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History retraced: A Glimpse of Empire

books Updated: Mar 16, 2012 12:01 IST

Pooja Maheshwary, Hindustan Times
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History aficionados will soon get a taste of India during the British Raj at a photographic exhibit in the city. Compiled by British author Jessica Douglas-Home, the photographs were taken by Lilah Wingfield, her grandmother, when she visited India in 1911 to witness the coronation durbar of King George V. There is also a detailed description in Jessica’s book, ‘A Glimpse of Empire’.

Explaining the historic event that provides the backdrop for her book, Jessica says, “My grandmother was invited to the Delhi Durbar where King George V was to be proclaimed the new Emperor. A tented city was created about seven miles north of Old Delhi, where 2,50,000 people lived for two weeks.” She adds, “This historic event hardly finds a mention in the biographies written during that time.”

Ask her how difficult it was to retrace her grandmother’s visit to India and she says, “When I came across her diaries, I realised that the historic event of 1911 would soon complete its centenary. After a lot of research, I compiled the book, which describes events through the eyes of an Englishwoman who fell in love with India.”

So what were the highlights of Lilah’s journey to India? “The Begum of Bhopal, the only female ruler at the time, became a good friend of my grandmother and invited her to stay with her,” says Jessica. “Her son, the prince of Obaidullah, developed a crush on her. He was quite keen on her and they had a near romance, despite being married.”