Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II: Her India connection
As Britain goes overboard in celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Week with rehearsals on for the pageant in London on Sunday, June 5, a look at her India connection
Why are Indians still curious about the British Royal family almost 75 years after Independence? The colonial past with nursery rhymes like ‘Pussy cat, Pussy cat, where have you been? I Have been to London to look at the Queen’ etc may have something to do with it. TV serials like Crown and Jewel in the Crown also played a part and a primary reason being English is still the lingua franca of the Indian elite. And London is where most of the rich and wealthy Indians prefer to buy homes and conduct their business.
Well, India was the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the British empire and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee ‘read list’ includes seven Indian authors she recommends! They are R.K. Narayan, Arundhati Roy, V.S. Naipaul, Kamala Markandaya and Raj Kamal Jha.
The Queen’s connection with India has been long. The Nizam of Hyderabad had presented her with a diamond tiara made by Cartiers as her wedding present and the famous Kohinoor diamond sits on her crown.
The Queen’s maiden visit to India was in 1961 at the invitation of the then President Dr Rajendra Prasad. They were the guests of honour at the Republic Day parade and the then Maharaja of Jaipur organised a tiger hunting session for the royal couple.
Their second visit was in 1983 at the invitation of President Giani Zail Singh. This time they stayed at the refurbished wing of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Queen presented Mother Teresa with an honorary Order of Merit.
The third visit in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s Independence became controversial following the royal couples’ visit to the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial at Amritsar. In her banquet address, the Queen acknowledged, “It is no secret that there have been some difficult episodes in our past. Jallianwala Bagh is a distressing example.” The Royal couple went to Jallianwala Bagh, where she bowed her head and placed a wreath at the memorial, but protests continued.
The Queen has hosted three Indian presidents including Dr Radhakrishnan in 1963, R. Venkataraman in 1990 and Pratibha Patil in 2009.
Buckingham Palace in a statement disclosed that she has met 14 Presidents of the United States and 14 British Prime Ministers have served the Queen. She has visited more than 150 countries, hosted 100 state visits and sent over 300,000 congratulatory cards to those celebrating their 100th birthdays. She does not need a passport or driving licence as they are issued in the Queen’s name.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)