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 was gifted an artistic model of the 12-century minaret, Qutub Minar, while the Duke of Edinburgh was presented a silver candelabra, according to rare archival footage of the royal tour.
The Queen also attended the grand Republic Day celebrations at Rajpath in the city.
It was a visit of multiple firsts.
It was the maiden visit by the Queen, who ascended the throne on the death of her father and last emperor of India King George VI on this day in 1952, to the country. It was the first visit by a British monarch to India after the country got independence. It was also the first visit by a reigning British monarch to the country.
The Queen, during the Delhi leg of her 1961 tour, also visited Rajghat and offered a ceremonial wreath at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial. She also formally opened the institute buildings of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on January 27 at an impressive ceremony attended by the then President Rajendra Prasad.
In the past, the Royal Family has recalled memories of the Queen’s India visit, sharing old pictures from the multi-city tour of the country on its official social media handles.
“The Queen and The Royal Family have a personal connection with India and have visited several times,” the Royal Family had tweeted in 2017.
“The Queen’s first State Visit to India was in 1961, as the guest of Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India,” it had said in a subsequent tweet.
“Her Majesty has undertaken three State Visits to India, the first of which was in 1961 – The Queen addresses a crowd in Ramlila Ground and The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh on a walkabout in New Delhi, 1961,” it had said in a tweet in 2019, sharing two rare pictures from the 1961 visit.
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.
After 1961, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited India together again in 1983 and 1997, when India marked the 50th year of its Independence.
The Duke of Edinburgh had also visited India in 1959. He died last year aged 99.
The anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the British throne is a moment of reflection for the 95-year-old monarch. The princess became Queen at the young age of 25.
The couple were in Kenya in February 1952, having left London on January 31, enjoying nature and the wildlife, when the news was broken to her that her father King George VI had died on February 6, following which they returned to London.
Through hereditary succession, she became the Queen on that very day. This Sunday thus marks 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and grand celebrations have been lined up in the UK and other commonwealth nations to mark the unprecedented anniversary. PTI KND DIV DIV
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