When the Queen came calling in 1961


Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI and Princess Margaret on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on VE Day, 8 May 1945
 (Rex Features)

NB: Like Kishanji, resident of Varanasi (quoted below) I too was a small boy, just less than eleven years of age, when Queen Elizabeth arrived in Delhi in January 1961. Us schoolchildren (from what is now called the Army Public School), were taken to Sardar Patel road, to welcome her. We stood on the roadside and waved flags and cheered as she passed by in an open car. She waved back and smiled at us.

She went on to visit memorable sites in several cities, and at Rajghat she and her husband removed their shoes when they paid their respects to Mahatma Gandhi. This has nothing to do with political doctrine. We weep for an age gone by. RIP, Elizabeth Regina. DS

Queen Elizabeth II in her robes on the occasion of her coronation in June 1953. Photograph: Cecil Beaton/Camera Press

New Delhi, Feb 6 (PTI) Thousands gathered at Delhi’s sprawling Ramlila Maidan to catch a glimpse of royalty as Queen Elizabeth II, who on Sunday became the first British monarch to complete 70 years on the throne, and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived in the city in January 1961.

The spectators cheered and waved Indian and British flags as the then mayor of Delhi Sham Nath felicitated the young royals on a huge, elevated oriental-style rostrum with garlands in the presence of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, according to archival records….

The Queen and Prince Philip’s Signatures In The Visitor’s Book. (Getty Image)

During her first visit, the Queen and Prince Philip had also visited Agra, Bombay (now Mumbai), Benares (now Varanasi), Udaipur, Jaipur, Bangalore (now Bengaluru), Madras (now Chennai) and Calcutta (now Kolkata). She also visited Pakistan during her trip to the Indian subcontinent.

In Agra, she visited the Taj Mahal in an open-top car. In Varanasi, she took an elephant ride in a royal procession, enjoying the hospitality of the erstwhile Maharaja of Benares. Wherever she went, countless people lined the streets, many perched on rooftops and in balconies to catch a glimpse of ‘Her Majesty, the Queen of England’, whose grandfather King George V was the last British monarch to visit India before her in 1911.

While India was a British colony during the visit of King George V, it was a free nation and a young republic when Queen Elizabeth visited. Kishanji, a Varanasi resident in his 70s, who retired as a junior engineer from the Indian Railways, was a young boy when the Queen visited the holy city 61 years ago. He still vividly recalls seeing the Queen. “I was a little boy and saw the Queen as her entourage passed through the streets. People crowded the streets to catch a glimpse of her. She waved at the crowd with a smile, people were really happy to see her,” he told PTI….