Find the word definition

princely state

n. A political state, in the widest sense, which is ruled as or like a principality in the generic sense, regardless of the ruler's actual title and rank

Princely state

A princely state, also called native state (legally, under the British) or Indian state (for those states on the subcontinent), was a nominally sovereign monarchy under a local or regional ruler in a subsidiary alliance with a greater power. Though the history of the princely states of the subcontinent dates from at least the classical period of Indian history, the predominant usage of the term princely state specifically refers to a semi-sovereign principality on the Indian subcontinent during the British Raj that was not directly governed by the British, but rather by a local ruler under a form of indirect rule; similar political entities also existed on or in the region of the Arabian Peninsula, in Africa and in Malaya, and which were similarly recognised under British rule, subject to a subsidiary alliance and the suzerainty or paramountcy of the British Crown. Oman, Zanzibar and the Trucial States were also under the British Raj, and were administered in the same manner as the Indian princely states as part of the Persian Gulf Residency; however, they were officially categorised as British protectorates, with differing degrees of autonomy.

There were officially 565 princely states in the Indian subcontinent, at the time of independence in August 1947, apart from thousands of zamindaris and jagirs. The most prominent among those - roughly a quarter of the total - had the status of a salute state, one whose ruler was honoured by receiving a set number of gun salutes on ceremonial occasions, ranging from nine to 21. Rulers of salute states entitled to a gun salute of 11 guns and above received the style of Highness; the Nizam of Hyderabad had the unique style of Exalted Highness.

The princely states varied greatly in status, size and wealth; the premier 21-gun salute states of Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir were each over 200,000 km in size, or slightly larger than the whole of Great Britain. In 1941, Hyderabad had a population of over 16 million, comparable to the population of Romania at the time, while Jammu and Kashmir had a population of slightly over 4 million, comparable to that of Switzerland. At the other end of the scale, the non-salute principality of Lawa covered an area of 49 km, or smaller than Bermuda, with a population of just below 3,000. Some two hundred of the lesser states had an area of less than 25 km (10 mi). At independence, Hyderabad had annual revenues of over Rs. 9 crore (roughly £6.75 million/$27.2 million in 1947 values, approximately £240 million/$290 million in 2014 values), and its own army, airline, telecommunication system, railway, postal system, currency, radio service and a major public university; the tiny state of Lawa had annual revenues of just Rs. 28,000 (£2100/$8463 in 1947 values, £73,360/$89,040 in 2014 values).

The era of the princely states effectively ended with Indian independence in 1947. By 1950, almost all of the principalities had acceded to either India or Pakistan nine to Pakistan and the rest to India. The accession process was largely peaceful except in the cases of Jammu & Kashmir (whose king decided to accede to India, but only after an invasion by Pakistan-based tribal militia), Hyderabad (whose ruler opted for total independence in 1947, resulting in the forced annexation of the state to India) and Kalat (whose ruler declared independence in 1947, resulting in the state's forced annexation to Pakistan in 1948 and an ongoing and still unresolved insurgency.)

As per the terms of accession, the erstwhile Indian princes received privy purses (government allowances), and were initially allowed to retain their statuses, privileges and autonomy in internal matters during a transitional period which lasted until 1956. During this time, the former princely states were merged into unions, each of which was headed by a former ruling prince with the title of Rajpramukh (ruling chief), equivalent to a state governor. In 1956, the position of Rajpramukh was abolished and the federations dissolved, the former principalities becoming part of Indian states. The states which acceded to Pakistan retained their status until the promulgation of a new constitution in 1956, when they became part of the province of West Pakistan; a few of the former states retained their autonomy until 1969 when they were fully integrated into Pakistan. The Indian Government formally derecognised the princely families in 1971, followed by the Government of Pakistan in 1972.

Usage examples of "princely state".

Right here we suffered the first diminution of our princely state.

Kashmir, after all, is not strictly speaking a part of the Empire, but an independent princely state.

That worthy sachem landed in princely state, arrayed in a bright blue blanket and red breech clout, with an extra quantity of paint and feathers, attended by a train of half-naked warriors and nobles.