Born November 1828 AD in the holy city of Varanasi, she was married to the maharaja of Jhansi in May 1842, thus renamed Lakshmibai in honor of the goddess and made a Rani. Unconventionally, her dotting father had her trained in fencing, riding, shooting, even reading and writing – all martial skills that would serve her well later. In 1853, upon the death of the Maharaja and the earlier passing of the couple’s only son, the British East India Company – with typical Anglo greed – invoked the “Doctrine of Lapse” and annexed the state. A year later, the Rani was given an unwanted pension and ordered to depart the palace-fortress.
Lakshmibai attempted to seek legal restitution of her crown but, given that this was in British courts, without success. Somewhat fortuitously, it was at this point that the entire Indian army mutinied in June 1857. Taking advantage of the chaos, five days later the Rani escaped from house arrest, declared open revolt, and attacked the British fort at Jhansi. Although her role has been debated, the British population in the kingdom was massacred to the last child. While the fighting raged across India, Lakshmibai prepared her army. In early 1858 General Sir Hugh Rose invaded, bringing a few thousand regulars and many cannons.
The Rani managed to hold on for two weeks until a rebel relief column of some 20 thousand from an adjacent province approached. Unfortunately for the Rani, the British cannon blew apart her combined force. Having evacuated as many of her people as possible from the city and fortress, she led the survivors to join the hopeless effort to overthrow British rule. In June 1858, in Gwalior, she was killed in a stiff little battle with the 8th Hussars Regiment. Fulfilling her dying wish that her body not fall into the hands of the spiteful English, her loyal bodyguards built a funeral pyre on the spot.