Arrival of William Hawkins in court of Jahangir

In 1607, William Hawkins commanded the ship “Hector” for East India Company on a voyage to Surat and Aden loaded with letters & presents from King of England James I. He arrived in Surat in August 1608, but the road ahead was not a cakewalk.

As soon as
sailed in, it was captured by the Portuguese. William Hawkins was told that all the ports belong to the “King of Portugal” and none ought to come here without his license. But, he was later let leave and receive a pass for his journey to Agra. He was helped by the Viceroy of the Burhanpur midway and after much labor, toil and many dangers; he was able to reach Agra on April 16, 1609.

Akbar who was contemporary of queen Elizabeth-I was little known in England, but when Hawkins arrived, there was a different personality sitting on the throne who was not at all known in England.

But Captain Hawkins was received by this new emperor Jahangir with all Indian hospitality and warmth. His letter was read in the court with the help of a Portuguese Jesuit. Then he was taken to the private audience chamber and they had a conversation for some 3 hours.

  • Hawkins was well versed in Turkish and Jahangir and some of his ministers also knew Turkish, the native tongue of Babur. So the discussions took place in Turkish.

Hawkins was able to acquire a footing in the court of Jahangir and in due course of time he got so intimacy with the “talented drunkard” emperor that no Europeans had ever afterwards.

Jahangir called him “English Khan“. This English Khan was able to persuade the emperor to grant a commission for an English factory at Surat but under the Pressure of the Portuguese Viceroy, the grant was withdrawn. Hawkins lived in the court of Mughal emperor till 1611, tried to reverse the orders, but the Portuguese influence over the King was impregnable. He returned in disgust on November 2, 1611. He died a couple of years later.

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