Make sure you tune in to BBC 4 tonight (3rd September) to watch historian and author William Dalrymple travel to the Deccan Plains of India to trace the romantic love affair between a British diplomat and a young Muslim princess. James Achilles Kirkpatrick was the British East India Company resident at the court of Hyderabad when he risked everything, converting to Islam and, sources suggest, even becoming a double agent, to marry Khair un Nissa 'Most Excellent among Women.'
Pursuing this compelling story of seduction and betrayal through the archives across both continents, Dalrymple unearths a world almost entirely unexplored by history. Kirkpatrick's behaviour might appear to breach the conventional boundaries of empire, but it was not unique. At the turn of the 18th century, one in three British men in India, known as white mughals, lived with Indian women, wore local dress and adopted Indian ways, much to the embarrassment of successive colonial administrations. To protect them from growing disapproval their mixed race children were sent back to England for their education and were ultimately absorbed into Victorian society.
Dalrymple tells the story of the Kirkpatricks and their children through the art and architecture of the time - from the classic Georgian portraiture of George Chinnery and Thomas Hickey to the fantastical Deccani miniatures of Venkatchellam and Tajully Ali Shah. And in this melding of influences, he asks why Christian and Islamic cultures cannot be at one again when once they made great marriages and produced such outstanding art.
Watch the programme on iPlayer here.