Friday, July 27, 2012

Better Than Fiction Guest Post: Hillari Delgado

Today we have Hillari Delgado guest-posting on the story of Annette and Henry Beveridge. She came across this information while researching for her work in progress, The Traitor of the Taj, a historical romantic suspense set in Victorian India and England.

Hillari's e-mail to me about these two was just as interesting as the post itself. I had to let you all in on some of what she said:

Annette was a bluestocking spinster (gasp) raised in the English Nonconformist tradition (double gasp) who went out to India as an unmarried woman of thirty to set up a school for Indian girls (triple gasp, she was really beyond the pale!).  When she met and married Henry Beveridge, a judge in the Indian Civil Service, she jumped from despised missionary to member of the most exclusive level of the British Raj in India.  Annette and Henry's life-long love supported and sustained them in their God-directed path of service toward others.
So, with that introduction, I present to you...

‘The marriage of true minds’—Annette and Henry Beveridge

by Hillari DeSchane Delgado

As she disembarked a steamship in 1872 onto the quayside of the Hooghly River, the port for Calcutta, India, Annette Susannah Ackroyd might have been dismissed as just another English spinster.  After all, she was already thirty years old and still unmarried.  Each year scores of women seemingly just like her made up the infamous ‘Fishing Fleet’ that journeyed from England to India to ‘catch’ a husband.   

But Annette Ackroyd was hardly the typical young English woman and she had a very different destiny in mind for herself(1). Annette had come to India in partnership with the Brahmo Samaj, a progressive Hindu reform society based in Calcutta(2).  She hoped to advance the condition of Indian women by founding a school for young girls. 

Annette was highly educated; she had attended Bedford College, London.  And she was strong-willed and serious minded.  Raised in a staunch Nonconformist Evangelical background, she had been reared to the ideal of personal service to others to advance God’s kingdom.  She may have thought she was prepared for the physical hardships she was to face, but little could have prepared her for the loneliness.

 Missionaries and philanthropic workers were usually shunned by English society in India.  Because Annette lived and worked with local inhabitants, she would have been criticized for ‘letting down standards’ seen as necessary for the English Raj to maintain its hold over a vast indigenous population, and for crossing the increasingly strict boundaries between the races(3).  Annette also suffered a major blow to her aspirations for Indian women’s rights when one of her most ardent patrons and opponent of child marriage, Keshub Chunder Sen, himself contracted his very young daughter to a much older man(4).  It would have been easy for Annette to consider her mission a failure and return home to England.

In 1875 Annette met her match in 38-year-old Henry Beveridge, a district sessions judge in the Indian Civil Service(5).   They were united not only by the beginning of a lifelong love, but also by their desire to live out their faith.  They were married in a civil service in a Registry Office by an Indian official.  ‘We are in a Bengali country,’ Henry wrote to Annette, ‘and must try to school ourselves into seeing Bengalis in office and yielding to them the submission due to their office,’(6) a radical and highly unpopular stance for the time.

In her new career as wife and helpmeet to a busy government official, Annette Ackroyd Beveridge found new ways to advance the causes dear to her heart and faith.  In 1881 she held an ‘International Evening Party.’  Drawing on her experience living among Indians and her sensitivity to cultural restrictions, Annette organized separate food tents that allowed for religious purity laws and overcome a major barrier that often kept Muslim, Hindu and Christian women apart(7).

Life did not become easy for Annette and Henry Beveridge just because they enjoyed a shared faith and satisfying marriage.  Writing to Henry before their marriage, Annette imagined life together in the ‘mofussil’ or countryside: ‘We will stay at home and you shall read French and I German to one another…Are you willing to do that when we go into banishment with only the frogs in the tank [reservoir] for our companions?(8)’  Transfers were frequent and travel across the rugged terrain was difficult and dangerous. The 100 miles from Rangpur to the hill station of Darjeeling took Annette four days by dog-cart, train, dandy [a hammock litter carried by two men], and tonga [horse cart](9).

            Annette continued to defy convention by remaining a bluestocking. She learned Bengali, Persian and Turki.  She translated the memoirs of Emperor Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, earning herself an international reputation as an Orientalist(10).  Henry too was a prolific writer and scholar.  He authored monographs on Indian culture, politics and history, and translated the chronicle of Akbar, the great Mughal ruler, from Persian(11)(12).  Returing to England upon retirement, Henry and Annette Beveridge died within months of each other in 1929.

            Perhaps the strongest evidence of the quality of Annette and Henry Beveridge’s shared love and God-directed worldview is the legacy their marriage left to the world.  Their son, William Henry Beveridge, 1st Lord Beveridge, was a lifelong social reformer and champion for the unemployed and underprivileged(13)(14).

Hillari DeSchane Delgado serves up historical Romantic Suspense ‘with a side of wry.’  Whether Regency or Victorian, her witty heroines and endearing heroes take murder and romance seriously, but never themselves.   Hillari is the author of pending novels When in Rome and The Warlock of Windermere.  Her research for work in progress Traitor of the Taj uncovered the story of Annette and Henry Beveridge.  She would love to chat on Twitter @HillariDelgado and can be found at her brand new author page on Facebook.   View her boards on Pinterest: Traitor of the TajVictoriana, and Regency Revealed.

**If you have an idea for a Friday "Better Than Fiction: Real Historical Romance Tales" Feature, visit this post for criteria and submission details.**

(1) MacMillan, Margaret.  Women of the Raj.  Thames and Hudson, 1988.

(3) MacMillan, M.  Women of the Raj.

(4) MacMillan, M.  Women of the Raj.

(6) MacMillan, M.  Women of the Raj.

(7) MacMillan, M.  Women of the Raj.

(8) MacMillan, M.  Women of the Raj.

(9) MacMillan, M.  Women of the Raj.


Important: my comments feature (below) is in transition and the kind folks at Disqus are helping me work out a few kinks. In the meantime, if you're unable to leave a comment here, hop on over to Hillari's brand new Facebook page and leave her a note there. And while you're there, why not give her a "like"? She's wonderful, I tell you. You won't be sorry. Thanks again, Hillari, for being here today!


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