In the absence of a natural heir, Indian states’ sovereignty lapsed to the British, and monarchs could not adopt a son to succeed.
This doctrine was not created by Dalhousie. Adoption after the death of natural heirs “should be the exception, not the rule,” the Company’s Directors decided in 1844, “and should only be granted as a particular mark of favour or approval.”
However, prior to Dalhousie, the English did not adopt a fixed principle concerning it and, in most of the cases, the rulers were permitted to adopt their heirs.
Dalhousie pursued a fixed policy concerning it and divided the native states into three categories, viz states created by the English, dependent states and independent states. The rulers of the first category of states were not given the right to adopt their heirs, the rulers of the second category were bound to seek permission for it, and the rulers of the third category were free to adopt their heirs.
The First State to be annexed under Doctrine of Lapse was Satara (1848), followed by Jaipur and Sambalpur (1849), Bhagat (1850), Udaipur (1852), Jhansi (1853) and Nagpur (1854).