Primrose for a faery queen

Believing that her Indian subjects were mistreated, the queen at sixty-nine ostentatiously took a young Indian from Agra as an extra personal secretary, or “Munshi”. Her court was scandalized. Equally scandalized was Her Majesty by their race prejudice: For them to make out that the poor good Munshi is so low is really outrageous and in a country like England quite out of place…She has known two archbishops who were sons respectively of a Butcher & a Grocer… The Queen is so sorry for the poor Munshi’s sensitive feelings. …

---Hafiz Abdul Karim, (1863?-1909), better known as "the Munshi" (variously translated as "teacher" or "clerk" in Urdu), was an Indian servant of Queen Victoria who gained her affection in the final fifteen years of her reign. The Munshi was one of two Indian servants brought over to mark Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. The Munshi was initially a dining room waiter. The Queen took a great liking to him, and, after he supposedly alleged that he had been a clerk at home and thus menial work as a waiter was beneath him,...Read More:

But if the queen opposed contemporary racism, jingoism was something she could share. Revenge against Indian mutineers might seem to her to be un-Christian, however, revenge upon the Russian “barbarians” in 1877 filled her with the wildest excitement: I pitched into him ( Lord Carnarvon, minister urging moderation in the Russian-Turkish crisis ) with a vehemence & indignation- who was at any rate inspired by the Bristish lion- & he remained shrinking but still craven hearted!- wishing to say to the world we could not act!!! oh! the Englishmen were now what they were!! but we shall yet assert our rights… & “Britains never will be Slaves”- will yet be our Motto.

---New Crowns for Old Ones John Tenniel 1876 Punch (15 April 1876): 146--- Read More:

It was Disraeli who had fired the little volcano that many unwisely thought extinct. Deliberately laying on his flattery “with a trowel” he coaxed the mournful widow out of her seclusion at Windsor. To his credit, he had sold her the 1867 Reform Bill and then, more controversially, made her see herself as queen-empress, dripping with oriental gems and able at last to look the emperors of Russia, Prussia, and Austria in the face.

As his “Faery Queen” , she sent him gifts of spring flowers, ordering a wreath of primroses when he died, with the inscription “His Favourite Flower.” Until the Victorian world disappeared, “Primrose Day” was celebrated every year by millions as a feast of Empire.


Following the letter-burning, Karim and his wife were ordered to return to India. Years of fine living in the Queen’s palaces meant Karim had grown portly. He had also grown rich, and, returning to Agra, built himself a house, Karim Lodge. He died eight years after his return, at the age of 46.

Yet King Edward’s paranoia was not quelled, and he sent more agents to India to demand that all memorabilia relating to the Queen be burned, much to the alarm of Karim’s grieving widow. King Edward had done the same with all mementos of his mother’s relationship with John Brown.

After all these years, Abdul Karim’s family decided to come forward with the diary as they were determined to show him in a more positive light; not the social climber he had been painted as by many. In truth, Karim was one of the Queen’s closest companions, and offered the widowed monarch a great deal of support – and pleasure – during her lonely later years. Read More:

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