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Author photo. A painting of Lady Florentia Sale escaping from Kabul on horse Richard Thomas Bott, 1844

A painting of Lady Florentia Sale escaping from Kabul on horse Richard Thomas Bott, 1844

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Florentia Wynch was born in Madras to a family of English civil servants during the time the country was ruled by the East India Company. She received a good education as a child. In 1809, she married Sir Robert Henry Sale, a British officer (later General Sale) of the 13th Light Infantry. Lady Sale accompanied her husband on his various assignments in India, Mauritius, Burma, Afghanistan, and other outposts of the British Empire. They had 12 children, of whom four died in infancy or childhood. She kept a journal, with a fine eye toward military details, during some of this time. In 1842, during the First Anglo-Afghan War, Lady Sale, her pregnant daughter and son-in-law were in Kabul when, during General Sale's absence, an uprising occurred, sending the British garrison fleeing in retreat through the Khyber Pass. Most died in the terrible wintry conditions or were killed; a few, including Lady Sale and her daughter, were taken hostage. After nine months in captivity, and the birth of her granddaughter Julia Sturt, Lady Sale managed to bribe her captors to release them. A year later, she published her diary as A Journal of the Disasters in Afghanistan, 1841-42, A Firsthand Account by One of the Few Survivors, which became a bestseller in the UK and won Lady Sale acclaim for her courage. After her husband died in action in 1845, she spent most of her remaining years in India. She died on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa.
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