Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Thursday, was the first British monarch to accede to the throne after India’s Independence from colonial rule in 1952 and admired the “richness and diversity” of India where she made three State Visits over the course of her reign – in 1961, 1983 and 1997.
‘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.
In 1961, the Queen and her husband, the late Prince Phillip – Duke of Edinburgh, toured Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata – then Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta – and also visited the Taj Mahal in Agra and paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat in New Delhi.
They were Guests of Honour at the Republic Day Parade on the invitation of the then President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, and an enduring image from the tour shows the Queen addressing a massive crowd of several thousand people packed into Ramlila Grounds in Delhi for her address, dressed in a fur coat and hat.
In 1983, her visit was in time for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and she famously presented Mother Teresa with an honorary Order of the Merit. Her final visit to India was to mark the 50th anniversary celebrations of India’s Independence and for the first time she made a reference to ‘difficult episodes’ of colonial history.
‘It is no secret that there have been some difficult episodes in our past. Jallianwala Bagh is a distressing example,’ the monarch noted in her banquet address.
She and her husband later paid a visit to the scene of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar to place a wreath at the memorial, amid widespread calls for an apology for the thousands killed at the orders of a British General during the Raj era.
Over the years, the Queen has also hosted three Indian presidents – Dr Radhakrishnan in 1963, R. Venkataraman in 1990 and Pratibha Patil in 2009.
‘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.
‘Nearly 2 million of our own citizens are tied by descent and enduring family links to India. They represent one of the United Kingdom’s most dynamic and successful communities. relations between our two countries are built on strong and deep foundations, and are set fair for the 21st century,’ she said.