Britain's longest-serving monarch Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Thursday, visited India three times in 1961, 1983, and 1997. But her first visit, which was 15 years after India’s Independence, was a significant one given that she was the first reigning monarch to visit the former colony. The Queen visited in 1961 with her husband, the late Duke of Edinburgh Phillip, and presided over the Republic Day Parade as Guest of Honour on the invitation of India’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
The Royal couple also toured Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta, and also visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, and paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat in New Delhi.
During the Delhi leg of her 1961 tour, she also visited Rajghat and offered a ceremonial wreath at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial. The Queen and her husband took off their footwear and wore velvet slippers before entering the memorial. She also addressed a massive crowd at Ramlila Grounds in Delhi, where thousands came to listen to her address. “The warmth and hospitality of the Indian people and the richness and diversity of India itself have been an inspiration to all of us,” she said in one of her addresses.
1983: Commonwealth Meeting
The Queen again visited India in 1983 during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). India, the Commonwealth's largest member state, hosted the seventh CHOGM Summit under then PM Indira Gandhi's leadership.
She was on a nine-day State Visit to India along with Prince Philip. During that visit, the Queen famously presented Mother Teresa with the Insignia of the Honorary Order of Merit on November 24, 1983.
1997: Tribute at Jallianwala Bagh
She again visited India to mark the 50th-anniversary celebrations of India's Independence, and famously spoke about "difficult episodes" of colonial history for the very first time.
On 13 October 1997, the Queen referenced the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in a state banquet address. “It is no secret that there have been some difficult episodes in our past — Jallianwala Bagh, which I shall visit tomorrow, is a distressing example,” she said.
On the next day, 14 October, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh went to Amritsar to pay obeisance at Jallianwala Bagh, where she bowed and placed a wreath at the memorial.
During her reign, the monarch hosted three Indian presidents – Dr. Radhakrishnan in 1963, R. Venkataraman in 1990, and Pratibha Patil in 2009, and openly spoke about India and Britain’s partnership in the new century. "Britain and India have a long-shared history which today is a source of great strength in building a new partnership fit for this new century,” the Queen said in her State Banquet address for President Patil at Buckingham Palace.
Copyright©2023 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today