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Sir Alfred Comyn Lyall, GCIE, KCB (4 January 1835 – 11 April 1911) was a British civil servant, literary historian and poet.


Early life

He was born at Coulsdon in Surrey, the second son of Alfred Lyall and Mary Drummond Broadwood, daughter of James Shudi Broadwood. He died at Freshwater, Isle of Wight.

Indian career

After Eton and Haileybury, he joined the Indian Civil Service in 1856, and served a long career in India, He landed at Calcutta in January 1856. After four months training he was posted as an Assistant Magistrate at Bulandshahr in the Doab (forty miles from Delhi, a district in the Meerut Division of the Lieutenant-Governorship of the North-West Provinces). He was there when the Indian Mutiny broke out the following year. His house was burnt down and he was nearly killed when fleeing as his horse was shot under him. He joined the Khaki Risala of Volunteers, an irregular European cavalry unit. He helped pacify Bulandshahr. In May 1858 he was transferred to Shahjehanpur where he helped restore order. In April 1861 he returned to England for about eighteen months. On his return to India he was appointed Assistant Manager at Agra. In 1864 he was appointed District Manager of Nagpur at Hoshungabad in the Central Provinces, before being appointed Commissioner in Berar in1867. He was now earning £3,000 a year. He went on to become Home Secretary to the Government of India in 1873 and the Governor-General's agent in the state of Rajputana the following year. His next post was as Foreign Secretary to Government of India from 1878 to 1881 (during this period he helped negotiate peace and a monarchy in Afghanistan). He was then appointed Lieutenant-Governor of North West Provinces, and Chief Commissioner of Oudh (North-West Provinces) from 1882 to 1887 (he introduced a degree of local self-government to that area). He also founded the University of Allabad and became its first Chancellor. He was made an honorary fellow of King's College, Cambridge in 1893.[1] He was made a member of the Privy Council in 1902, having served on the India Council from 1888 to 1902.


He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE) in 1887, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1881 and Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE) in 1896. (For more information on these honours see sections on Order of the Bath and Order of the Indian Empire.)


His Verses Written in India was published in 1889. He wrote a number of other books on poetry. He wrote also books on Indian history, Warren Hastings, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. His literary achievements brought him advanced degrees, a D.C.L. from Oxford (1889) and an LL.D. from Cambridge (1891), an Honorary Fellow of King's College, Cambridge (1893), and membership in the British Academy (1902).

A more comprehensive list of his known publications is given below:

  • Asiatic Studies, Religious and Social: First Series. (John Murray. London, 1882)
  • The Rise and Expansion of the British Dominion in India. (John Murray. London, 1893)
  • Warren Hastings (English Men of Action Series). (Macmillan & Co. London, 1889)
  • Verses Written in India. (Kegan Paul, Trench. London, 1889)
  • Asiatic Studies: Religious and Social in India, China & Asia: Second Series. (John Murray. London, 1899)
  • Tennyson (English Men of Letters series). (Macmillan & Co. London, 1902)
  • The Life of the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, 2 vols. (John Murray. London, 1905)
  • Etudes sur les moeurs religieuses et socials de l'Extrême-Orient. (French translation of Asiatic Studies, First & Second Series: Fontemoing, Paris. 1907-1908)
  • Studies in Literature and History. (published posthumously by John Murray. London, 1915)


He married Cornelia Arnoldina Cloete (c1836 - 1913) at Stoke-by-Clare, Suffolk on November 12, 1862. They had four children (two sons and two daughters). Their second daughter Mary Evelina (1868 - 1948) married the Indian civil servant John Ontario Miller (1857 - 1943). His uncles included George Lyall (1779 - 1853) Chairman of the East India Company in 1830 and William Rowe Lyall (1788 - 1857) Dean of Canterbury 1845 to 1857. His brother James Broadwood Lyall (1838 - 1916) also served in the Indian Civil Service, becoming Lt-Governor of the Punjab. His sister Mary Sybilla (1836 - 1891) was married to Francis James Holland (1828 - 1907) Canon at Canterbury Cathedral.


  1. ^ Lyall, Sir Alfred Comyn in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir George Ebenezer Wilson Couper
Lieutenant Governor of the North-Western Provinces and Chief Commissioner of Oudh
17 April 1882–21 November 1887
Succeeded by
Sir Auckland Colvin


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