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‘70 years on the throne’ When The Queen Visited India

Queen Elizabeth visited India in 1961, 1983 and 1997, but the first visit, which came near 15 years after India’s independence, was the most spectacular

Thirteen years after Mahatma Gandhi's death, Queen Elizabeth stood outside the spot of his cremation and took off her sandals. Her husband and Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, who was behind her, did the same. They replaced the footwear they were wearing with red velvet slippers before entering the memorial area.

This was the first royal visit of Queen Elizabeth II to India. The then Indian President Rajendra Prasad, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Vice-President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had earlier received the royal couple at the Delhi airport.

Inside, the Queen would pay respect to the astute man who had fought her nation with non-violence. The Queen was the first British monarch to visit India in fifty years. Her grandfather King George V and Queen Mary had visited in 1911, decades before India got Independence. Elizabeth II had ascended the throne on February 6, 1952, after the death of her father King George VI.

The stay in the subcontinent, during which they'd also make visits to neighbouring Pakistan and Nepal, was a long one and would last more than a month. Everywhere the Queen went, thousands of people thronged the streets to get a glimpse.

In Delhi’s Rajpath, the Queen attended as guest-of-honour the Republic Day parade, which showcased India's fledgling military might. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru also hosted an event at Ramlila Maidan to welcome the Queen, where she gave a speech in which she thanked India for the warm welcome. During the event, the Delhi Corporation gifted the queen a two-feet long model of the Qutub Minar made of elephant tusk. The Duke received a silver candelabra.

The Queen inaugurated the institute buildings of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on January 27, where she also planted a sapling in the premises.

Before the Republic Day parade, the Queen and the Duke had visited Jaipur, where, as anticipated, they had got a royal welcome. The Queen even rode on an elephant with the then Maharaja of Jaipur Sawai Man Singh II in the courtyard of the Maharaja’s palace.

Soon after the Republic Day, the Queen left for Agra, where she used an open car to drive to Taj Mahal while waving to the thousands who had gathered on pavements to welcome her.

The royals also visited Udaipur where the host was welcomed by the Maharana Bhagwat Singh Mewar, who introduced her to more than 50 nobles who had joined him in welcoming the royal couple.

The Queen would then head to Karachi in Pakistan. President Ayub Khan in the uniform of Field Marshal drove with the Queen in an open car. The royals visited the Khyber Pass on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

After spending a fortnight in Pakistan, the Queen returned to India and visited the Durgapur Steel Plant, which was set up just a few years earlier with the help of the UK. The Queen met the workers in the steel plant before heading to Calcutta.

The city provided the biggest welcome of the tour with people crowding the route from the airport to the governor's residence the Raj Bhavan, which was the palace of the Viceroy before India's capital was moved to Delhi in December, 1911.

During her stay in the city, the royal couple visited the Victoria Memorial built by Lord Curzon when he was the Viceroy from 1899 to 1905. Both the Queen and her husband were the great-great grandchildren of Queen Victoria, so for the both the site had a strong family interest. Horse racing organisation founded in 1847, The Royal Calcutta Turf Club, organised a race to felicitate the Queen. The prize money for the race was Rs 30,000. The Queen presented the cup to the owner of the winning horse, a wife of a local businessman.

After Calcutta, the royal guests reached Bangalore in southern India, where the Maharaja of Mysore and the Mayor of Bangalore welcomed the Queen and the Duke. The Bible Society of India, with its headquarters in Bangalore, was celebrating its 100th anniversary and felicitated the Queen with a Bible translated in Hindi.

The Queen planted a sampling at the botanical garden Lal Bagh to commemorate her visit. Bangalore had timed the horticultural show for the Queen's trip. After Bangalore, the royal couple in the last leg of the tour went to Bombay and then to Banaras, where the Queen took a boat ride on the Ganges along the ghats flocked with hundreds of people who had come to watch her.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip made three visits to India – in 1961, 1983 and 1997. In the 1983 visit, the Queen met the then Prime Minister India Gandhi and also presented Mother Teresa with an honorary Order of Merit. In 1997, the Queen’s visit was timed to mark India’s celebration of 50 years of Independence.



Creative Director: Rahul Gupta