giovedì 14 gennaio 2016

Intriguing India - Part III: The Last Days of the Empire and the Queen's First Visit in 1961

After the first two posts in our series exploring the relationship between the British Monarchy and India (which can be found here and here), it's now time to take a look at the years before and around the Partition, and the role played by the Queen in the early days of the Commonwealth.

Queen George V and Queen Mary, as recalled in our previous post, paid just one visit to the Subcontinent, on the occasion of the 1911 Delhi Durbar. Their son, Edward VIII, who reigned for just under a year in 1936, despite formally holding the title of Emperor of India, was never crowned and had far more serious constitutional troubles to think about in his short reign to even think about overseas tours, so a visit to India as sovereign was always going to be off the cards for him.
He did, however, visit between 1921 and 1922 when Prince of Wales. It was during this visit that he took part in a spot of tiger hunting, something we can all safely guess won't feature in the official program of the 2016 tour! :)


The present Queen's parents were, of course, the last Emperor and Empress of India, as British India became the two separate countries of India and Pakistan in 1947, during the reign of George VI. After Edward VIII's abdication in December 1936, it was initally envisaged that his successor would visit India and have his own Durbar. However, the Indian National Congress passed a motion calling for a boycott of any such visit. In a speech in October 1937, the King said: "I am looking forward with interest and pleasure to the time when it will be possible for Me to visit My Indian Empire".
It was a time of momentous historical change, and the King and Queen eventually never did get a chance to make this visit. Hugo Vickers, in his biography Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, recalls the Queen's regret at not visiting India.
The connection with the country remained strong, however. For the wedding of Princess Elizabeth in 1947, several gifts of Indian provenance were delivered to the happy couple, including a somewhat unusual piece of lace homespun by Mahatma Gandhi himself with the words "Jai Hind", which means "Freedom to India". Queen Mary was told to be less than impressed with the gift, mistaking it for a loincloth of the type Gandhi used to wear and reportedly remarking: "Such an indelicate gift. What a horrible thing."
Other gifts of Indian provenance included a diamond and platinum Cartier necklace presented by the Nizam of Hyderabad (a piece that has already been loaned to the Duchess of Cambridge in February 2014 and could likely make a reappearance on the tour), plus a number of rarely, if ever seen pieces of jewellery, for which we only have the succint description available in the official Royal Wedding gift list published at the time, including two pairs of jewelled anklets set with brillants and enamel drops mounted as a necklace, presented by the Dominion of India and an antique Rajput headpiece of gold set with pearls, rubies and diamonds, presented by Maharao Raja of Bundi and that has subsequently been mounted as a brooch.
The first of three official visits paid by Queen Elizabeth II to India came early in 1961, for a six-week tour of both India and Pakistan. Leaving behind the cold and gloom of London, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh departed from Heathrow Airport on 21 January 1961 and were seen by (a very glamourous) Princess Margaret, her husband the Earl of Snowdon and the Queen Mother:
As the first visit from a reigning British monarch after the Independence, it was a historic occasion and Her Majesty received a warm welcome. At Ramlila Grounds in Delhi the Queen addressed a crowd estimated to number a quarter of a million people, to this day still one of the best-attended public speeches of all times. True to her style, the Queen spoke a few words in Hindi to express her thanks, to the delight of the crowd:
The 1961 tour provided some fabulous photo opportunities - riding a gaily decorated elephant in Benares:


Posing in front of the Taj Mahal with the Duke of Edinburgh, decades before the iconic Princess Diana photograph:

A lot of fab 1960s fashion:

With India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Another tiger hunt took place during the 1961 tour. Discovering this material while I was researching this post came as quite a surprise to me, and it just goes to show how far environmental sensibilities have come in just a few decades. I suspect this time around there will be a strong focus placed on conservation, one of the Duke of Cambridge's strongest personal interest:

Carefully examining a gigantic floral garland presented to her in Madras.

Attending a fashion show organized by the wives of diplomats at the Central Cottage Industries in Delhi.
On the first evening of the visit, President Rajendra Prasad gave a State banquet in the Queen's honour, for which she wore the pearl-encrusted evening dress by Norman Hartnell seen below. The dress was made of fine lace, richly embroidered with pearls, sequins and bugle beads in a design of lotus flowers - the national flower of India (again, I can very well see the Lotus Flower - or Papyrus - tiara worn on tour by the Duchess should a tiara-wearing occasion arise!). As you can see, the dress originally had a train falling from the shoulders, but this was subsequently altered and made into a matching bolero jacket. The Queen is seen wearing Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik tiara, her ruby and diamond floral bandeu necklace (part of the Greville bequest and a wedding present from her parents) and Queen Mary's ruby cluster earrings:

Leaving the glitz and glamour of the 1960s behind, we'll be back very soon with a new post covering the other two official visits made by the Queen to India, in 1983 and 1997! See you very soon! 

lunedì 4 gennaio 2016

Intriguing India - Part II: A Peek Inside Queen Mary's Jewelry Box

In our recent post exploring the connection between India and the British Monarchy ahead of the royal visit the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will pay to the Subcontinent in early 2016, we discussed the early days of the Empire under the rule of Queen Victoria, the first Empress of India.
We're now back with the second post in our series, which takes on from where we left off, with a look back at the Edwardian era.

Upon the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901, her son succeded to the throne as Edward VII and he and his wife, Queen Alexandra, set about preparing for the upcoming coronation. One of the most important tasks awaiting the new Queen in those first months was looking for the perfect coronation gown. In June 1901, at a garden party in London, the Queen met Lady Curzon, the wife of the Viceroy of India. Mary Leiter Curzon was an American heiress and socialite (anyone else is reminded of Downton Abbey here?), who championed the use of Indian cloth in dressmaking, which had been unpopular among European ladies in India. At the garden party, Lady Curzon happended to be wearing just one of such dresses and the Queen, realizing the political advantages of choosing for her coronation a dress that showed the ties between Britain and India, asked for her help in the matter.

Upon her return to India that year, Lady Curzon began working on her important commission. The project was shrouded in secrecy, as the Queen wanted to avoid anyone else wearing a similar dress; however, after the coronation, she gave permission for two merchants in Delhi, one in Agra and one in Benares to receive royal warrants, thus identifying where the goldwork embroidery had been made and who did the work. The dress was made of cloth of gold overlaid with silk organza, incorporating the floral emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland: the rose, the thistle and the shamrock. It was made in India, then sent to Paris ahead of the coronation for finishing touches and to be fitted accurately to the Queen at the House of Worth.


The Koh-i-Noor diamond, which we discussed in depth in the previous post in this series, sparkled in the Queen's crown. The coronation gown has been preserved in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Kensington Palace.
While the Queen's gown, despite its Indian manufacture, incorporated only British and Irish emblems, Lady Curzon went all-out with Indian splendour in her own dress. Made for the 1903 Delhi Durbar (which the King and Queen did not attend), it is known as the Peacock Dress, and is sequinned and embroidered all over with a peacock feather motif, a traditional Moghul symbol. The centre of each feather is accented with an iridescent beetle wing. For those of you who'd like to admire this masterpiece of Indian craftmanship in person, the dress, now sadly much faded, is displayed at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, Lord Curzon's residence in England.
The only King and Queen to attend a Delhi Durbar in person were George V and Mary. Meaning "Court of Delhi", it was a mass assembly at Coronation Park in Dehli, to mark the succession of an Emperor or Empress of India. Only three were ever held: the first in 1877 for Queen Victoria, then in 1903 for Edward VII and Alexandra and lastly in 1911, the only attended by the sovereigns.

The commemorate the 1911 Durbar, an obelisk was erected at the exact place where King George V and Queen Mary sat under an ornate dais. It still stands in Coronation Park to this day.

As the first-ever attended by the sovereign, the 1911 Durbar was bound to be a very grand occasion. 
Since the British coronation regalia cannot be legally taken out of the United Kingdom, George V commissioned a new crown to wear to the Durbar. The work was carried out for Garrard & Co. by another firm, Carrington & Co., who had also been responsible for the manufacture of Queen Alexandra's coronation crown.
The new crown was made with eight half-arches. Its gold and silver frame is set with 6,002 diamonds and coloured gems, including rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Jewels of Indian origin were deliberately selected to adorn it, the commission specifically stipulating the use of: "Indian emeralds and four Indian sapphires at intervals, carrying four crosses patees of fine diamonds with Indian emerald centres":
The new crown was realized at a cost of £60,000, or a much more impressive-sounding £5.4 million in today's money. Rather disappointingly, it was worn only once, than placed in the Jewel House at the Tower of London, where it can be admired to this day. It is also, incidentally, on the blog's Facebook page profile picture :)
Never one to be outdone in the bling department, Queen Mary had her very own set of regalia made for the occasion. Prepare to be dazzled, because we are talking, of course, of the famous Delhi Durbar parure! Comprising a tiara, earrings, two necklaces, a bracelet and a number of brooches, this is where some of the most impressive emeralds in the British Royal Family's collection can be found.

Described by George V himself in a letter to his mother, Queen Alexandra, as "May's best tiara", the Delhi Durbar tiara was made by Garrard & Co. specifically for the event with stones coming from another diadem and some smaller jewels in the Mary's collection.
Ten of the Cambridge emeralds were originally mounted on the top border, as can be clearly seen in the photograph above. By 1922, they had been removed permanently from this tiara and later they were adapted with pavé diamond mounts for use on the Vladimir tiara, as an alternative to the original pearl drops. Immediately after the Durbar, in 1912, the tiara was altered to take either or both of the two Lesser Stars of Africa (Cullinan III and IV).
Queen Mary loaned the tiara to her daughter-in-law Queen Elizabeth for the tour of South Africa the royals undertook in 1947. Queen Elizabeth wore it for the Opening of Parliament in Cape Town on 21 February that year, and it remained with her until her death in 2002. Nowadays it's on loan to the Duchess of Cornwall, who alternates between this and the Greville Honeycomb as her main tiaras. The Queen has never worn it.

She does still wear rather frequently the other "big" piece in the parure, though, the Delhi Durbar necklace:

Another Garrard & Co. piece, it incorporates nine of the Cambridge emeralds mounted in gold and pavé-set diamond collets, between six large brilliants in platinum claw settings, on a double platinum chain set with 94 small brilliants. The central cushion-cut emerald suspends a pavé-set pear-shaped emerald on a detachable chain of 12 graduated small brilliants, and a marquise brilliant (Cullinan VII) on another detachable chain of 10 graduated small brilliants.
The cost of the necklace was met by the King, as a present for Queen Mary's 44th birthday.
The Queen inherited the necklace from Queen Mary and has worn it frequently since, most recently in November 2015 at the official dinner for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, as shown directly below:

The Queen wearing the Vladimir tiara set with emeralds and the Delhi Durbar necklace in 1954 (l) and 1957 (r).

Resplendent at the State banquet in honour of Irish President Michael D. Higgins at Windsor Castle in April 2014.

At the Durbar, the Queen was able to add to her emerald collection when she was presented with another emerald and diamond necklace by the Maharani of Patiala on behalf of the Ladies of India.
She had it remodelled by Garrard in 1921, creating a choker in the Art Deco style, set in platinum. Inherited by the Queen in 1953, upon Queen Mary's death, it was seen again in public after the Queen loaned it to the Princess of Wales, who most memorably wore it as a bandeau across her forehead to a ball in Melbourne in 1985, paired with a green silk satin evening gown by the Emmanuels:


The choker in its original form can be seen below, on top of Queen Mary's multiple necklaces:

As mentioned before, the parure comprises a pair of diamond and emerald earrings (seen directly above worn by Queen Mary, and in the previous pictures of the Queen wearing the Delhi Durbar necklace). These are one of only four pair of emerald earrings in the Queen's possession, and are among the oldest. They're very simple in style, each comprised of a large cabochon emerald set in a cluster of eleven brilliant-cut diamonds:

The matching bracelet includes three of the Cambridge emeralds, cabochon-cut and set in clusters of sixteen brilliant-cut diamonds, connected to each other thanks to two small chains of brilliants, in a gold and platinum setting. Nowadays it's very rarely seen in public:

Seen on Queen Mary's left wrist and the Queen's right wrist. More recently, below, again on the right wrist, at a reception in honour of South African President Nelson Mandela at Buckingham Palace on 9 July 1996.

And now on to brooches! There are several significant pieces in the royal jewellery box which have a link to the Delhi Durbar. The original parure included a large stomacher, made up of seven of the Cambridge emeralds in diamond settings. It is a complex piece, with many detachable parts that are still in use to this day: the Cullinan V brooch can be seen (1), along with the Cullinan VIII brooch (2)with an emerald pendant (it's usually worn with a diamond one). Additionally, the central cushion-shaped emerald (3) is also detachable, and can be worn on its own, with or without the bottom emerald pendant. I have edited the photo below to better show how the brooches work together:

The brooches seen individually:

 And in use:

Left: attending a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day on 10 May 2015; right: hosting a reception for the Queen's Award for Enterprise at Buckingham Palace on 15 July 2014.         
At the State banquet in honour of Irish President Higgins at Windsor Castle on 8 April 2014.
To top it all off, there's another splendid brooch in the set, an antique Indian carved emerald surrounded by brilliant-cut diamonds. This was part of the Ladies of India gift (they must have known emeralds were a good choice!) and, although the Queen inherited it in 1953 upon the death of her grandmother, it remained out of sight for decades. It's only in recent years that it has started to be seen again in public occasionally. I still can't quite believe how big this is!

So, that's all the main pieces of jewellery connected to the 1911 Delhi Durbar covered - hope you enjoyed this peek inside the royal jewelry box!
I'll see you soon with the third part in our series, which will focus on the years of the Partition and the Queen's relationship with India.