During the eighteenth century, the East India Company and Princess Qutlugh Sultan Begam forged an alliance that publicly acknowledged her maternal authority over a large Mughal household in the city of Banaras and the Mughal princes residing there. In a period when the relationship between public authority and motherhood was subject to debate in Britain and India, Qutlugh Begam used this collaboration to reproduce Mughal power in Banaras. This article shows that the politics of motherhood that emerged between the Company and Qutlugh Begam was a site of possibilities. To Qutlugh Begam, it was the means to shaping Mughal patrilineal succession, and to the Company, it was a strategy to make the Mughal princes who posed a threat to its sovereignty into subjects. These competing aspirations determined the limits of the politics of motherhood at the onset of colonial rule in India and the fading of Mughal orders.

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