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Coronation, Colonialism and Cultures of Control: The Delhi Durbar, 1911

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Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience
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Abstract

The Coronation Durbar was a momentous interlude in the British imperial experience, not just contributing towards the creation of ‘a uniquely royal and ritualised realm’,2 but also inaugurating a new political roadmap for the Raj. Held on the twelfth day of the twelfth month of 1911, the Durbar had preoccupied India for more than a year, involved the most elaborate preparations and much expense — just the new crown crafted by Garrads for the occasion cost £60,000 drawn on the Indian exchequer — and brought a quarter of a million people together from every part of India and overseas to the vast plains just beyond the ridge at Delhi. In spectacle alone it dwarfed previous durbars — ‘none who witnessed the Durbar of 1903 deny’, wrote Valentine Chirol, the veteran Times foreign editor and India expert, that 1911 was ‘an incomparably bigger and more majestic spectacle’.3 It was significant in being the first time that a reigning monarch had left Britain’s shores for an extended

visit to the East, reinforcing also a personal association, with George V and Queen Mary having earlier toured the subcontinent as Prince and Princess of Wales during 1905–6. Further, as Chirol hoped, the fact that the King’s first visit to any overseas dominions should be to their country ‘cannot but be regarded by all his Indian subjects as a special recognition of the great part which India plays, and must continue to play, in the Empire’.4 Indeed, Dominions like Canada and South Africa had to wait considerably longer — 1939 and 1947, respectively — for the first visit by a reigning sovereign.

The journalist, the news-writer, and the stately historian have had, and will have, much to say of the Imperial Durbar at Delhi, when for the first time since the days of Aurangzeb a real Badshah has been seen to ride coram publico, for all who willed to gaze on.

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© 2014 Chandrika Kaul

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Kaul, C. (2014). Coronation, Colonialism and Cultures of Control: The Delhi Durbar, 1911. In: Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137445964_2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137445964_2

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-36434-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-137-44596-4

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