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BRANDON, Captain John Rose

John Rose Brandon lived an adventurous and controversial life as a soldier and Captain in India before emmigrating to New Zealand. Here is his story.

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The Life and Times of Captain John Rose Brandon

John Rose Brandon lived an adventurous and controversial life as a soldier and Captain in India, then emmigrated to New Zealand. He was the sixth child of Richard and Henrietta Brandon, born on the 7th of September 1809 at Rotherhithe, London. He was christened in St Mary's Church, Rotherhithe on the 8th of November 1809. He was most likely brought up on the market gardens of his father.

John married twice, in 1838 to Georgina Bullen (3 children), and then after her death in 1843, was married in 1844 to Mary Ann de Rusett (8 children).

He served for many years in the army in India, rising to the rank of Captain. The Kingdom of Oude in northern India was renowned for its fabulous palaces and elaborate gardens, and here he developed close links with the Oude Royal household in the 1830s, authorising payments to employees and tradesmen, and adopting a consultative role in which he put to use some of his family expertise in horticulture. The British Resident complained that the King's favourite associates included 'a Mr DeRusett who holds the situation of barber' as well as 'a Mr Brandon, a gardener'. The barber, George Quigley, styling himself as George de Rusett, left Oude with an amassed fortune in earnings in 1836, maintaining contact with his colleague Brandon via a series of letters. On 10th February 1837 John Rose Brandon and Charles de Rusett, the barber's brother, got into a drunken argument with the King over a sacked gardening employee, in which Charles 'lost his temper and swore' and hit out at the Royal guards. Both were dismissed there and then, and confined under house arrest in their own homes. Soon released, they joined George de Rusett back in England. The King, meanwhile, died suddenly six months after their departure, allegedly poisoned by his own family. John Rose returned to Rotherhithe, where he received an old acquaintance from the Court of Oude's military staff, Yusuf Khan Kamalposh, later that year.

In 1838 both George and John Rose married into medical families; George de Rusett (bigamously, under his assumed surname) to surgeon's daughter Mary Tripe, at St Pancras on 21st April, and John Rose Brandon, on 26th September to Georgina Bullen, daughter of surgeon Robert Bullen at Bampton near Oxford.

John Rose, together with his brothers Samuel, Richard and Alfred and his sisters Elizabeth and Barbara, petitioned the courts of Chancery in July 1840 to claim their own interests in the long-running Brandon v Brandon case. John Rose was widowed within five years, but re-married in 1844 to George de Rusett's daughter (from his first marriage), Mary Ann, with George and his new wife as witnesses at St Peter's, Walworth. The three children of John Rose and Georgina went to live with their grandparents, the Bullens, in Oxfordshire, while Brandon planned a further journey to India to set up as 'Brandon and Co'. George de Rusett, now his father-in-law, was the money behind the business, and he sent his son George David de Rusett to Calcutta with John Rose Brandon in 1845 to open the company. It later set up in Cawnpore and in 1847 moved to Lucknow. In addition, associating again with the Court of Oude under its new King, John Rose was paid 200 rupees a month as a 'horticulturalist', and George David 150 rupees as an 'engineer'. Again there was antagonism with the British ruling officials in the East India Company; because of his perceived meddling in Oude's political affairs, John Rose was banished from Lucknow to Cawnpore in 1852 on the order of the British Resident. He denied wrongdoing in a letter to the Governor General of India but the decision was upheld. His Cawnpore business ventures were nevertheless successful, with Brandon owning the 'Central Star' newspaper as well as the North Western Company mail coaches running to and from Lucknow.

By 1856 the days of the Kingdom of Oude were numbered: support for annexation was gathering momentum (not helped by the recent publication of the book "The Private Life of an Eastern King", emphasising the extravagant lifestyles of De Rusett and his Royal employer); the King was offered a new treaty by which he would sign away his throne or be removed by force. On February 7th, Major-General James Outram, the British Resident in Lucknow, sent a message to Calcutta that 'the king had declined to execute the treaty', and explained further:

"The king has been encouraged and sustained in his resolution to adopt a course of negative opposition and passive resistance, by the advice, I am told and believe, of Mr Brandon, a merchant at Cawnpore, whose antecedents of meddling mischievousness are well known to his Lordship in council. This individual assures His majesty that, if deputed to England as his Agent, he will, without a doubt, obtain his restoration."
(Outram to Secretary, government of India, Lucknow, February 7, 1856).
Accordingly, in March the King left Lucknow with John Rose Brandon, riding in one of Brandon's mail coaches. John Rose himself sat on the coachbox with the driver, and in the following carriages were three of the King's wives, his younger brother, the Queen Mother and the heir apparent. Brandon put up his Royal guest that night in his own bungalow at Cawnpore. Calcutta was the next stop, where because of concerns about his health the King was advised against a journey to England, so in June 1856 the Brandons set off for England with the Dowager Queen of Oude and the heir apparent, with their Royal party, to lobby Queen Victoria for the return of her son's kingdom. They sailed on the SS Bengal to the port of Suez, travelled overland by carriage to the Mediterranean, then boarded a Peninsula and Oriental Company steamer from Alexandria, the SS Indus, and arrived at Southampton on 21st August.

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