Abdul Karim

Locations

Arthur Cottage
Osborne
Isle of Wight, PO32 6JX
United Kingdom
50° 45' 1.836" N, 1° 16' 11.7372" W
Windsor Castle SL4 1LB
United Kingdom
51° 28' 59.628" N, 0° 36' 20.6352" W
Other names: 

Munshi

1
Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1862
Precise DOB unknown: 
Y
City of birth: 
Agra
Country of birth: 
India
Date of death: 
01 Jan 1909
Precise date of death unknown: 
Y
Location of death: 
Agra, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jun 1887
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Y
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

June 1887-1901

2
About: 

Abdul Karim was born in Agra, India, in 1862 to father Sheikh Mohammed Waziruddin, a hospital assistant. In 1887, as part of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, Karim was one of two Indians who arrived to serve in the Queen's household; the other was Mohammed Bukhsh.

Soon after they accompanied the Queen to Balmoral. Karim was singled out to help teaching Hindustani to the Queen; he became her 'munshi' in 1889. Queen Victoria took a liking to Karim and granted him some land in the suburbs of Agra. Later he was decorated with the Order of the Indian Empire. Karim's rise within the household caused some controversy - both from the other servants and from government officials - but Queen Victoria supported him in all cases.

In 1893, after six months' leave in India, Karim returned to England with his wife and her mother. They stayed at Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, which the Queen had provided for them. In February 1894, Karim accompanied Queen Victoria on her trip to Florence, Italy, as he would on her many trips to Cimiez in the south of France. The closer he got to the Queen the more the court tried to drive them apart, fearing that he had access to political papers and would pose a threat to the state. However, the Queen adamantly defended Karim and swore he did not read any political papers. Around this time, in the late 1890s, Karim befriended Rafiuddin Ahmed, who attended rallies of the Muslim League. Ahmed was under surveillance but there is little evidence that he constituted any threat to the state.

In 1898, the Queen's health was in decline. As a testament to their friendship, the Queen sought to provide for Karim after her death (Anand, p. 96). On 22 January 1901, Queen Victoria died at Osborne. Karim immediately retired, was given a pension, and returned to India where he lived until his death in 1909.

Connections: 

Rafiuddin Ahmed (fellow Indian in Britain at the time), Mohammed Bukhsh (fellow servant).

3
Secondary works: 

Anand, Sushila, Indian Sahib: Queen Victoria's Dear Abdul (London: Duckworth, 1996)

Longford, Elizabeth, Victoria R. I. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1964)

Plumb, J. H., Royal Heritage: The Story of Britain's Royal Builders and Collectors (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1977)

Ponsonby, Frederick Edward Grey, Recollections of Three Reigns (London: Eyre &Spottiswoode, 1951)

Truth, 19 December 1895

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Hundred Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Visram, Rozina, Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: Indians in Britain, 1700-1947 (London: Pluto Press, 1986)

Visram, Rozina, 'Karim, Abdul (1862/3–1909)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/42022]

4
Example: 

Anand, Sushila, Indian Sahib: Queen Victoria's Dear Abdul (London: Duckworth, 1996), p. 15

Content: 

Queen Victoria records her first meeting with her two Indian servants.

Extract: 

23 June 1887, Windsor Castle

A very fine morning with a fresh air. Felt very tired. Drove down to Frogmore with Beatrice to breakfast, and met Vicky and young Vicky there. My 2 Indian servants were there and began to wait.

The one, Mohammed Bukhsh, very dark with a very smiling expression, has been a servant before with Gen. Dennehy, and also with the Rana of Dholpore, and the other, much younger, called Abdul Karim, is much lighter, tall, and with a fine serious countenance. His father is a native doctor at Agra. They both kissed my feet.

Archive source: 

Mss Eur D/558/1, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Mss Eur F84/126a, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/P/S/8/61, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Royal Archives, Windsor