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Diaries reveal depth of friendship between Queen Victoria and her Indian teacher

Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim, a Muslim Indian, developed an intense friendship in the years before her death, newly-discovered diaries reveal.

Old Station in Ballater, Nr Balmoral - a life size exhibit of Queen Victoria waiting to catch her last train in 1900 from the station with her Munshi, Abdul Karim.
Old Station in Ballater, Nr Balmoral - a life size exhibit of Queen Victoria waiting to catch her last train in 1900 from the station with her Munshi, Abdul Karim.
Image: David Cheskin/PA Archive/Press Association Images via PA Images

IT WAS A relationship that was said to have “sent shockwaves through the royal court”, but a young Muslim teacher became one of Britain’s Queen Victoria’s closest confidantes.

London-based author Shrabani Basu has discovered diaries which she says show the intense relationship between the Queen and the Indian man who was employed to be her teacher, Abdul Karim.

Ms Basu is using the diaries to update her book Victoria and Abdul, which tells of the relationship between the pair, the BBC reports.

Mr Karim arrived in England from Agra in 1887, at the age of 24. He was employed to wait at table during the Queen’s golden jubilee in 1887 and was described as a “gift from India”.

He soon moved on from his post and within a year he had become her teacher – also known as munshi – instructing her in Urdu and Indian affairs.

He became one of her closest confidants and the Queen Victoria signed off letters to him with the words ‘as your loving mother’ and ‘your closest friend’. He and his wife were given residences, allowed to wear traditional dress and bring family members to England from India.

Before she died, the Queen gave orders that Mr Karim should be given the honour of being one of her principal mourners at her funeral.

But their relationship was not as appreciated by all and after the Queen’s death, Mr Karim was sacked by her son Edward VII, who also ordered that all records of their relationship be destroyed.

However, Mr Karim’s nephew Abdul Rashid managed to sneak out diaries and correspondence to India and in recent years they had been kept with family in Karachi, Pakistan.

Read more at the BBC News website>

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