Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim: The photographic story of an unusual friendship that scandalized England, 1887-1901


The close relationship between Queen Victoria and her young Indian attendant, Abdul Karim, was considered controversial and reprehensible by the royal court. After the death of the queen, the family evicted Karim from the house given to him by the queen and sent him back to India.

The unusual friendship between the Queen and her Indian servant began in 1887 and lasted 14 years. Mohammad Abdul Karim was born in 1863 in a Muslim family in Lalitpur near Jhansi. He was taught Persian and Urdu privately and, as a teenager, traveled throughout northern India and Afghanistan.

He eventually secured the position of a clerk in a prison in Agra, where both his father and his soon-to-be wife's brother worked. It was there that Karim was recently chosen to serve the Empress of India, Queen Victoria of Victoria.

The Queen had expressed interest in the Indian territories before her golden jubilee in 1887 and specifically requested members of the Indian staff to help organize a banquet for the heads of state. Karim, thus, was one of two servants who were chosen and presented as "a gift from India" to Victoria on the occasion of her 50th year on the throne.

After traveling by rail from Agra to Bombay and traveling to Britain by mail steamer, Karim and other servants reached Windsor Castle in June 1887. He was placed in charge of Major-General Dennehy and first served the Queen at breakfast at Frogmore House. 23 June 1887 at Windsor.

The queen described Karim in her diary for that day: "The other, much shorter, much lighter [than Buksh] tall, and has a nice serious face. His father is a native doctor in Agra. Both kissed my feet."

Five days later, the queen said that "Indians always wait and do so, so well and quietly." On 3 August, she wrote: “I am learning some Hindustani words to talk to my servants. It's a huge interest to me, both for the language and the people I've naturally never come into real contact with before."

On 20 August he had some "excellent curry" made by one of the servants. By 30 August, Karim was teaching her Urdu, which she used to greet Queen Chimnabai of Baroda during an audience in December.

Victoria liked Karim very much and ordered that he be given additional education in the English language. By February 1888 he "learned wonderful English", according to Victoria.

After complaining to the queen that he was a clerk in India and thus had work under her as a waiter, he was promoted to the rank of "scribe" in August 1888.

In her journal, Rani writes that she made this change so that she would remain: "I particularly wish to retain his services because he helps me study Hindustani, which I am very interested in, and that Very intelligent and useful."

Photographs of him waiting at the table were destroyed and he became the first Indian personal clerk to the Queen. The buch (second servant) remained in the service of the Queen, but only as a khidmatgar or table servant, until her death at Windsor in 1899.

According to Karim's biographer Sushila Anand, the queen's own letters testify that "her discussions with the scribe were broad-philosophical, political and practical. Both head and heart were engaged. There is no doubt that The Queen found in Abdul Karim a connection to a world that was charmingly foreign, and a confidante that did not feed her the official line."

Karim was put in charge of the other Indian servants and made responsible for their accounts. Victoria praised him in her letters and in the magazine. "I love her so much" she wrote, "she is so nice and gentle and understands what I want and is a real comfort to me."

He praised "his personal Indian clerk and scribe, who is an excellent, shrewd, really pious and very refined gentleman, who says, 'God ordered it'... His faith and such conscientiousness are a great example to us."

In the Queen's Scottish estate, Balmoral Castle, Karim was allotted the room previously occupied by the Queen's favorite servant, John Brown, who died in 1883. Karim presented the outside world in a serious and respectful manner, despite the Queen writing that "he is very friendly and jovial with the Queen's maids and now laughs and even jokes - and they Invites to come and offer fruit cake to eat all their good stuff".

The queen not only allowed the scribe to bring his wife to England but also hosted her father and other family members. Karim enjoyed the best seats in his private car and at the opera.

This developing relationship worried the members of the court. Abdul was a Muslim and a servant and yet he was closer to the queen than anyone else.

Four decades her senior, Victoria took Abdul with her on all her travels and treated him as a close companion. They thought he had lost his mind, or at least tried very hard to convey that he had. But Victoria defended her security, even giving her a generous land grant in India.

According to journalist Shrabani Basu, who highlighted this friendship and wrote Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confident: "In letters to him in the years between his arrival in the UK and his death in 1901, the Queen signed Letters to her as 'your dear mother' and 'your closest friend'.

On a few occasions, he even signed his letters with a flurry of kisses - a very unusual thing at the time. It was undeniably a passionate relationship – a relationship that I believe operates on many different layers apart from the mother-son relationship between a young Indian man and a woman, who at the time was more than 60 years old. was of age.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.