Lawrence on the Fall of Mathabar Singh


18th May, 1845

Minister’s confidential Subadar came to me yesterday saying that the Raja and his son were quarrelling and that Matabar Singh was in trouble. The subadar repeated that he was specially desired to informed me. As I had twenty times before done, I simply heard what the man had to say and gave a salam in reply. That night the Minister was murdered

It is said that he was sent for twice or thrice during the day and made excuses for not going. Some say that the Raja twice went to his house and was not admitted. This I doubt, but there have been occasions when, the Raja went to him and the Minister hearing he was coming, stepped out at a back door. I know of no new cause of offence given by the Minister. Since December he has virtually usurped all authority, but all respect was paid to the raja who never seemed more satisfied than during the last two months: most probably putting out his blandest countenance when he had determined to strike.

It is marvelous that Matabar Singh, who was so full of the danger of his own position, who had so often dwelt on it, and who had armed himself with so many security bonds, though he knew their worthlessness, could, yet, bring himself to believe that the Raja was satisfied. The very last time I had any conversation with Matabar Singh, I asked him what the Raja thought of all his innovations and whether the Raja was satisfied? “Much please,” was the reply, “he is very happy and amuses himself in the Palace running races with the Heir Apparent.”

There can be no doubt that the Raja had long made up his mind perhaps, indeed, only allowed Matabar Singh to return to Nepal to murder him; but was long cowed by his bold spirit, until latterly, having given his victim full swing, the latter disgusted the soldiers and chiefs and left himself unsupported. In this durbar, Matabar Singh was as a lion among a pack of curs, every man trembled before him; they all bark loud enough now. The Minister was a dangerous man, but he had very good points: much energy and considerable ability. It would be difficult to find such another man in Nepal.

The new Barracks he was building, if a monument to his folly, is also so of his skill and energy. In a fortnight much rough ground had been levelled and twenty three large Barracks nearly completed. I have nowhere seen so judicious and economical a system of working, nothing was lost. Instead of digging holes for earth for kutcha bricks, the rough ground was levelled, the earth used for bricks, and a perfect level left where there had been only inequalities. Not a water carrier was employed, but in all directions, drains were cut and streams trained as required. All else was done with similar method and skill. Nepal has indeed lost her right arm; and blind will be the Minister who takes his place.


Excerpt from Resident Henry Lawrence’s Nepal Diary, 1 Oct 1843 – 14 Oct, 1845, archived at The British Library as MSS.Eur.F85.96. The extensive grammatical and nomenclature mistakes in the manuscript, probably introduced during copying of the original diary, have been corrected. To the best of our knowledge, this material is previously unpublished. The diary entry makes an intriguing new suggestion that on the day of Mathabar Singh Thapa’s murder, he was summoned repeatedly to the Darbar.

Portrait of Mathabar Singh Thapa from the National Museum, Nepal. Photo uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Manoguru. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Share your thoughts.