Between 1819 and 1926 four Muslim women rulers reigned over Bhopal, the second largest Muslim state of India, despite staunch opposition from powerful neighbors and male claimants. Even the British India Company initially opposed female rule in Bhopal until the Begums quoted Queen Victoria as their model and inspiration. Each Begum--or Queen--impressed her own personality on the role and succeeded in reigning over a mostly Hindu population. Qudisa, the first Begum, was supported by her powerful French-Bourbon Prime Minister in her departure from the traditional. She was succeeded in 1844 by Sikandar, her only daughter, who was also followed by her only daughter, the highly controversial Shahjehan. The story ends with the last Begum, Sultan Jehan, and her abdication in favor of her son, the first male ruler (Nawab) of Bhopal in five generations. This book offers the first balanced history of the state.
Shaharyar M. Khan is a direct descendant of Bhopal's ruling family and is a career diplomat.