In September 1857, a member of a religious sect killed himself on hearing the news that the object of his devout observance, Nikal Seyn, had died. Nikal Seyn was, in fact, John Nicholson, the leader of the British assault that recovered Delhi at the turning-point of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. What was it about Nicholson that prompted such devotion, not just from his religious followers, but from the general public? And why is he no longer considered a hero? The man called ‘The Lion of the Punjab’ by his contemporaries and compared to Wolfe of Quebec and even to Napoleon has in recent times been dubbed ‘an imperial psychopath’ and ‘a homosexual bully’. Yet his was a remarkable tale of a life of adventure lived on the very edge of the British Empire; of a man who was as courageous as he was ruthless, as loyal to his friends as he was merciless to those who crossed him.
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