METCALFE, SIR CHARLES THEOPHILUS (1785-1846), diplomat and provisional Governor-General of India, son of Thomas Theophilus Matcalfe, a director of the East India Company, was born in Calcutta, on 30 January 1785. He started his career as a writer in the service of the East India Company. He was appointed agent successively to generals Lake, Smith, and Dowdeswell. In 1808, Lord Minto sent him as an envoy to the court of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. Charles Metcalfe was then 23, and, as an assistant to the Resident at Delhi, was well versed in Sikh affairs. Seldom perhaps, in Anglo-Indian diplomatic annals, was a delicate task entrusted to one so young in years. Metcalfe's mission to Lahore was meant to engage Mahārājā Ranjīt Siṅgh in a defensive alliance against the supposed French invasion of India. Matcalfe's correspondence reveals that the Sikh Mahārājā was little impressed by the so-called French menace. He, nevertheless, wished to take advantage of the negotiations to exhibit his resistance to British intrusion into the cis-Sutlej Sikh territory. He was willing to cooperate with the British, but demand-ed that he should first be acknowledged as the head of the Sikh nation. The recession late in 1808 of the French threat, such as there was, altered the situation materially. Instead of pursuing a defensive alliance with Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, the British mission made a political arrangement with the cis-Sutlej chiefs. The negotiations supported by the advance of a British detachment under Major-General Ochterlony to Ludhiāṇā, ultimately ended in the treaty of Amritsar (25 April 1809), which brought the Sikhs and the British government into a friendly alliance. By the Treaty, the Company advanced its political frontier to the River Sutlej. On his side, the Sikh Mahārājā, having made alliance with the neighbourly power on his southern border, was now free to turn his energies to expanding his influence in the north and northwest of his dominions.

         Metcalfe had been Resident of Delhi from 1811-20 and of Hyderābād from 1820-27. In 1827, he became a member of the Supreme Council, and in March 1835 he was appointed Governor of Āgrā. He provisionally succeeded Lord William Bentinck as Governor-General of India (1835). From 1839-42, he was Governor of Jamaica and from 1843-45 Governor General of Canada. In 1845, he was created Baron Metcalfe. He died on 5 September 1846.


  1. Ahluwalia, M.L., ed., Select Documents relating to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Negotiations with the British Envoy Charles Theophilus Metcalfe 1808-1809. Delhi, 1982
  2. Thompson, Edward, Life of Charles, Lord Metcalfe. London, 1937
  3. Kaye, John William, Life and Correspondence of Lord Metcalfe. London, 1858
  4. Selections from the Papers of Lord Metcalfe. Bombay, 1855
  5. Hasrat, Bikrama Jit, Anglo-Sikh Relations, 1799-1849. Hoshiarpur, 1968
  6. Khushwant Singh, Ranjit Singh : Maharajah of the Punjab. Bombay, 1973
  7. Bhagat Singh, Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Times. Delhi, 1990
  8. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983

B. J. Hasrat