William Linnæus Gardner

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William Linnæus Gardner
Born 1770[1]
Died 1835[1]
Nationality British-Indian[2]
Occupation Lieutenant colonel[3]
Known for Raising Gardner's Horse, initially for police and revenue duties[3]
Spouse(s) Begum Dehlmi, Nawab Mah Manzeil-ul-Nisa (Indian princess) (m. 1796–1835, his death)[4]

William Linnæus Gardner (1770/1771–1835), was an Indian officer.

Early life and family[edit]

Gardner was the eldest son of Major Valentine Gardner (born 1739 in Ireland),[1] 16th Foot. His father was the elder brother of Alan Gardner, 1st Baron Gardner and was with the 16th Foot, during its service in America from 1767 to 1782. Gardner's mother was his father's first wife, Aleda[2] (1747–1791), third daughter of Colonel Robert Livingston of Livingston Manor, New York[5][6] (where he was born).[7] Gardner "... is mentioned as being cared for by his maternal grandfather at the... manor house for several years before it was judged prudent to send him to his father, with whom he ended up back in England – an involuntary intercontinental emigration in reverse.”[8] Through his father, he had a younger half-brother, also named Valentine Gardner, whose mother his father later married.[1] He was brought up in France and when a boy, was gazetted as ensign in the old 89th Foot on 7 March 1783 and placed on half-pay of the regiment on its disbandment some weeks later. He was brought on full-pay as ensign in the 74th Highlanders in India on 6 March 1789, and promoted to a lieutenancy in the 52nd Foot in India in October of the same year. The regimental muster-rolls, which are incomplete, show him on the strength of the depôt-company at home from 1791–93. He became captain in the 30th Foot in 1794 and at once exchanged to half-pay of a disbanded independent company. Of the circumstances under which he retired various stories were told. All that is known is that he appeared afterwards as a military adventurer in the "chaotic field of central Indian discord".[2]

Marriage and children[edit]

For some time (starting in 1798),[1] Gardner was in the service of Jeswunt Rao Holkar, the famous Maratha ruler of Indore. Holkar sent him on a mission to the independent princes of Cambay, where he converted to Islam and married his only wife, an Indian Muslim princess (born c. 1775),[4] on whose ancestors the emperors of Delhi, in days gone by, had conferred the highest hereditary honours. However, certain sources state that they married in 1796.[1][4] On seeing his future wife, Begum Mah Munzel ul-Nissa, for the first time, he stated: "... I saw, as I thought, the most beautiful black eyes in the world."[7] She was the daughter of the Nawab of Cambay and the adopted daughter of Akbar Shah II, the Mughal Emperor of India.[9] On living at his wife's estates at Khassgunge, he wrote in a letter to his cousin Edward: "At Khassgunge I anticipate very great happiness. I am fond of reading and I am fond of my garden and... have more relish in playing with [my] little brats than for the First Society in the World."[7] Together they had three children: two sons named Alan Hyde Gardner (whose younger daughter married a Mughal prince named Mirza Anjum Shikoh Bahadur) and James Valentine Gardner (who married a Mughal princess named Begum Mulka Humanee), as well as a daughter.[1][9]


Holkar afterwards sent Gardner to meet with Lord Lake and suspecting treachery, grossly insulted him on his return. Gardner replied by attempting to cut down the Maharaja. Failing, he escaped in the confusion and went through a succession of the wildest adventures.[2] At one time, when a prisoner of Emurt Rao, he was strapped to a gun under the threat of death unless he promised to fight against the English. At another time, he jumped down a precipice fifty feet deep into a stream to escape his guards. Eventually, he made his way into Lake's camp in the guise of a grass-cutter (1804). His wife and her attendants were allowed to depart unharmed from Holkar's camp through her family's influence.[2]

Post Indian military life[edit]

Gardner served as a leader of irregular horse (captain) under Lake and in the same capacity (lieutenant-colonel), performed services under Sir David Ochterlony in Kaman from 1814–15. In the latter connection, Gardner (whose name, like that of his father, is spelt ‘Gardiner’ in many army lists), has been confounded by some writers with the first British resident in Nepal, the Hon. Edward Gardiner, who was affiliated with the Bengal Civil Service (for reference see Debrett, Peerage, 1825, under ‘Blessington,’ and Dodwell and Miles, Lists of Bengal Civil Servants). He also rendered service under Ochterlony in the settlement of Rajputana from 1817–18. He was rewarded in 1822 with an unattached majority in the king's service antedated to 25 September 1803.[2]

The name of William Linnæus Gardner first appears in the East India Company army lists in January 1819, as a local lieutenant-colonel commanding a corps of irregular cavalry, afterwards described as Gardner's Corps, as Gardner's Local Horse and as the 2nd Local Horse.[3] Because of the prior, he was stationed at Kasganj in 1819, at Sagar in 1821, at Bareilly from 1821–23, at Arracan in 1825 and at Kasganj again from 1826–27. In January 1828, when the 2nd Local Horse was again at Bareilly, Gardner is described as on leave and his name does not again appear in either the British or Indian army lists.[2]

No further record of him exists at the India Office. He resided at Kasganj, North West Provinces, which was his private property (Hunter, Gazetteer of India, under ‘Kásganj’). There he died on 29 July 1835, aged 65. His Begum died a month after him (Parkes, vol. i.).[2] Gardner, a skilled rider and swordsman in his prime, is described in his latter years as a "... tall, soldier-like old man, of very courteous and dignified manners and very kind to his ailing wife".[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Family Search: Colonel William Linnæus Gardner
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Chichester 1889.
  3. ^ a b c The Royal Tank Regiment Association: Background
  4. ^ a b c Essai de Généalogie, par Alain Garroc: Manzil un-nisa Dehlavi Nawab Mah
  5. ^ Livingston of Callendar: The Family of Robert Livingston
  6. ^ Genealogy of the Livingston Family by Timothy Alden, published in 1814
  7. ^ a b c Dalrymple, William (2004). White Mughals. Penguin Books. pp. 94–95, 111. ISBN 978-0-14-200412-8. 
  8. ^ Vachon, Boudreau, Cogne, Auguste, Claire, Daniel (1998). Genealogica & Heraldica: Ottawa 1996. University of Ottawa Press. p. 73. ISBN 0-7766-0472-4. 
  9. ^ a b India: The Timurid Dynasty - Genealogy

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChichester, Henry Manners (1889). "Gardner, William Linnæus". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography 20. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 432–433. ; Endnotes:

  • Foster's Peerage, under ‘Gardner’
  • British and Indian army lists
  • Information supplied by the India office
  • The incidental notices of Gardner in Mill's Hist. of India, vols. vii. and viii., and in Hunter's Gazetteer of India are inaccurate. Much information respecting Gardner will be found in Mrs. Fanny Parkes's Pilgrimage in Search of the Picturesque (London, 1850, 2 vols.). Mrs. Parkes, the wife of a Bengal civilian of rank, was personally acquainted with Gardner, and her book contains an account of him reprinted from the Asiatic Journal, Oct. 1834, and a letter from Gardner correcting misstatements therein