armenian named Seffur [Safar], to whom I gave twentie duckets the moneth, which served me very well for mine interpreter foure yeares, now, comming neere to the point of my speciall businesse, the Jesuites had soone wrought with him also in such sort that he quarrelled with me and went his way ; whereby I was destitute of a drugman1 and my selfe could speake little or nothing. Now in what case I was in these remote countries without friends, money, and an interpreter, wisemen may judge. Yet afterward I got a sehoolemaster, and in my house day and night I so studied the Persian tongue that in sixe moncthes space I could speake it something reasonably. Then I went in great discontentment to the King and gave him to understand how the Jesuites had dealt with me in all points, and desired His Majesties licence to depart for mine owne countrey, where I might have redresse for mine injuries received ; and withall told him how small it would stand with so great a Princes honour as His Majestic had report to be to delay me so many yeares only upon the reports of two Jesuites, who I would prove were not his friends nor cared not for his profit nor honour ; and desired a day of hearing, that now I my selfe might make plaine unto His Majestic (which for want of a drugman before I could not doe) the great abuses of these Jesuites in this his court ; beseeching you [him ?] againe to grant mee licence to depart, and that I might not bee kept any longer with delayes. At these words the King was mooved [S. 58] against the Jesuites, and promised that upon the Sunday following I should bee heard, and that the Jesuites should be present.

1 Arabic tārjumān (an interpreter), whence 'dragoman '.

This speech I had with the King upon the Wednesday. Comming before the place of Councell the Sunday following, there were met all the great States of the court to heare the controversie betweene us. At the first the King called me and demanded what injuries I had received of the Jesuites. I answered that they had abused my Prince and countrey, most falsly calling us all theeves ; and if they had beene of another sort and calling, I would have made them eate their words or I would have lost my life in the quarrell. Secondly, in saying that under colour of marchandise wee would invade your countrey and take some of your forts and put Your Majestic to great trouble. Now, that Your Majestic may understand the untruth of these mens false suggestions, know you all that Her Majestic hath her ambassadour leiger in Constantinople, and everie three yeeres most commonly doth send a new and call home the old ; and at the first comming of every ambassadour shee sendeth not them emptie, but with a great and princely present ; according whereunto Her Highncsse intent is to deale with Your Majestic. This profit of rich presents and honour like to redound to Your Majestic by having league of amitie and entercourse with Christian Princes, and to have their ambassadours leigers in your court, these men by their craftic practices would deprive you of. And our ambassadours being resident as pledges in your court, what dare any of our nation doe against Your Highncsse or any of your subjects ? Upon these and other such like speeches of mine, the King turned to his nobles and said that all that I said was reason ; and so they all answered. After this I demanded of the Jesuites before the King : In these twelve yeeres space that you have served the King, how many ambassadours and how many presents have you procured to the benefit of His Majestic ? With that the Kings eldest Sonne1 stood out and said unto them (naming them) that it was most true that in a eleven or twelve yeares not one came, either upon ambassage or upon any other profit unto His [S. 59] Majestic. Hereupon the King was very merrie and laughed at the Jesuites, not having one word to answer. Then I said : If it please Your Majestie, I will not onely procure an ambassadour but also a present at my safe returne againe into your countrie. Divers other demands and questions were at that time propounded by the King and his nobles unto me ; and I answered them all in such sort as the King called his Vice-Roy2 (which before was by the Jesuites bribes made my great enemy) and commanding [sic] him that whatsoever priviledges or commandements I would have hee should presently write them, seale them, and give them me without any more delay or question. And so within thirtie dayes after I had them signed to my owne contentment and (as I hope) to the profit of my nation. Afterwards I went and presented them unto the Prince his eldest sonne, and demanded of him the like commandements ; which he most willingly granted, and shortly after were delivered unto me. And so departing from the court, I brought them with me into Persia ; which are here in Casbin with my selfe, readie to doe you any service. And I would have come my selfe when I wrote this letter, save that there were two Italian marchants in Agra3 that knew of all my proceedings ; whom I doubted (as I had good cause) least they would doe mee some harme in Bagdet or some other places, they alwayes being enemies to our nation, that they should find any new trade this way, as to you it is well knowne. And within foure moneths I meane to depart by the way of Moscovia ; where arriving, I will not faile but satisfie you at large of all matters.

1 Prince Salīm, afterwards the Emperor Jahāngīr.

2 Mr. Vincent Smith (Akbar, p. 294) suggests that this was Azīz Koka (Khān Azam).

3 Sir E. Maclagan thinks that one of these was João Battista Vechiete