By C.P. Belliappa
It has been a series of serendipitous discovery ever since I started researching and reconstructing the story of Victoria Gowramma. As I wrote, I stumbled upon, quite fortuitously, on several hitherto unknown details of the period Chikka Veerarajendra and his daughter spent in Victorian England from 1852 to 1864.
In the first edition of my book – ‘Victoria Gowramma: The Lost Princess of Coorg’ – I wrote that Gowramma and her husband Col John Campbell, had a daughter Edith, who married Captain Henry Edward Yardley in 1882. Their only son named Henry Victor Yardley, emigrated to Australia. Henry Victor died quite young in a motorbike accident in 1936. I concluded that there were no further descendants of Gowramma. I was wrong.
It was while releasing my book at Nehru Centre in London that I serendipitously met Anne Phillips – a direct descendant of Col John Campbell from his first wife Margaret Matthew. Anne told me that Henry Victor Yardley married Ethel May Field and they had three children – one son and two daughters. Anne also gave me some rare photographs of Gowramma and her daughter Edith from her private collection that are included in the second edition. (One of the photographs of Gowramma is reproduced here.)
Anne Phillips and I collaborated in tracking the descendants of Victoria Gowramma in Australia. Using the amazingly well-documented Australian Registry of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, we were able to gather information online and draw the family-tree of Gowramma’s descendants. However, we could not get in touch with the family.
About a year ago, another serendipity happened when to my delight, Robert Yardley, a great-great-grandson of Victoria Gowramma, read my book and left a message for me on one of the blogs. We have been exchanging notes ever since.
Robert’s daughter Natashya Yardley got in touch with me recently and informed of her visit to Coorg with her husband Sean Langton. Natashya is Gowramma’s great-great-great granddaughter! I was obviously elated at the prospect of meeting a direct descendant Princess Victoria Gowramma.
I took Natashya and Sean to various places of interest connected with the Haleri dynasty in Coorg. Natasyha was amazed that the Indian branch of her ancestry could be traced back to Veeraraja who established the dynasty in 1600 AD.
Natashya has just sent me a rare photograph of her great-grandfather (and grandson of Gowramma) – Henry Victor Rajendra Yardley, sitting on his ill-fated motorbike. It was a revelation that ‘Rajendra’ was part of his name. Natashya has a half-sister, a brother, and a teenaged daughter named Nicole.
It was a special experience for me to meet and interact with a direct descendant of my muse.