Queen Elizabeth gave PM Modi her wedding gift from Gandhi
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK in April, Queen Elizabeth gave him a crocheted, cotton lace sent to her as a gift on her marriage with Prince Philip in November 1947 by Mahatma Gandhi, who had personally spun its yarn.
One of more than 2,500 presents received by the royal couple, the lace (approximately 12 X 24 inches) was carried from India to London by Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was then governor-general, and has “Jai Hind” woven in as its central motif.
The queen’s unique present to Modi was revealed by Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister for law and information technology, at a meeting of the Overseas Friends of BJP organised on Sunday evening to extol the Modi government's achievements over the past four years.
Recalling the gift while setting out India’s global stature under Modi, Prasad said it was a “sentimental” gesture when the Queen and the prime minister met in Buckingham Palace on April 18. News about the gift was conveyed in the cabinet and he wanted the BJP's London-based supporters “to know about it, feel happy about it”.
He said: “When Prime Minister Modi went to make a personal call on the Queen Elizabeth, do you know what she gave him? She gave him the handwoven cotton handkerchief which Gandhiji gave Queen Elizabeth at the time of her marriage.
“This shows the kind of respect Modiji is having,” Prasad added to much applause, recounting an array of figures and achievements on issues such as demonetisation, tax reforms, Goods and Services Tax, digital initiatives and a cleanliness drive.
Prasad recalled how the Queen had sent a personal letter to Modi, delivered in New Delhi by Prince Charles, inviting him to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April. "The suggestion was that without India there cannot be the Commonwealth," he said.
The Queen’s marriage on November 20, 1947, weeks after India’s independence, and Gandhi’s gift to the royal couple is redolent with history. But when it arrived in a box, key figures in the royal household were left perplexed and some thought it was “vulgar”.
Pamela Hicks, the daughter of Mountbatten and one of the then princess' bridesmaids at the wedding, wrote about it in The Daily Telegraph: “Princess Elizabeth had written me a sweet letter asking me to be one of her bridesmaids and I, of course, was honoured to accept.
“Before we left, my parents saw Mahatma Gandhi (the spiritual leader of the new India) and he told my father: 'I so wanted to give Princess Elizabeth a present, but I have given all my possessions away.'
“My father, however, knew he still had his spinning wheel and he told Gandhi: ‘If a cloth could be made from yarn you have spun, that would be like receiving the Crown Jewels.’
“And so this was done and we took his present to Britain for the wedding, but Queen Mary (the Queen's grandmother) wrongly thought it was a loincloth and that it was a most ‘indelicate’ gift.”