After studying at Eton College between 1845 and 52, Sir Alfred Comyn Lyall (1835-1911) arrived in Calcutta in 1856 and was appointed assistant magistrate of Bulandshahr district. He fought in the great rebellion of 1857 and received the mutiny medal for his services. While home on leave in 1861 he met Cora Cloete and brought her back to India as his wife in 1862 where he served as assistant magistrate of Agra. Lyall was transferred to the Central Provinces in 1864, and was appointed commissioner of West Berar in 1867. In 1873 Lord Northbrook, the viceroy, made Lyall home secretary, and he became foreign secretary in 1878. For his role in the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1881) Lyall received the CB for initially supporting the dismemberment of Afghanistan, and a KCB when this policy failed and instead he supported handing the country over to the strongest contender for amir. Lyall was appointed lieutenant-governor of the North-Western Provinces and chief commissioner of Oudh in 1881. He opened Allahabad University in 1887 as part of his liberal, yet cautious, reforms.
He retired from the Indian service in 1887 and returned home to England, where he won many honorary degrees for his essays, including from Oxford and Cambridge. Lyall was a founding fellow of the British Academy in 1902 and a trustee of the British Museum in 1911. Many admired his irony, including Alfred Lord Tennyson and Sir Spencer Walpole, while Gertrude Bell was one of his few female friends. After his death in 1911 his wife, two sons and two daughters commissioned his biography by Sir Mortimer Durand (Katherine Prior, ‘Sir Alfred Comyn (1835–1911), administrator in India and writer’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).
This kukri was a gift from Indra Kunwar, the Maharani of Balrampur from 1882 to 1886. Her adopted son Kunwar Udit Narayan Singh succeeded as Maharaja Bahadur Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh.