Not only did Queen Victoria rule the Indian subcontinent for many years, she also had a unique relationship with one of her aides, who was an Indian servant to the royal throne. Their camaraderie has now been turned into a feature film called Victoria & Abdul that stars the evergreen Judi Dench and Ali Fazal. While the movie is running at UK theatres, the original notebook of the Queen learning Urdu from Abdul has gone on public display.
Yes, the rare notebook featuring the British monarch’s handwriting in both Urdu and English has been put out for public viewing at Osborne House. The 1895 antique is one of the eight surviving volumes which are rarely loaned out by the Royal Archives but now it has been brought to its original location to mark the release of the period drama.
Abdul Karim from Agra was only 24-years-old when he went to England to wait at Queen Victoria’s table during her golden jubilee in 1887. However, within a year, the young man established a unique rapport with the monarch and became the talk of the royal court. He was not only Queen Victoria’s Urdu teacher but also her close advisor on Indian affairs.
UK-based Indian writer Shrabani Basu unearthed a few diaries that provided insights into their beautiful relationship. “In letters to him over the years between his arrival in the UK and her death in 1901, the queen signed letters to him as ‘your loving mother’ and ‘your closest friend’,” Basu told BBC.
— English Heritage (@EnglishHeritage) September 15, 2017
Osborne curator Michael Hunter told BBC that the notebook gave an “intimate glimpse” into their relationship. “It’s fascinating to see this elaborate script in her own handwriting, and the painstaking way that Abdul set out the lessons”, he added.
— Osborne (@EHOsborneHouse) September 15, 2017
Beautiful, isn’t it?