SEPTEMBER 9, 2022
NEW DELHI: In 2018, Queen Elizabeth II showed PM Narendra Modi crocheted cotton lace made from yarn that Mahatma Gandhi had spun himself. It was his gift for her wedding on November 20, 1947. The story goes that Gandhi told Lord Mountbatten he wanted to send a wedding gift but had given away all his possessions. Mountbatten, the last governor-general, suggested he spin her some yarn. The yarn was then woven into lace which Mountbatten himself brought to the bride.
Elizabeth was 27 at her crowning on June 2, 1953. Over her almost 70-year rule she visited India thrice, the first time on January 21, 1961. It was a 23-day visit with a 15-day break to tour the two wings of Pakistan.
India gave her a grand reception. TOI reported: “12 miles of humanity massed on either side of the festively-decorated procession from Palam to Rashtrapati Bhavan in the greatest and most dignified welcome Delhi has yet seen. ”
She visited 11 cities, taking in among other things the Republic Day parade in Delhi, the Taj, the Sarnath Lion Capital, elephant processions at Jaipur and Varanasi, a boat trip on the Ganges, palace receptions in Udaipur and a day’s rest in Tipu Sultan’s hill fortress at Nandi. She saw her husband, Prince Philip, bag a tiger at Sawai Madhopur and a crocodile on Udaipur’s lake.
The Queen and Prince Philip visited again from November 17 to 23, 1983. They visited Hyderabad where they stayed at the Rashtrapati Nilayam, the southern home of the Indian President, and visited BHEL that had developed an electric-powered vehicle named ‘electrovan’. On November 20, their 36th wedding anniversary, the royal couple attended services at the Holy Trinity Church in Secunderabad, built in 1846 with contribution from Elizabeth’s great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.
Her last visit to India was in 1997 – the 50th year of India’s Independence, by when India carried “little orno baggage from its colonial past; ‘Her Majesty’ could be just another head of state,” a TOI editorial on October 13, 1997 said.
The royal family, and the Queen herself, were under fire at the time after Princess Diana’s death on August 31 that year. The question of whether the Queen would apologize for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on her visit to Amritsar was also in the air. But as TOI noted: “it really doesn’t matter either way. Fifty years into our Independence, we don’t need token apologies from our former rulers…. ”