Scholarship on institutional history rarely brings the academe to a heightened state of excitement. However, when institutions cross spans of time and place while intersecting with multiple cultural identities and levels of power, things can become more captivating. An ideal institution for examination of this very process is the Court of Wards. Originally devised in Tudor England, the Court was later brought to India by members of the East India Company and put into wide use throughout the subcontinent. In India, its purpose was to shelter child heirs and their estates, eventually returning heir and estate to autonomy when ruling age was reached. However, while the Court in England and in India has received some critical review, we can extend its investigation one step further by examining its use in the ‘other India’, that of the princely states. How did this administrative unit become adopted and adapted to some of India's 560 princely states? To what degree were the Court and its administrators able to rectify an inherent tension within the Court's purpose? It was largely designed to protect child heirs and their estates, and return them in due time. But, in a princely state, in some circumstances, the ultimate ‘owner’ of any land was the chief prince. Did the Court mediate between the wishes of the ruling prince and his (or her) smaller ‘little kings?’ In short, to what extent was the Court of Wards at times a babysitter, and at other times a bank robber?