The Prince of Wales in India

Christopher Hibbert describes how, against the Queen’s wishes, the Prince successfully toured the British Indian Empire at the age of thirty-four.

Edward, Prince of Wales (front centre) in India, 1876
Edward, Prince of Wales (front centre) in India, 1876

Unknown to both the government and Queen Victoria, in the winter of 1874-75, the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) began to plan an undertaking that was to release him for a time from the frustration he felt at his mother's reluctance to allow him any share of her authority. His household gathered what this plan was when the librarian at Sandringham was instructed to collect all the books he could about India.

When the Queen was approached, however, she did not think an Indian tour was a good idea at all. It was 'quite against [her] desire', she told her daughter, the Crown Princess of Prussia. There might be some political advantage, but not much; it was not as if there were any particular crisis in Indian affairs. Besides, even if Bertie's health were up to the strain, he ought not to leave his family for so long; and there could be no question of the Princess of Wales going. In any case, who was to pay for it all?

'Where is the money to come from?' Disraeli, the Prime Minister, also wanted to know after 'our young Hal' had induced his mother to give her assent to the scheme 'on the representation that it was entirely approved by her Ministers'.

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