Mobile menu

The British Monarchy and India

A watercolour depicting Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, landing at the dockyard in Bombay on 8 November 1875. Inscribed along the bottom and signed: The first step on Indian soil./ S.P.H.Bombay.

In October 1875, Albert Edward, the eldest son of Que

Landing at the dockyard, Bombay ©

The British monarchy's connection to the Indian subcontinent dates from 1600, when a Royal Charter granted the British East India Company a monopoly over trade with ‘the East Indies’. By the nineteenth century, the company had changed from a trading body into a territorial and political power in India.

In 1858, the company was dissolved in favour of British Crown rule. Two-thirds of the subcontinent was ruled by the ‘British Raj’, a combination of the India Office in London, the British Indian Government and the Viceroy, with Queen Victoria as head of state.

The remainder of India (more than 560 principalities) was governed by Indian rulers linked to the British Raj by a resident governor. It was important for the Monarchy to establish diplomatic links with these rulers, and so in 1875 Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, embarked on a lengthy tour of the subcontinent. He exchanged gifts with each ruler he met and returned to Britain with an extraordinary collection of Indian works of art. This exhibition explores the Prince's tour through the gifts he received.

Throughout the exhibition we use the place names and titles used in 1875–6.