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David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre

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David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre 18 December 1808 – 1 July 1851, also known as D O Dyce Sombre and David Dyce Sombre, was an Anglo-Indian held to be the first person of Asian descent to be elected to the British Parliament He was elected to represent the Sudbury constituency in July 1841, but was removed in April 1842 due to bribery in the election process He was named after the British Resident at Delhi, David Ochterlony


  • 1 Lineage and background
  • 2 Army
  • 3 Religious position
  • 4 Marriage
  • 5 Escape, medical reports and death
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

Lineage and background

David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre was great-grandson of Walter Reinhardt Sombre c 1725 – 1778, a mercenary soldier who lived for many years in India Walter Reinhardt Sombre had two wives, both of whom were Indian Muslim women; the senior wife is known only as Badi Bibi "senior lady", while the second wife was the famous Begum Samru c 1753–1836 The name "Samru" is the local corruption of the name "Sombre," and the begum, a Kashmiri Muslim by birth, converted in 1781 to the catholic faith A fabulously wealthy woman, she was left with no surviving children or grandchildren in her old age Her husband had had only one son by Badi Bibi his first wife; that young man, who died in 1799, had left behind a daughter named Juliana, who married a man named George Alexander Dyce and gave birth to several children One of these children was David Ochterlony Dyce, the subject of this page He was selected by Begum Samru, the second wife of his great-grandfather, to succeed to her vast estates He thereupon added the surname "Sombre" to his existing names and came to be known as David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre

The details are as follows The mercenary soldier Walter Reinhardt Sombre c 1725 – 1778 had one son by his senior wife, Badi Bibi The boy, born in 1764, was initially named Zafar Yab Khan and raised more or less as a Muslim by his mother in a mixed household However, he accepted catholic baptism in 1781 aged 17, three years after the death of his catholic father Incidentally, his widowed step-mother, Begum Samru, also accepted catholic baptism at the same time Upon his baptism, the young man's name was changed to "Walter Balthazzar Reinhardt," or according to a biography of his grandson "Aloysius Balthazzar Reinhardt" He married Julia Anne or Juliana Le Fevre 1770–1815, daughter of a captain in Begum Samru's service Julia Anna was also known as Juliana, as Madame Reybaud and as Bhai Begum The couple had two children, a son, Aloysius Reinhardt, who died young and is buried in the Akbar Church in Agra, and a daughter, Julia Anne or Juliana Zafar Yab alias Walter/Aloysius Reinhardt died in 1799 of cholera, being survived by his wife Juliana who died in 1815 and his daughter, also named Juliana

The younger Juliana was born in 1787 or perhaps on 19 November 1789 and died in 1820 In 1803, aged 16 at most, she married a certain George Alexander Dyce died April 1838, buried at Fort William, Calcutta This George Alexander Dyce was the illegitimate half-caste ie mixed-race, Anglo-Indian son of a Major General Dyce This couple had several children, of whom four are mentioned in subsequent papers and histories; they are:

  1. David Ochterlony b 18 December 1808, the subject of this entry,
  2. George Archibald b 1 August 1810,died within a year, and
  3. Anna Maria b 24 December 1813 who married John Rose Troup, a former East India Company general
  4. Georgiana b 2 September 1807; alternatively 1815–1867 She married an Italian mercenary soldier named Paolo Solaroli 1796–1878 who was later to become a wealthy and ranking aristocrat Born into a humble family from Novara, Piedmont, Paolo Solaroli joined the Sardinian army, was ennobled in the 1840s by Carlo Alberto of Sardinia, became Baron by 1864, was elevated to the title of Marchese di Briona in 1867 by Vittorio Emmanuele II, and later became a diplomat He had descendants and left them an enormous estate at his death His castle was acquired in 1864 by the government In the 1840s, he was styled Baron Paolo Solaroli, but was referred to by his sister-in-law and her lawyers as Peter Solaroli


Having become "family" by his marriage to the Begum's step-granddaughter, George Alexander Dyce was rapidly made commander of the Begam's army He considered that he was entitled to the Begam's wealth through marriage to Reinhardt's heir, and when Julia Anne died in 1820, began to help himself George Alexander Dyce was an uncaring and unloving father Therefore, he was removed but he continued to make a real nuisance of himself until his death Among his other inequities, he instituted a civil suit against his own son and caused his arrest and subsequent release upon heavy bail

When Julia Anne died in 1820, Begam Sumroo looked after the children as her own Young David was taken over and brought up by her as her son and heir

Religious position

Although educated by Protestant missionaries, David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre was brought up a Catholic He added Sombre to his name on being formally nominated by the Begam as her sole heir and successor She transferred to him her wealth, and the administration of her principality but her attempts to have him accepted by the British as ruler on her death were to no avail

When the Begam died in 1836, the British took possession of Sardhana, all the arms which she had brought from them to equip her army, as well as the lands of Badshapur, which were her private property They also failed to honour undertakings to continue the many pensions paid from the revenue David's attempts to have these wrongs rectified were unsuccessful, although compensation for the arms was eventually granted long after his death He was embroiled in attempts by his father to grab his fortune His personal life was marked by extravagant spending – gambling, womanising, and even the occasional pimping – to please European friends and better-off Anglo-Indian friends such as Sir Charles Metcalfe Ochterlony


After a visit to China, David set out for England and the Grand Tour of Europe He married on 26 September 1840 the Honourable Mary Anne Jervis, third daughter of the second Viscount St Vincent, his only daughter by his second wife, described as "accomplished singer, dancer, and composer" and also as an associate of the Duke of Wellington; the marriage took place despite quarrels over his fiancée's social life and the religious affiliation of their future and never born children He also got himself elected as MP for Sudbury in July 1841, and was then deposed in April 1842 after objections from the loser He accused his wife of adultery with various men including her own father, and his life turned for the worse, when his wife had him certified insane and held under restraint, with the support and consent of his sisters Mrs Anna May Troup 1812–1867 and Baroness Georgiana Solaroli 1815–1867 and their husbands

Escape, medical reports and death

In September that year, David escaped his guards and fled to France, where an attempt to have him extradited failed Doctors all over Europe examined him and found he was perfectly sane, but his attempts to reverse the judgement were brushed aside He managed to obtain part of his estate with an allowance of 4,000 pounds deducted for his wife Meanwhile, he travelled from one end of Europe to the other Finally, with a change of Government, there seemed a chance of success He returned to England with indemnity from arrest, but a few days before the case was due to be heard he died suddenly in excruciating agony from a septic foot on 1 July 1851

He was buried at once in an unmarked grave, which has not been touched since – yet his body was also returned to India to be buried in Sardhana! His Will providing for the establishment of a school in Sardhana was contested by his estranged wife, whom he had disinherited, on the grounds that he was still insane She won the case sometime around 1856, and became the richest woman in England Later on, she was also known as Lady Forester, through her marriage to George Weld-Forester, 3rd Baron Forester on 8 November 1862 The former Mrs Dyce Sombre died childless in 1893, and her fortune presumably passed to the Weld-Forester family


  1. ^ List of Inscriptions on Christian Tombs and Tablets of Historical Interest in the United Provinces BiblioBazaar, LLC 2009 pp 17–18 ISBN 1-115-90721-2 
  2. ^ Fisher, Michael H 2006 Counterflows to colonialism: Indian travellers and settlers in Britain, 1600–1857 Orient Blackswan p 318 ISBN 81-7824-154-4 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ "Mr Dyce Sombre's refutation of the charge of lunacy brought against him in", p 159
  6. ^ Oxford DNB 18 December 2006 daily entry gives the daughters' names and dates as Anna May 1812–1867 and Georgiana 1815–1867 archived version on a mailing list
  7. ^
  8. ^ Fisher, Michael H 15 May 2010 The Inordinately Strange Life of Dyce Sombre: Victorian Anglo Indian MP and Chancery "Lunatic" Columbia/Hurst Columbia University Press p 384 ISBN 0-231-70108-X more details from Amazon CUP description: "The descendent of German and French Catholic mercenaries, a Scots Presbyterian subaltern, and their secluded Indian wives, David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre 1808–1851 defied all classification in the North Indian principality where he grew up He also lived as the adopted child of a Muslim courtesan, a woman who would transform herself into the wildly successful, Catholic ruler of a small, cosmopolitan kingdomAccusations of spousal mistreatment led to Sombre's arrest and confinement Termed a "chancery lunatic," he fled to France and spent years reclaiming his sanity and fortune Sombre's efforts set new precedents for international and medical law
  9. ^ Christopher Howse Mary Anne's status as daughter by a second wife is obtained from other sources Howse describes her father as a Jamaican plantationer, not as a Protestant peer
  10. ^ Howse
  11. ^ Pies, R; Fisher, MH; Haldipur, CV 2012 "The mysterious illness of dyce sombre" Innov Clin Neurosci 9: 10–2 PMC 3342989  PMID 22567603 
  12. ^ WILL OF MR DYCE SOMBRE HC Deb 14 March 1856 vol 141 cc177-9, Sir James Hogg speaking

External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by David Sombre
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Tomline
Joseph Bailey
Member of Parliament for Sudbury
With: Frederick Meynell Villiers
Constituency disfranchised for corruption
  • Oxford DNB entry

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