During the festivities meant to celebrate her Golden Jubilee or the anniversary of 50 years on the throne, Queen Victoria hosted an impressive banquet. Foreign rulers from all over the world came to congratulate her. She had fireworks in the garden and a grand procession at Westminster Abbey. However, maybe the most important event was her meeting with Abdul Karim. He was a gift from India who had the job to help the Queen address the Indian princes present at her banquet. However, he soon became one of the most hated people at the royal court and the Queen’s most trusted ally and friend.
Their unexpected and unusual friendship began back in 1887. For 14 years, they stood by each other’s side. This period of time is the subject of the new movie starring actress Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, called Victoria & Abdul. He was also her munshi, the person who gave her daily Urdu lessons. He also taught her about Indian affairs and introduced her to Indian cuisine. In turn, the Queen offered him gifts, titles and honors. However, when Victoria passed away in 1901, her children burned all of her letters to Abdul. They also deported him back to India. Fortunately, that story lives on partly thanks to his personal diary.
The true story of Victoria and Abdul
Shrabani Basu is the historian who wrote the book on which the movie was based. She is also the person who managed to unearth the diary and learn a great deal from it. The Queen’s first impression of Karim was that he was tall. When he travelled back with her to her summer house on the Isle of Wight, he cooked a special Indian meal for Victoria.
It was nothing romantic going on between them, as the royal court probably believed. According to his diary, they were simply extremely close friends. Victoria knew of this animosity towards her Indian friend and protected him the best she could. Unfortunately, upon her death, there was nobody left to protect Abdul. Eight years later, in 1909, Abdul died in Agra.
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