Queen Elizabeth II: How the monarch charmed millions of Indians

Queen Elizabeth II: How the monarch charmed millions of Indians

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When Queen Elizabeth II visited India for the first time in January 1961, the route from the airport in Delhi to the official residence of the Indian president was reportedly packed with nearly a million people.

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"Indians forgot their troubles this week. Not completely, of course, but economic hardship, political squabbling and worry about Communist China, the Congo and Laos seemed to fade in the background. Queen Elizabeth II was here, and the capital, at least, appeared determined to make the most of it," reported The New York Times.

The Times said trains, buses and oxcarts ferried people to the capital. Here they wandered on the streets and loitered on lawns hoping to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. "They seemed to look upon the Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, as impresarios who made it possible to forget and have fun," the report said.

At the same time, the newspaper reported that "Elizabeth came not as a patronising ruler on a tour of an empire, but an equal" - she was the first British monarch to take the throne after India's independence from British rule in 1947.

The trip also offered a chance for India to show a British ruler "that they had not done so badly since her people left": its "jet-age airports, their new homes and office buildings, steel mills and their nuclear reactors", for example.

For the royal couple, the six-week tour of the subcontinent was also a rich discovery of India. British Pathe footage from that trip offers a fascinating insight into the warm reception that the couple received.


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