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Gandhi's gift to the Queen to be on display

While Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrate the 60th anniversary of their wedding on Tuesday, one of the gifts they got & to be put on public display is a lace tray cover woven by the Mahatma himself.

world Updated: Nov 17, 2007 17:17 IST


Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrate the 60th anniversary of their wedding on Tuesday, and one of the gifts they received and to be put on public display is a lace tray cover woven by Mahatma Gandhi.

The day will be marked by a service at the Westminster Abbey at which the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was not born when the wedding took place, will give a sermon.

The National Archive is throwing open for public display all the gifts and details of the wedding day, Nov 20, 1947, shortly after India's independence. The details have been put together in a book, Elizabeth and Philip, by Val Horsler.

Among the documents on display are those detailing the horror of Queen Mary, the widow of George V, when the palace received the lace tray cover, woven by Gandhi himself as a wedding present for the royal couple -- because she thought it was his loincloth!

The Manchester Guardian, the predecessor of the present-day The Guardian, called the wedding the "first post war sight of pageantry and colour". It reported that huge crowds cheered the princess to and from the service at Westminster Abbey.

It reported: "Great crowds remained in front of Buckingham Palace for hours after they had greeted the wedding party's two appearances on the balcony and the King and Queen came out again four times last night."

"The floodlights were switched off when they left the balcony on their last appearance at 11 pm, but many of the crowd kept up the rejoicings for some time afterwards."

Among gifts from abroad were 131 pairs of nylons and 500 cases of tinned pineapples from the governor of Queensland. The New York Institute of Dress Designers sent 25 dresses as a gift, 20 of which were given to other brides getting married at the same time.

Among the 2,500 wedding presents were a sewing machine, a vacuum cleaner, an automatic potato peeler and a bath sponge. Some, including a Sevres dinner service given by the government and people of France, are still in use.

According to The Guardian, the book details many of the costs of the wedding as far as the government was concerned - and its attempts to pass on some of the expense. The dean and chapter of Westminster were less than pleased to be billed for 92 pounds to cover the cost of a temporary stand for clergy unable to take their usual seats in the abbey's choir stalls.

The ministry of works scrupulously detailed its costs, including an awning for the west door of the abbey - 115 pounds, carpets - 83 pounds, draping in the chapel - 9 pounds, curtain at abbey door - 15 pounds, loan of 800 chairs - 50 pounds, Whitehall decorations - 400 pounds, banners by Buckingham Palace - 544 pounds.

Anxious not to appear too extravagant at a time of rationing, the royal family limited the wedding breakfast to 150 guests and three courses, with partridge as the main dish since it was not rationed.

First Published: Nov 17, 2007 16:41 IST

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