The Queen’s Proclamation in 1858, her first gesture as the sovereign figurehead of India, offered amnesty to large numbers of those involved in the rebellion. From this point, the royal figure would be invoked at jubilee celebrations and royal durbars, offering royal pardon to prisoners. On these occasions, up to 10 percent of prisoners were released. Indicative of the broader refashioning of colonial rule that occurred after the rebellion, this essay examines these rare but spectacular events by positioning the history of pardon within the wider structure of colonial law and sovereignty. It attempts to do this by drawing out a symbiotic relationship tying together the employment and nonemployment of physical violence, placing the sovereign right to punish and kill within the same analytical lens as the ensnaring promise of forgiveness.

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