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Nagas Dancing before the Prince of Wales's Elephant in the Torchlight Procession at Jeypore. Source: Tinted engraving from the collection of the Imperial Hotel, Janpath, New Delhi, reproduced by kind permission of the hotel. The Prince, in a red jacket, sits in the leading elephant's howdah behind a swirling flame.

Prince Albert Edward (Bertie), Queen Victoria's eldest son, was now over halfway through his highly successful seventeen-week tour of India. He had disembarked from the royal ship HMSS Serapis on 8 November 1875, and he was leaving Delhi late on 17 January 1876. Still to come were more triumphal entries, more banquets, balls and hunting expeditions, and some of the most spectacular sights of the trip, including the Himalayas and the Taj Mahal. At home, the Prince, like his mother, was "sufficiently great to brush aside on occasions the hard-and-fast rules of Court customs and observances" (The Private Life, 12); but as the weeks passed by, any doubts about his readiness to behave with due formality and respect to the Crown were dispelled. His strengths became still more apparent, as did the general warmth of his reception in India, and the wholeheartedness with which he responded to it. This not only improved his own image, but encouraged Queen Victoria to present herself as the Empress of India, and helped to foster the "extraordinary attachment and even reverence for the Queen's person which littered Indian cities with her statues and certainly strengthened Anglo-Indian ties" (Spear 148).

Amritsar and Lahore

Golden Temple, Amritsar A Sikh Warrior A Distinguished Maharajah

Three illustrations by Mortimer Menpes. Left to right: (a) A Distinguished Maharajah. Source: Finnemore, facing p. 9. (b) A Sikh Warrior. Source: Finnemore, facing p. 16. (c) The Golden Temple, Amritsar. Source: Finnemore, facing p. 25.

The royal party breakfasted at Amritsar, where the Prince admired the famous Golden Temple of the Sikhs, though he declined to discard his footwear and inspect its interior. According to the Court Circular in the Times of 31 January 1876, it was "considered inexpedient" for him to do so. More to his taste, no doubt, was the fort-like station of Lahore about thirty miles further on (now, of course, in Pakistan), where he was greeted with the usual rousing and extravagant welcome. But there was a difference. Its military flavour was spiced with a new exoticism: "The roll of drums, blare of trumpets, and clang and outburst of strange instruments saluted the Prince. Lance and sword, morion and cuirass [helmet and breastplate], flashed, and all was light and beautiful. The very spirit of chivalry hovered over these martial faces and noble forms," wrote the Times special correspondent, William Howard Russell, who also served as the Prince's Honorary Private Secretary. Russell noted too the "flat roofs and carved lattices" here, and "an Orientalism which is not altogether Indian" (421). The party was conveyed to Government House by a procession of carriages, including that of the Lieutenant-Governor himself, drawn by six tall camels. One triumphal arch was festooned with costly Cashmere shawls, "not one of which was valued at less than 50/- sterling," commented another correspondent, this time for the Central News, wonderingly (Wheeler 254).

Arrival at Lahore Hill people

Left: Arrival of the Prince of Wales at Lahore (detail, showing his "friendly salutation"). Source: Tinted engraving from the collection of the Imperial Hotel, Janpath, New Delhi, reproduced by kind permission of the hotel. Right: Hill-people from the Himalayan foothills today, still wearing the silver amulets, beads, and "nose, finger, and toe-rings" customary at that time (Russell 473).

The Prince was unfailingly gracious. For example, when the chiefs at Lahore found themselves unable to lower their fixed ensigns as his own sepoys had done, he soon "smoothed down [their] ruffles ... by his smile and friendly salutation" (Wheeler 255). One of the events laid on for the royal party this time was a "Soldiers' Industrial Exhibition," just the sort of display to please the visitors in these years of regular exhibitions at the re-sited Crystal Palace at home. Merchants from the Himalayan foothills laid out their wares here too, selling everything from falcons to Tibetan mastiffs. To everyone's satisfaction, the Prince played his part by buying many curious and precious goods. He was already well-informed, but remained "insatiable in the acquisition of knowledge" (The Private Life, 145). Never aloof or superficial in his attention to what was laid before him, he showed a genuine interest in it, and took an obvious pleasure in it too.

They were now on their way to Kashmir itself, where their stop was at the frontier town of Jummo, which they entered on 20 January. This was the furthest point of their journey north, and their reception by the Maharajah of Cashmere was, by all accounts, the most splendid yet. After the last uncomfortable fifty miles by lurching carriages, this is where they first set eyes on the Himalayas:

we passed the last British outposts, took short cuts over ploughed fields, and at last arrived in sight of Jummoo needs not to be described. It was at the moment of sunset when the town was seen. Behind it were the everlasting hills, on one, indeed, of which it is seated. All round was dense jungle. For hours the sky had been beclouded; we had not seen a bright ray all the afternoon, till at this moment the sun burst out and lit up the landscape with its marvellous light. Pink, orange, dark, purple fell upon the snow-capped ridge, threw the three-peaked Tri-couta into bold relief, glittered upon the dome and minarets, the golden spires and white stone buildings of Jummoo.... [Gay 263-64]

After the now usual round of festivities, including a fabulous firework display, the party returned to Lahore Station. But there was still one more entertainment, one of the many on the tour of a martial nature: at the station Sir Charles Reid showed how to load up a train with artillery, troops and horses (ninety-four of the latter) in double-quick time. When they arrived at Amritsar again, the contingent poured out onto the platform in a flash, to the unsuspecting crowd's astonishment. Such "games" must have served not merely as amusements for the visiting Prince, but as spectacles to evoke awe and respect from the populace.

Via Rajpura to Agra

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, ethereal in any light, seen slightly off-centre here.

The Prince's special train arrived at Rajpura, back in the Punjab, in the middle of the night, to be met at a fantastically garlanded station by the Maharaja of Patiala, and his civil and military retinue. Again there were bands, cannon and flaring lights, and a banquet ordered in from Calcutta and held in a palatial marquee, followed by fireworks, before the train moved off again on its way to Agra. When they arrived around teatime the next day, the Commissioner and all the top army officers were assembled to greet them, although a sandstorm swept up out of nowhere and partially obliterated the scene. They were then accompanied to the camp on elephant. Here a whole assembly of maharajahs had gathered, and later that afternoon "troops of the Nawabs and Rajas passed before the Prince — a strange mélange of elephants, camels, horses, bullocks, men such as Alexander might have led into captivity, knights in armour, artillery drawn by oxen, for an hour and half" (Russell 442). The Central News correspondent found the town itself "rather disappointing' (Wheeler 281), but disappointment was banished late the next day, when the Prince was driven see the Taj illuminated, with 7000 spectators looking on. "Nothing on earth equals it," breathed the Telegraph correspondent, who had been out earlier to look his fill in daylight, and was glad to have done so.

The Prince's First Tiger

The Prince's First Tiger. Source: Russell, facing p. 458. This and subsequent illustrations from Russell are by Sydney P. Hall (1842-1922), the official artist on the tour. The Prince stands in the centre, cigarette in one hand, rifle in the other. His hunting gear in India consisted of "a khaki jacket and knickerbockers and a solar topee with a very wide brim," sometimes with the addition of "leech gaiters" (The Private Life, 253). Even in this wild rocky area, it included a tie as well. He was particular as to dress.

Shooting expeditions, balls and visits to Maharajahs punctuated the rest of the stay here, which also included a trip to Jaipur, where the Prince shot his first tiger, or, rather, tigress. "That the tigress on being skinned is found to have been the prospective mother of three cubs, is considered a matter for farther rejoicing," says one commentator, without intimating (except perhaps in the distance implied by "is considered") his own feeling on the matter (Gay 320). In fine fettle, the Prince later smoked a hookah at the Maharajah's banquet. Whilst based at Agra, too, the Prince "saw a great deal," and probably a great deal too much, of his host Lord Strachey's young sister-in-law, Mabel Batten, who was only nineteen and just recently married. It was the kind of thing the Queen, and no doubt his wife, the future Queen Alexandra, had feared, but it did not become a scandal. On the other hand, it was widely noted in his favour that the Prince had shown his displeasure when a rajah was treated discourteously by one of the officials (see Ridley 179-80). Here was another example of his good nature and the genuine appreciation he showed his hosts.

The Terai

The Himalayas at Sunrise The Pleasures of the Chase

Left: The Himalayas at Sunrise. Source: Russell, facing p. 466. Right: The Pleasures of the Chase. — Pad Elephant. Source: Russell, facing p. 490. Hall himself had captioned this one, "A Wild Elephant Chase in Nepal." Russell explains that the hot and weary elephants were cooling themselves with showers from their trunks, and that the Prince himself came in for a sudden soaking.

The last part of the Prince's tour was spent in the Terai, in the Kumaon Hills, famous for their man-eating tigers. While the Serapis sailed for Bombay in readiness for the voyage home, the Prince took one last view of the Taj Mahal by moonlight, and left Agra by his special train for Moradabad, at the end of its line in that area. "Dreaming possibly of the Taj, or of the pleasant camp and the hospitalities of Sir John and Lady Strachey at Agra, stretched at length on the comfortable cushions of our railway carriages, and snugly wrapped in resais [quilts]" (Russell 463), a select party was wafted away further north, to spend the middle of February at the vast hill-camp of Sir Henry Ramsay, and engage in big-game hunting. After a visit to the pretty hill-station of Nainital, where the Prince and some members of the party went to a well-known vantage point to see the snowy range at sunset, came a longer one to Nepal:

The Nepaul Terai is a vast land of jungle interspersed with woods of great trees, and broken by hills, ravines, nullahs, and sluggish streams. It is the rearing home for wild beasts, and birds of every known and unknown kind. The streams which flow from the watershed of the Gundra ridge on the south, and from the snows of the Himalayas, here the highest peaks in the world, enter into the beautiful valley of Nepaul,and form three great tributaries of the Ganges. [Wheeler 319]

Here the sport was excellent and the Prince soon bagged the first of many more tigers, including a tigress pregnant with six cubs (see Russell 458). This makes difficult reading now, and even at the time the Graphic made a point of devoting some lines to the Prince's affection for his elephant, to which he would give "bread, cakes, fruit &c" in the morning, and which, in return, would salute him with its trunk (202). But, on the whole, it would be a mistake to denigrate the Prince's sporting pursuits in India: attitudes were very different then. "There can be no doubt," wrote one biographer with a special interest in the Prince's prowess in this area, that "the skill and adroitness with which His Royal Highness adapted himself to entirely new surroundings, particularly in the Terai, and the success which happily attended his efforts, had their effect on all classes of the Indian community" (Watson 341-42). This biographer noted the Prince's courage, too. It might be added that his entourage included a naturalist (Mr Bartlett) as well as a botanist (improbably named Mr Mudd), for whom the Prince's various trophies were specimens for a future collection.

Then the homeward journey began. Although there were more grand receptions en route, particularly at Allahabad where another investiture was held, and at Lalbagh, where a durbar was held, there was a clear feeling of winding up a fabulous stay. On 11 March they reached Bombay again, and were received on board the waiting and freshly painted Serapis with all due formalities, and expressions of appreciation for all that had been done, and regret at the departure, on every side. "The Prince has travelled nearly 7600 miles by land and 2300 miles by sea, knows more Chiefs than all the Viceroys and Governors together, and seen more of the country in the time than any living man," noted Russell (520-21).

Consequences

The Prince of Wales William Henry Russell

Left: The Prince of Wales in the frontispiece to Russell's book. Right: Sir William Howard Russell (1820-1907) from the Times, who had exclusive reporting rights for the trip (see Ridley 174), and, as the Prince's private secretary on the tour, was the best able to convey every aspect of it. © The National Portrait Gallery.

The second Times leader of 6 March 1876 pointed out the cumulative effect of all the reports that had poured out of India in the last few months. Previously, the British press had been apt to focus on the "troublesome financial problems" that the country presented. But the Prince's tour had now brought out for the British public the "dazzling accumulation of natural marvels, great traditions, wealth, and historic influence" of the sub-continent. For his part, the Prince of Wales had, it seems, impressed upon the Indian Princes the fact that they were now "members of an organised Empire," and had had "the tact, or rather the generosity and the good feeling, to bring this reality home to them." In this respect, "the pomps and shows of a Royal progress, the grace of a Royal visit" had had "permanent value in what they [implied]." They formed, as Russell said on one occasion in his published book on the tour, a "tangible, visible representation of royalty" (341).

Partly thanks to Russell's own literally glowing reports, during the Royal progress the Prince had emerged convincingly, to the public at home as well as to the people of India, as "the future Suzerain of ancient dynasties." It had all been a resounding diplomatic triumph, one upon which the leader-writer himself (whether Russell or the editor taking his cue from him) urged the government to capitalise. Indeed, in pushing for the title of Empress of India, Queen Victoria was already doing her utmost in this regard — perhaps partly out of a desire to steal a march on her son (see Ridley 181). There was, however, a clear note of warning in the leader as well. "If we continue to regard the heirs of that vast civilisation as conquered dependents, a feeling of alienation will slowly but surely deepen." With evident relish, Bertie had done his best for relations between Britain and India. Now it was up to his successors to build on the close ties he had created, or ultimately to destroy them.

Related Material

Sources

Bisht, B. M. S., ed. "Titbits from my Archives: The Prince of Wales' Railway Journeys in India, 1875-1876" (clearly dated excerpts from Russell, giving a good idea of the tour in brief). IRFCA (Indian Railways Fanclub). Web. 3 April 2014.

"Court Circular." Times. 14 February 1876: 8. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 April 2014.

Finnemore, John. Peeps at Many Lands: India. Illustrated by Mortimer Menpes. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1910. Internet Archive. Web. 3 April 2014.

Gay, J. Drew. The Prince of Wales in India, or From Pall Mall to the Punjaub. New York: R. Worthington, 1877. Internet Archive. Web. 3 April 2014.

"The Journey of the Prince of Wales." The Graphic. 26 February 1876: 202. 19th Century British Newspapers (Gale). Web. 3 April 2014.

Keay, John. A History of India. Pbk ed. London: HarperCollins, 2001.

The Private Life of King Edward VII (Prince of Wales, 1841-1901), by a Member of the Royal Household. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1901. Internet Archive. Web. 3 April 2014.

Ridley, Jane. Bertie: A Life of Edward VII. London: Chatto & Windus, 2012.

Russell, William Howard, Sir. The Prince of Wales' Tour: A Diary in India; with some account of the visits of His Royal Highness to the courts of Greece, Egypt, Spain, and Portugal. 2nd ed. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1877 (with an Appendix listing the members of the entourage, the various addresses made, the Prince's farewell speech, etc.). Internet Archive. Web. 3 April 2014.

Second Leader. The Times. 6 March 1876: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 April 2014.

Spear, Percival. A History of India: Vol. II: From the Sixteenth Century to the Twentieth Century. New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 1990.

Watson, Alfred E. T. King Edward VII as a Sportsman. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1911. Internet Archive. Web. 3 April 2014.

Wheeler, George. India in 1875-76: The visit of the Prince of Wales: Chronicle of His Royal Highness's Journeying in India, Ceylon, Spain and Portugal. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876. Internet Archive. Web. 3 April 2014.


Last modified 3 April 2014