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Monday, June 1, 2020

Governor General Cornwallis .... - Scottish Widows ?

Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, KG, PC (1738 – 1805), styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as The Earl Cornwallis between 1762 and 1792, was a British Army general and official. In the United States and the United Kingdom he is best remembered as one of the leading British generals in the American War of Independence. His surrender in 1781 to a combined American and French force at the Siege of Yorktown ended significant hostilities in North America. In our history books, we have read that he was Governor General of India !  .. .. and what would you understand by ‘Scottish Widows’!

Cornwallis receiving Tipu’s sons as hostages
By Robert Home - National Army Museum, Public Domain,

In 1801, Cornwallis was sent to France with plenipotentiary powers to negotiate a final agreement. The expectation among the British populace that peace was at hand put enormous pressure on Cornwallis, something that Bonaparte realised and capitalised on.  The Treaty of Amiens  temporarily ended hostilities between France and the United Kingdom during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was signed in the city of Amiens on 25 March 1802 by Joseph Bonaparte and Marquess Cornwallis as a "Definitive Treaty of Peace." The consequent peace lasted only one year (18 May 1803) and was the only period of general peace in Europe between 1793 and 1814.

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. It produced a brief period of French domination over most of Europe. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict.

Napoleon, upon ascending to First Consul of France in 1799, had inherited a chaotic republic; he subsequently created a state with stable finances, a strong bureaucracy, and a well-trained army. In 1805, Austria and Russia started the Third Coalition and waged war against France. In response, Napoleon defeated the allied Russo-Austrian army at Austerlitz in December 1805, which is considered his greatest victory. At sea, the British severely defeated the joint Franco-Spanish navy in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. This victory secured British control of the seas and prevented the invasion of Britain itself. More wars were to follow !

Scottish Widows is a life insurance and pensions company located in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is a subsidiary of Lloyds Banking Group. Its product range includes life assurance and pensions. The company has been providing financial services to the UK market since 1815. The company sells products through independent financial advisers, direct to customers and through Lloyds Banking Group bank branches. The well-known investment and asset management arm (Scottish Widows Investment Partnership) was sold in 2013 to Aberdeen Asset Management.
Its history is recorded as in 1812, a number of eminent Scotsmen gathered in the Royal Exchange Coffee Rooms in Edinburgh, to consider setting up ‘a general fund for securing provisions to widows, sisters and other females’.   The Scottish Widows’ Fund and Life Assurance Society – Scotland’s first mutual life office – opened for business in Jan  1815 and in a few years,  Scottish Widows had become sufficiently strong to purchase its first property for its sole use in St David Street, Edinburgh. 

       In 1824 a policy of assurance was issued to the novelist Sir Walter Scott for £3,000.   April 15 1912. The ‘unsinkable’ Titanic sinks and two Scottish Widows policy holders lose their lives. Scottish Widows goes on to provide annuities for the remainder of dependents when the Titanic Fund is wound up in 1959.

In 1999, Lloyds TSB agreed to buy the society for £7 billion.The society demutualised in  2000 as part of the acquisition. At the time of its takeover, Scottish Widows set up an "additional account" to hold £1.7 billion of the proceeds from the sale. This fund was to be used to enhance terminal bonuses across the company, but was eventually used to compensate guaranteed annuity rate options (GARs) holders.

Back to Indian history, in  1786 Cornwallis was made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.  The same year he accepted appointment as Governor-General and commander in chief in India.  Cornwallis engaged in reforms of all types, that affected many areas of civil, military, and corporate administration.  Part of the Cornwallis Code was an important land taxation reform known in India as the Permanent Settlement. This reform permanently altered the way the company collected taxes in its territories, by taxing landowners (known as zamindars) based on the value of their land and not necessarily the value of its produce.

In 1805 Cornwallis was reappointed Governor-General of India by Pitt (who had again become Prime Minister), this time to curb the expansionist activity of Lord Wellesley. He arrived in India in July 1805, and died on 5 October of a fever at Gauspur in Ghazipur, at that time in the Varanasi kingdom. Cornwallis was buried there, overlooking the Ganges River, where his memorial is a protected monument maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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