Coronation of King Edward VII
Westminster Abbey, London; celebrations in India, most particularly in Delhi during the Delhi Durbar, 1902-3.
Edward VII was crowned in August 1902, some months after the death of his mother Queen Victoria, and about two weeks after he had suffered from appendicitis, which was, unusually for the era, operated upon successfully. He assumed the title, among others, of Emperor of India. The death of Victoria had been ‘profoundly mourned’ in India and was marked by the building of the Victoria Memorial Hall in Calcutta (Gilmour, p. 234). Edward had visited India as Prince of Wales from November 1875 to March 1876, including a brief trip to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He had been welcomed warmly, and ‘succeeded in winning the affection of the common people of India, as well as the respect and admiration of India’s princes and nobles’ (Magnus, p. 183).
Indian princes who attended the coronation in London included the Maharaja of Jaipur and the Maharaja of Bikanir, both of whom visited the Viceroy Curzon’s ancestral home Kedleston during their time in England. Receptions for Indian princes were overseen by Sir William Curzon Wyllie (no relation to the Viceroy), the political aide-de-camp to the Secretary of State for India.
The celebrations in India, known as the Delhi Durbar or the Imperial Durbar, took place from 29 December 1902 to 10 January 1903, and were attended by the Duke of Connaught, King Edward’s brother. The programme of events lasted a fortnight and were on a scale never before attempted. The Viceroy’s own camp included nearly 3,000 people, and accommodation for the whole event was provided for about 150,000 attendees. On 29 December the Curzons and Connaughts arrived in Delhi by train. They then took part in a state procession through the centre of Delhi and out to the Durbar site by elephant. On New Year’s Day the main ceremony took place, attended by over 300 veterans of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, most of them Indians who had fought on the British side. The Central Camp of the Durbar was about one mile from monument to the Rebellion. For more details see Official Directory (listed below).
Celebrations took place in other Indian towns; for an example see Poems regarding Coronation of His Majesty Edward VII Emperor of India, at Narsipatam Durbar Meeting on 1st January 1903 (listed below).
Sir Shahu Chhatrapati (Maharaja of Kolhapur), Sir Narayan Bhup Bahadur (Maharaja of Cooch Behar) and Sunity Devee (Maharani of Cooch Behar), Sir Madho Rao Sindhia (Maharaja of Gawlior), Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah (the Aga Khan), Frederick Duleep Singh, Sophia Duleep Singh, Sir Ganga Singh (Maharaja of Bikaner), Sir Madho Singh (Maharaja of Jaipur), Sir Pertab Singh (Maharaja of Idar), Sir William Curzon Wyllie.
The Coronation Durbar Delhi 1903 - Official Directory (with Maps) (Camp Delhi: Foreign Office Press, 1902)
Barjorji, Rustam, The Nazarânâ, or, Indian’s offering to her King-Emperor on his coronation (Bombay: D. B. Taraporevala Sons & Co., 1902)
A Collection of Proclamations, Programmes, Tickets and Other Material connected with the Delhi Durbar, 1903, formed by Perceval Landon (Folio, 1902-3)
Bodley, John Edward Courtenay, The Coronation of Edward the Seventh: A Chapter of European and Imperial History (London: Methuen & Co., 1903)
Wheeler, Stephen, History of the Delhi Coronation Durbar, held on the first of January 1903 to celebrate the coronation of His Majesty King Edward VII, Emperor of India, compiled from official papers by order of the Viceroy and Governor-General of India, with portraits and illustrations (London: John Murray, 1904)
Saheb, Mohommed Yacob, Poems regarding Coronation of His Majesty Edward VII Emperor of India, at Narsipatam Durbar Meeting on 1st January 1903 (Vizagapatam: S. S. M. Press, 1907)
See contemporary newspapers
Gilmour, David, Curzon (London: John Murray, 1994)
Gilmour, David, ‘Curzon, George Nathaniel, Marquess Curzon of Kedleston (1859-1925)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2009) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/32680]
Hibbert, Christoper, Edward VII: The Last Victorian King (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)
Magnus, Philip, King Edward the Seventh (London: Penguin Books, 1964)
Bodley, John Edward Courtenay, The Coronation of Edward the Seventh: A Chapter of European and Imperial History (London: Methuen & Co., 1903), p. 227
On the Indian Army’s involvement in the coronation in London and the public’s response.
The Orientals who attracted most attention wearing the King’s uniform were not those from the Levant or the China Sea. The parks, in and around London, had been turned into camps for the soldiers of the British Empire chosen to take part in the military pageants of the Coronation, and one of them was peopled with an imposing contingent of the native troops of the Indian army. That force, two hundred thousand strong, is recruited in every region of the great peninsula, from Kashmir to Cape Comorin, and from the Afghan hills to the delta of Godavery. To hail the Emperor of India it had sent to England representatives of a vast array of races and of castes. There were Tamils from Southern India, Telugus from the East Coast, Mahrattas from the Deccan, Bhramins, Jats and Rajputs from Oudh and Rajputana, Gurkhas from Nepal, Sikhs from the Pubjab, Afridies and other Pathans from the wild borderland across the Indus, Hazaras from Afghanistan and Mussulmans of diverse origin and locality. The crowds admired the dark turbaned warriers in the brilliant attire of Lancers or Guides, and felt a pride in knowing that they formed part of the King’s Army.
Letters, journals, and other papers, Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, Windsor
Newspapers from Britain and South Asia, British Library Newspapers, Colindale, London
National Archives of India, New Delhi