The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to the Court of the Great Mogul, 1615-1619, Volume I

About this text

Introductory notes

The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe was published in 1899.It was written by Thomas Roe.It describes the travails of the diplomat to the Mughal court. Sir Thomas Roe was born around 1581.He was sent to India to Jahangir’s court to secure protection for an East India Company factory.He passed away in 1644.Selections have been made from Volumes One and Two of The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe.Roe’s visit would be among the first official visits of an Englishman to India,among the first to look at the Mughal court machinations and daily Indian tribulations from an English perspective. Primary Reading Roe,Thomas,Sir, The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe ,Volume One,The Haklyut Society. Secondary Reading Tavernier,Jean Baptiste,Travels in India,Volume 1, Oxford University Press Tavernier,Jean Baptiste,Travels in India,Volume 2, Oxford University Press.


Edited from Contemporary iRecords
Editor of" Letters Received by the East India Company, 1615 ;'' Joint Editor of
" The First Letter Book of the East India Company, 1600-1619 ;"
Honorary Secretary of the Hakluyt Society.

Inter eos autem qui relationes suas de hoc Regno prodiderunt,
facile fide et dignatione princeps est THOMAS ROEUS, Eques, Magnae
Britanniae Regis ad superiorem lndiae Regem Legatus.
DE LAET: De lmperio Magni Mogolis, 1631.



PUBLISHED FOR The Haklyut Society


[Page 106]

I went to Court at 4 in the evening to the Durbar, which is the Place where the Mogull sitts out daylie, to entertayne strangers, to receive petitions and presents, to give Commandes, to see, and to bee seene. To digresse a little from my reception, and declare the Customes of the Court, will enlighten the future discourse. The king hath no man but Eunuchs that Comes within the lodgings or retyring roomes of his house: His women watch within, and guard him with manly weapons. They doe Justice on upon another for offences. He comes every Morning to a wyndow called the Jarrucu looking into a playne before his gate, and showes himselfe to the Common People. At noone hee returns thither and sitts some bowers to sec the fight of Eliphants and willd beasts ; under him within a rayle attend the men of rancke; from whence hee rests to sleepe among his woemen. At afternoone he returnes to the Durbar before mentioned. At 8 after supper he Comes downe to the Gazelcan, a faire Court, wher in the middest is a Throune erected of free stone [Page 107] wherein he sitts, but some tymes below in a Chayre ; to which are none admitted but of great qualetye, and few of these without leave; wher he discourses of all matters with much Affabilitye. Ther is noe busines done with him Con cerning the state, goverment, disposition of warr or peace, but at one of these two last Places, wher it is publiquely propounded, and resolved, and soe registred, which if it were woorth the Curiositye might bee seene for two shillings, but the Common basse people knew as much as the Councell, and the Newes every day is the kings new resolutions tossed and censured by every rascall. This Course is unchangeable, except sicknes or drinck prevent yt; which must be known, for as all his Subjects [Page 108] are slaves, so is he in a kynd of reciprocall bondage, for he is tyed to observe these howres and Customes so precisely that if hee were unseene one day and noe sufficient reason rendred the people would mutinie; two dayes noe reason can excuse, but that he must consent to open his doores and bee seene by some to satisfye others. On Tuesday at the Jarruco he sitts in Judgment, never refusing the poorest mans Complaynt, where hee heares with Patience both parts : and some tymes sees with too much delight in blood the execution done by his Eliphants. At the Durbar I was led right before him, at the enterance of an outward rayle, where mett mee two Principall Noble slaves to conduct mee nearer. I had required before my going leave to use the Customes of my Country, which was freely granted, soe that I would performe them Punctually. When I entred within the first rayle I made a reverance; entering in the inward rayle a Nother; and when I came under the king a theird. The Place is a great Court, whither resort all sorts of people. The king sitts in a little Gallery over head; Ambassidors, the great men and strangers of qualety within the inmost rayle under him, . raysed from the ground, Covered with Canopyes of velvet and silke, under foote layd with good Carpetts; the Meaner men representing gentry within the first rayle, the people without in a base Court, but soe that all may see the king. This sitting out hath soc much affinitye with a Theatre-the manner of the king in his gallery; The great men lifted on a stage as actors; the vulgar below gazing on-that an easy description will informe of the place and [Page 109] fashion. The king prevented my dull enterpreter, bidding me welcome as to the brother of my Master. I delivered his Majesties lettre translated; and after my Commission, wheron hee looked Curiously; after, my presents, which were well received. He asked some questions, and with a seeming Care of my health, offering me his Phisitions, and advising mee to keepe my house till I had recovered strength; and if in the interim I needed anything I should freely send to him, and obteyne my desiers. He dismissed me with more favour and outward grace (if by the Christians I were not flattered) then ever was showed to any Ambassador, eyther of the Turke or Persian, or other whatsoever.

[Page 142]

The King being returnd, the Preparation for the Norose made all men soe busy that I had no oportunyte to doe myne, but purposed to prepare the King by Visitations and presents to heare my demandes with the first oportunitye. But I had no enterpreter, The brokar not daring to speake any thing that would displease Asaph Chan, nor would hee in any thing deliver mee truly to the King. Soe I sought out a third [second], an Italian Jeweller, a protestant, that useth much liberty with his toung, and in whom the King takes often delight to heare him rayle at the Jesuites and theyr factions; who undertook to say all I would deliver him.

March 11- The Norose begann in the Eveninge. It is a custome of solemnizing the new yeare, yet the Ceremonye beginnes the first New moone after it, which this yeare fell togeither. It is kept in Imitation of the Persians feast and signifyes in that language nine dayes, for that anciently it endurd no longer, but now it is doubled. The manner is: ther is erected a Throne fower foote from the ground, in the Durbar Court, from the back wherof to the [Page 143] place wher the King comes out, a square of 56 Paces long and 43 broad was rayled in, and covered over with faire Semianes or Canopyes of cloth of gould, silke, or velvett, joyned together and susteyned with Canes so covered. At the upper end were sett out the pictures of the King of England, the Queene, my lady Elizabeth, the Countesse[s] of Sommersett and Salisbury, and of a Cittizens wife of London; below them another of Sir Thomas Smyth, governor of the East India company. Under Coote it is layd with good Persian Carpetts of great lardgnes. Into which place come all the men of qualetye to attend the King, except some fewe that are within a little rayle right before the Throne to receive his Commandes. Within this square there were sett out for showe many little howses (one of silver) and some other Curiosityes of Price. The Prince Sultan Coronne had at the lefte syde a Pavilion, the supporters wherof were Covered with Silver (as were some of those also neare the Kings throne). The forme therof was Square ; the matter wood, inlayd with mother of pearle, borne up with fower pillars and Covered with Cloth of gould about the edge. Overhead, like a valence, was a nett fringe of good pearle, upon which hung downe Pomegranetts, apples, pearcs, and such fruicts of gould, but hollow. Within yt the king sate on Cushions very rich in Pearles and Jewells. Round about the Court before [Page 144] the Throne the Principall men had erected tents, which encompassed the Court, and lineq them with velvett, damask and taffety ordinaryly, some few with Cloth of gould, wherin they retyred and sett to show all theyr wealth ; for anciently the kings were used to goe to every tent and there take what pleased them, but now it is Changed, the King sitting to receive what new years guifts are brought to him. He comes abroad at the usuall hower of the Durbar, and retyres with the same. Here are offered to him, by all sorts, great guiftes, though not equall to report, yet incredible enough; and at the end of this feast the King, in recompence of the presents received, advanceth some and addeth to theyr entertaynment some horse at his pleasure.

March 12. I went to visitt the King and was brought right before him, expecting a present, which I delivered to his extraordinary content. So he appoynted I should bee directed within the rayle, to stand by him, but I, beeing [Page 145] not suffered to step up upon the rising on which the throne stood, could see little, the rayle beeing high and doubled with Carpettes. But I had leysure to veiw the inward roome and the bewty therof, which I confesse was rich, but of so divers peices and so unsuteable that it was rather patched then glorious, as if it seemed to strive to show all, like a ladie that with her plate sett on a Cupboard her imbrodered slippers. This eveninge was the sonne of Ranna, his New tributory, brought before him, with much ceremony, kneeling 3 tymes and knocking his head on the ground. He was sent by his father with a Present and was brought within the little rayle, the King embracing him by the head. His guift was an Indian voyder full of silver, upon yt a Carved silver dish full of gould. Soe he was ledd toward the Prince. Some Eliphants were showed, and some whoores did sing and dance.

[Page 252]

This day was the Birth of the king and solemnized as a great feast, wherin the king is weighed against some Jewelles, gould, silver, stuffs of goulde [[and?]] silver, silke, butter, rice, frute, and many other things, of every sort a little, which is given to the Bramini. To this solemnitye the king commanded Asaph chan to send for mee, who so docing appoynted mee to come to the Place wher the king sitts out at Durbarr, and there I should bee sent for in. But the Messenger mistaking, I went not untill Durbarr tyme ; and soe missed the sight. But beeing there before the king came out, as soone as hee spyed mee, hee sent to knowe the reason why I came not in, hee having geven order. I answered according to the error, but hee was extreame angry and Chydd Asaph chan publiquely. He was so rich in jewelles that I must confesse I never saw togither so unvaluable wealth. The tyme was spent in bringing of his greatest Eliphantes before him, some of which, beeing Lord Eliphants, had their chaynes, belles, and furniture of Gould and silver, attended with many guilt [Page 253] banners and flagges, and 8 or 10 Eliphantes wayting on him clothed in gould, silke, and silver. Thus passed about twelve Companyes most richly furnished, the first having all the plates on his head and breast sett with rubyes and Emeraldes, beeing a beast of a woonderfull stature and beauty. They all bowed downe befor the king, making reverence very handsomly, and was a showe as woorthy as I ever saw any of beasts only. The keepers of every Chefe Eliphant gave a present. So with gratious complements to mee he rose and went in. At night about 1O of the Clock hee sent for mee. I was abedd. The message was: hee hard I had a picture which I had not showed him, desiering mee ta Come to him and bring yt, and if I would not give it him, yet that hee might see yt and take Coppyes for his wives. I rose and carryed yt with mee. When I came in I found him sitting crosse leggd on a little throne, all cladd in diamondes, Pearles, and rubyes ; before him a table of gould, on yt about 50 Peeces of gould plate sett all with stones, some very great and extreamly rich, some of lesse valew, but all of them almost covered with small stones; his Nobilitye about him in their best equipage, whom hee Commanded to drinck froliquely, severall wynes standing by in great [Page 254] flagons. When I came neare him, hee asked for the Picture. I showed him two. Hee seemed astonished at one of them ; and demanded whose it was. I answered a frend of myne that was dead. Hee Asked mee if I would give it him. I replied that I esteemed it more then any thing I possessed, because it was the Image of one that I loved dearly and Could never recover : but that if his Majestie would pardon mee my fancy and accept of the other, which was a french picture but excellent woorke, I would most willingly give it him. Hee sent me thancks, but that it was that only picture hee desiered, and loved as well as I, and that if I would give it him hee would better esteeme of it then the richest jewell in his house. I answered I was not soe in love with anything that I would refuse to Content his Majestie : I was extreame glad to doe him service, and if I could give him a better demonstration of my affection, which was my hart to doe him service, I was ready to present it to him. At which hee bowed to mee and replyed it was sufficient that I had given it : that hee confessed hee never sawe so much arte, so much bewty, and Conjured mee to tell him truly whither ever such a woeman lived. I assuered him ther did one live that this did resemble in all things but perfection, and was now dead. He returned mee [Page 255] that hee tooke my willingnes very kindly, but that, seeing I had soe freely given him that I esteemed so much, hee would not robb mee of yt : only hee would show yt his ladyes and Cause his woorkmen to make him 5 Coppyes, and if I knew myne owne I should have yt. I answered I had freely and willingly given it and was extreamly gladd of his Majesties acceptance. He replyed hee would not take yt : that hee loved mee the better for lovinge the remembrance of my frende, and knew what an injurye it was to take it from mee ; by noe means hee would not keepe it but only take copycs, and with his owne hand hee would returne it, and his wives should weare them; for indeed in that arte of limninge [Page 256] his Paynters woorke miracles. The other beeing in oyle he liked not.

Then he sent me woord it was his byrth day and that all men did make merry, and to aske if I would drinck with them. I answered: what soever his Majestie Commanded : I wished him many prosperous dayes, and that this Ceremonye might be renewed 100 years. Hee asked mee what wyne, whether of, the grape or made, whither strong or small. I replyed: what hee Commanded, hoping hee would not Command to much nor too strong. So hee Called for a Cupp of Gould of mingled wyne, halfe of the Grape, halfe Artificiall, and dranck, causing it to bee fylld and sent it by one of his Nobles to mee with this message: that I should drinck it twice, thrice, four or five tymes off for his sake, and accept of the Cupp and apurtenanccs as a present. I dranck a little, but it was more strong then ever I tasted, so that it made mee sneese; wherat hee laughed and Called for reasons, almondes, and sliced lemons, which were brought mee on a Plate of gould, and bee bad mee eate and drinck what I would, and no more. Soe then I made reverence for my present after myne owne manner, though Asaph chan would have caused mee kneele, and knocke my head against the grownd, but his Majestie best accepted what I did. The Cupp was of gould, sett all over with small Turkyes and rubies, The cover of the same sett with great turquises, rubycs and Emeraldes in woorks, and a dish suteable to sett the Cupp upon. The valew I know not, because the stones are many of them small, and the greater, which are also many, arc not all Cleane, but they are in Number about 2,000 and in gould about 20 oz [Page 257] Thus hee made frolique and sent me woord hee more esteemed mee than ever any Francke; and demanded if I were mery at eating the wild bore sent mee a few dayes before? How I dresd it? What I dranck? and such Complements : that I should want nothing in his land ; which his Publique and many graces I found presently in the fashion of all his Nobilitye. Then hee threw about to those that stood below two Chargers of new rupees and among us two Chargers of hollow Almondes of gould and silver mingled; but I would not scramble as did his great men; for I saw his sonne tooke up none. Then he gave skashes of gould and girdles to all the musitians and wayters and to many others. So drincking and commanding others, his Majestie and all his lordes became the finest men I ever saw, of a thousand humors. But his sonne, Asaph chan and some two ould men and the late king of Candahor and my self forbare. When hee Could [Page 258] not hould up his head, bee lay downe to sleepe and wee all departed. At goeing out I mooved Asaph Chan for dispatch of my Priviledges, assuring him his Majestie could give mee no present so acceptable ; if bee pleased not to dispatch mee (which I doubted not if it lay in his power) but that some other hinderance was in my way, I would on the morrow moove the king. Hee desiered mee not to doe soe, for the king loved mee and had given order for it: that the preparation of this feast had hindered him, but that now hee would send it mee, and doe mee all service.

This is a selection from the original text


authority, cloth, court, fruit, goods, king, travel, wealth

Source text

Title: The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to the Court of the Great Mogul, 1615-1619

Author: Thomas Roe

Editor(s): William Foster

Publisher: The Hakluyt Society

Publication date: 1899

Original compiled 1615-1619

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original compiled 1615-1619

Digital edition

Original author(s): Thomas Roe

Original editor(s): William Foster

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, 106-9, 142-45, 252-58


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > non-fiction prose > travel narratives and reports

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.