Begum Joanna Nobilis Sombre, popularly known as Begum Samru and also, as Begum Sumru, (née Farzana Zeb un-Nissa) started her career as a Nautch (dancing) girl in 18th Century India, and eventually became the ruler of Sardhana, a small principality near Meerut. Later on, she played a key role in the political power struggle in 18th and 19th century India.
She was the head of a professionally trained mercenary army, inherited from her European mercenary husband, Walter Reinhardt Sombre. This mercenary army consisted of Europeans and Indians. She is also regarded as the only Catholic Ruler in India, as she ruled the Principality of Sardhana in 18th and 19th century India.
She died immensely rich. Her inheritance was assessed as approximately 55.5 Million Gold Mark in 1923 and 18 Billion Deutsch Mark in 1953. Her inheritance continues to be disputed to this day. An organisation named “Reinhards Erbengemeinschaft” still strives to resolve the inheritance issue. During her lifetime she had converted to Christianity from Islam.