Lilah Wingfield, 23, an Earl’s daughter arrived in Delhi in late November 1911 to attend the Royal Durbar to mark the shifting of the Capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi.
She took pictures with her Kodak — on display at The Imperial till Thursday — of 13-year-old boys recently made Maharajas, staid British royals, ceremonial elephants, a 25-square-mile Tent City, monumental ruins, and, most of all, the occasion that it gave Delhi’s new masters to size up their subjects. And vice versa.
The young aristocrat, as the pictures show, did the royal trail well. Her favourite photograph “was the one she took of the 13-year-old Maharaja Sumer of Jodhpur in his carriage during the State Entry — 7th December 1911. They had become friends on the ship to India — he waved to her from his carriage,” says her granddaughter and artist Jessica Douglas-Home, who is in Delhi for the centenary celebration.
The princesses were at that time off-bounds, “but she did become a good friend of the Begum of Bhopal”. The city Lilah saw has changed, but places like the Chandni Chowk, notes Douglas-Home retain the similarity. “But many of the ancient palaces, monuments, beautiful temples have been blocked by new housing.”