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Ed_Haynes

Indian Durbar Medals

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Arguably, the whole idea for these awards begins with the 1875 visit to India by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), which may have been as much scheme to get his often embarassing (to Mom) person out of the UK as anything else. Without consulting London (or, for that matter, the Government of India in Calcutta), the Prince awarded silver and gold medals to those proiminent individuals who he met, who attened his various durbars (see below), and who he otherwise wished to honor.

"Durbar" = An important word. A ceremonial gathering of subordinate (or so the conever believed them to be) individuals who, by their very presence and implicit permission to engage in the ceremonies involved, had proffered their allegiance to the legitimacy of the individuals who had convened the gathering.

While the details are rather vague, during his 1875 visit the Prince of Wales awarded massive neck-worn medals (on the ribbon of the new order of the Star of India) to those he met during his trip (killing animals [etc.] much of the time). These were numbered and could, if the recipient desired, be returned to the Indian Mint for naming (which made the Mint much less than happy).

The medal was awarded in perhaps 48 examples in gold and 165 in silver (bronze and white metal specimans exist, biut seem to have been mere souveniers from the mint). This (silver) specimen (No. 11) was named up to "MAHARANA GUMBHIR SINHJI RAJA OF RAJPIPLA". He was born in 1847 and ruled from 1860 to 10 January 1897. I still seek of photo of him weraring this medal. (Rajpipla was a major regional state just north on the coast from Mumbai -- then, Bombay.)

As for all the other 'royal' visits to India, special, commemorative medallions were issued for those (Europeans) who accompanied them, but (for the moment) I exclude them from this consideration.

Edited by Ed_Haynes

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When the Prince retuned home, his "discovery of India" conjoined with a growing desire to extract his mother from her post-Albert mouring, with a new and increasingly aggressive British racial confidence and rescurrected neo-imperialism, and with a felt need to define just WHAT the British role had been in India since the dismantlement of the East India Company in 1859.

With careful work between the Prime Minister and Viceroy, a Durbar was convened in Delhi (then, a backward proivincial town but with much historical symbolic value) to proclaim Queen Victoria as the "Empress of India" (actually, in Indian and nearby languagues, as "Emperor of India", a subtle gender-linked vocabulary distinction).

A medal was issued to those in attendance. In gold to the "Ruling Princes" and senior British oficials in attendance (the rolls have been located in New Delhi but, as yet, are unseen). While many were named (again, as the recipient's cost from the mint), this one is unnamed. :(

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To "lesser personages", the medal was awarded in silver. In this case the medai is named to "Dewan Trilok Nath", believed to be Lala Triloki Nath Singh, Talukhdar of Shahganj, NWP & Oudh. He is known to have been present in Delhi for the durbar.

As these medals were not allowed to be worn by European personnel in uniform or outside Europe, their status remained ambiguous in some circles, though in India (among both Indians and Europeans) these medals remained much respected.

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With the death of the Queen-Empress, a formal durbar was convened in Delhi in 1903. While the new king-emperor was absent, gold medals (est. 140) were awarded to ruling "princes" at others of prominence who attended the gathering (under the intimate supervision of the Viceroy, Lord Curzon). While many were privately and semi-officially named, most were not. This gold one (alas :( ) does not live with me, but I have been allowed to post the image.

Edited by Ed_Haynes

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This in silver (est. only 2567 awarded) was given to those (militray and civilian offficials) actually present at the durbar (this will be become important). This medal (alas) in unnamed and unattributed (though I may add some attributed groups later if there if there is any interest).

(The published rolls of military recpients [only!?!], by the way, are quite laughable, and the fact that they were prepared from PRINTED rolls is quite a sad and embarassing shame.)

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In 1905-6, the new Prince of Wales followed in his father's footsteps (well, not quite -- he brought his wife along) and visited India. A special and quite ambiguous commeorative medal was awarded to those who assisted him as a special royal gift (just 70 specimens). This gift would confuse generations of Indian officials. While I have one in a group, the specimen is shown (by pertmission) is with ribbon (which is rarer than the medal.

Edited by Ed_Haynes

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With his father's death on 6 May 1910, the new King-Emperor decided (in concert with his India Administration) to break with tradition and actually to visit (once again) India for his coronation as Emperor of India (this required the creation of a new Crown of India etc., at full Indian expense -- this provided both a nice ongoing decoration for the tower of London and a focus for the growing Indian opposition to British colonial rule). George V would be the first (and last) king-emperor actually to travel to India.

Once again, in Delhi, a durbar was held to mark his accession/coronation as Emperor of India.

A medal, in gold, was issued to those ruling princes in attendance and to senior British officials. As before, non-rulers could not wear the medal in gold (est. total 200 issued) outside India. This specimen, awarded to the Vicerene Winifred, Lady Hardinge of Penshurst, C.I., K.i.H., is therefore a bit of an exception. While unnamed (and extracted from a group), it represents an interesting example.

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The silver medals were much more widely awarded than had been the case with his father's medals. In part this was the result of a changing "public relations" imperial need and in part it had been the result of massive complaints after the 1903 durbar. While just around 2,567 Edward VII silver medals had been awarded, some 30,000 (and this estimate is very low!) George V silver medals were awarded. And this number does not include the (rather small) body of 134 recipients of both his coronation medal and the specially struck "DELHI" clasp to the coronatiion medal -- discussed elsewhere -- to avoid multiple awards. (It was a specific concern to avoid duplicate award for the coronation and durbar as had "afflicted" Edward VII's accession, and this concern would carry over to the next generation).

A sdample silver medal, in this case awarded (and named) to "Rao Raja Jugal Saran Singh. Bharatpur." While he was clearly a part of the 'royal' hangers-on from Bharatpur State (in Rajputana) his satisfactory indentification is elusive at present.

Edited by Ed_Haynes

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In 1921-22, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) again visited India and, again, a medal was issued to a small number of individuals (mainly Indian) who assisted in his visit. It is estimated that ony 84 of these medals (again, all in silver) were awarded. (And, again, I appreciate permission to uses a rarely ribboned example -- which isn't mine. :( )

Unlike his father's (or grandfatherr's) experience, this Prince of Wales has less tha "fun" and experieces a substantially increasedl evel of Indian opposoition to foreign rule. This negative experience would have results with his --and his brother's -- view of India and of Indian visits.

Edited by Ed_Haynes

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On 20 January 1936, King-Emperor George V died and the presumed accession of his son as King-Emperor Edward VIII launched the empire into an as-yet-unequalled constititional crisis.

After much agony, the late ruler's second son came to the throne as King-Emperor Gerge VI in December 1936.

While the wheels in India had been put into motion for a (proposed) durbar for Edward VIII (and designs had actually been launched for a Durbar Medal and other awards), these soon came to a screeching halt.

As events unrolled, it became increasingly obvious that (1) Edward VIII would not become king-emperor, (2) that his brother would come to the throne as George VI, (3) that while the new King-Emperor George VI had never visited India, he had no particular personal inclination toward either international travel nor visiting India (his brother, after all, had had no fun at all while there), (4) that the political situation in India had altered substantially from the troubled days when Edward VIII (as Prince of Wales) had visited India and that the visit of a new ruler would not (most emphatically NOT) be a happy political experience in the post-Salt-March late 1930s, and (5) that the international political situation -- especially in Europe in 1937/38 -- had reached a point when the foreign travel of the king was not a recommended act.

Schemes were developed for a special clasp for George VI's (familiar?) Coronation Medal for a Delhi durbar (whenever that took place, and which he did NOT plan to attend). Indeed, discussion was also given to an otherwise-unreported and mysterious distinction between the "military" and "civil" versions of that medal's ribbon.

All these plans, of course, came to mean nothing as events in Europe, elsewhere, and, especially, in India brought the institution of "king-emperor" to an end on 15 August 1947.

Edited by Ed_Haynes

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PS- Should anyone care (?), I can add a few examples of the royal "hanger-on" badges for the trips to India or of groups containing these medals. But most would, probably, rather see groups to Europeans, and these can better be posted in The Other Sub-Forum?

You only need to ask.

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Thanks for these, Ed. I'm the proud owner of an Empress of India (silver - unnamed), an '01 Durbar (silver) and an '11 Durbar (silver). It's fun to see the gold ones.

Show us your hangers-on.

Best,

Hugh

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Shall do so, tomorrow, Hugh.

And may even throw in some groups. :rolleyes:

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PS- Should anyone care (?), I can add a few examples of the royal "hanger-on" badges for the trips to India or of groups containing these medals. But most would, probably, rather see groups to Europeans, and these can better be posted in The Other Sub-Forum?

You only need to ask.

I'm asking.

Thanks for a great post Ed.

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

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A wonderful post of information on the Durbar medals and gorgeous illustrations, for which very many grateful thanks.

BUT, must we have the glib, prejudiced and very frequently factually wrong pseudo political commentary?

"that while the new King-Emperor George VI had never visited India, he had no particular personal inclination toward either international travel nor visiting India (his brother, after all, had had no fun at all while there)" - on the contrary Edward said he had a wonderful time, read his autobiography!

" that the international political situation -- especially in Europe in 1937/38 -- had reached a point when the foreign travel of the king was not a recommended act". Huh? He visited France, Canada, Newfoundland and the United States. In the last three cases, the first reigning king ever to do so.

George VI himself wanted very much to visit India in 1948 and grant the instruments of independence in person, according to the original timetable for that event. However, some powers by be, primarily Mountbatten (and those stirred up by him) had different plans, brininging forward the date for independence by several months and wanting the grandstanding all to himself.

The "racial superiority" you talk about above is utterly mistaken as far as both Victoria and Edward VII are concerned. Neither had a racist bone in their bodies, as is amply demonstrated by both their public behaviour and private writing.

George V did not go to his coronation in India. He was crowned in London at Wesminster Abbey on 22nd June 1911. The durbars in 1903 and 1911 were held to mark or celebrate the coronations. The crowns that were made for the Delhi event were not to "crown" the king but was necessary because it was found to be illegal to take the actual crown away from British shores.

Queen Mary wasn't simply "brought along", she was part and parcel of the team. They often divided up the visits to some of the ruling princes, the King taking some on his own, while the Queen took others. They were both took a deep interest in and had a very great affection for India and Indians. Both having life long friendships with Indians they had met during their three exhausting trips there. One the of the very last letters written by Queen Mary was to just such an Indian friend, writing in 1953 after that country had become independent and a republic that "when they open me up they will find the word INDIA carved upon my heart".

Rao Raja Jugal Saran Singh is identifiable at http://www.4dw.net/royalark/India/bharat3.htm

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BUT, must we have the glib, prejudiced and very frequently factually wrong pseudo political commentary?

I had hoped to avoid such attacks by posting here, rather than in the "British" section. It seems I was wrong and I now regret having posted.

Let me just say that I have worked in the records, in the archives in the UK and in India. This forum, does not permit footmnotes and references. I shall save these for a more extensive academic publication. But why bother here . . . .

Thanks, though, for the "Royal Ark" reference. When I last looked at his site he did not cover Bharatpur. (The site is now closed, however.)

Edited by Ed_Haynes

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Hi James,

It was probably NOT recommended for the King to travel during this time period, given what a prime "target" he would make. The trip to Canada and Newfoundland and probably the United States was likely as much political as anything. By that I mean it was prudent to "remind" us whose side we were on, not if but, when war broke out. That's not a slam at the Monarchy by any means nor a slight towards India, however, the need for American and Canadian support out weighed the risks, I think.

I've never heard the general opinion from India or Indians of that generation regarding the Monarchy of those times. I would be interested in their points of view. I'm sure it would differ from ours. I hope this is not taken as fuel for a topic that will be closed because it is too hot for the forum, it's just my thoughts on the subject, random and unorganized as my thoughts usually are. :speechless:

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

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fantastic thread!! I really enjoyed it. :cheers:

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Hi James,

It was probably NOT recommended for the King to travel during this time period, given what a prime "target" he would make. The trip to Canada and Newfoundland and probably the United States was likely as much political as anything. By that I mean it was prudent to "remind" us whose side we were on, not if but, when war broke out. That's not a slam at the Monarchy by any means nor a slight towards India, however, the need for American and Canadian support out weighed the risks, I think.

I've never heard the general opinion from India or Indians of that generation regarding the Monarchy of those times. I would be interested in their points of view. I'm sure it would differ from ours. I hope this is not taken as fuel for a topic that will be closed because it is too hot for the forum, it's just my thoughts on the subject, random and unorganized as my thoughts usually are. :speechless:

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

You raise good questions, Brian. It is probably better that I not respond to them.

Any good book on Indian history (not "British Imperial" history) would do more than merely suggest the answer.

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Two additional points:

1. George VI as stated above wanted to go to India in 1948 (or 1/1/1950, which is what most people in London thought would happen). I have it on personal witness that he was saddened not to go, nor be invited.

2. Queen Mary's role as a "political wife" is worthy of historical review (as is the entire topic). See Kristin Zimmerman's work at Harvard and Cambridge. The "creation of social avenues" and political information gathering etc. etc. done by such ladies in the Victorian era was especially vital for a large number of male careers.

I might add in many situations it still is. Rarely today is a college president, upper level diplomatic post, British regimental CO. or private school Headmaster appointed without the spouse being closely scrutinized.

There is probably a good conference paper topic on Queen Mary's visit to India.

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Two additional points:

1. George VI as stated above wanted to go to India in 1948 (or 1/1/1950, which is what most people in London thought would happen). I have it on personal witness that he was saddened not to go, nor be invited.

I believe the original planned date was in about May 1948.

2. Queen Mary's role as a "political wife" is worthy of historical review (as is the entire topic). See Kristin Zimmerman's work at Harvard and Cambridge. The "creation of social avenues" and political information gathering etc. etc. done by such ladies in the Victorian era was especially vital for a large number of male careers.

I might add in many situations it still is. Rarely today is a college president, upper level diplomatic post, British regimental CO. or private school Headmaster appointed without the spouse being closely scrutinized.

There is probably a good conference paper topic on Queen Mary's visit to India.

Queen Mary's own magnificent personal collection of photographs from her visits to India and also the Empire tour of 1901 was originally donated to the Royal Empire/Commonwealth Society Library. It is now at Cambridge and forms a fascinating and unrivalled pictorial record for scholars the world over. I think they have now put the material or discriptions online somewhere but cannot find the link anymore.

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Hi James,

It was probably NOT recommended for the King to travel during this time period, given what a prime "target" he would make. The trip to Canada and Newfoundland and probably the United States was likely as much political as anything. By that I mean it was prudent to "remind" us whose side we were on, not if but, when war broke out. That's not a slam at the Monarchy by any means nor a slight towards India, however, the need for American and Canadian support out weighed the risks, I think.

I've never heard the general opinion from India or Indians of that generation regarding the Monarchy of those times. I would be interested in their points of view. I'm sure it would differ from ours. I hope this is not taken as fuel for a topic that will be closed because it is too hot for the forum, it's just my thoughts on the subject, random and unorganized as my thoughts usually are. :speechless:

Well, I suppose there is one statistic which should help dash a few myths. It is a pretty obvious one, but something like four million Indians swore allegience to the King Emperor during the Second World War, about three times the number as in the first.

One should always be a little careful about swallowing the "Congress Party" line of history. But even in their case, thirteen years into their post-independence government they were still employing a good many of the "hated imperialists" in a wide variedy of posts. Amongs them the highest organs of the new sate, the armed forces, judiciary, civil service, etc.

The Chief of Naval Staff as late as 1958 was Vice-Admiral Sir Sephen Carlill, his KBE in 1957 being recommended by the Indian government. Army officers were withdrawn by special order of the Attlee government when things got sticky between the two new dominions and they started fighting each other, British officers embarrasingly on both sides. But even there were numbers of senior offficers for several years, including people like Sir Harold Williams, again KBE recommended by Nehru. The last High Court Judge retired as late as 1971. This sort of service by subjects and servants of the former Imperial power, not only in India but throughout the former empire, must be unique in human history.

Cheers,

James

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I had hoped to avoid such attacks by posting here, rather than in the "British" section. It seems I was wrong and I now regret having posted.

Let me just say that I have worked in the records, in the archives in the UK and in India. This forum, does not permit footmnotes and references. I shall save these for a more extensive academic publication. But why bother here . . . .

Thanks, though, for the "Royal Ark" reference. When I last looked at his site he did not cover Bharatpur. (The site is now closed, however.)

Sorry, I do no want to labour this point or issue any more than I have done. However, when someone says that he knows nothing about someone, as you have done with Rao Raja Sahib, then labels him a 'hanger-on', that does not sound like the result of paintstaking research. It sounds like prejudice.

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Hi James,

I too do not wish to belabour these points and it is a shame that what started out as a great post soon got :off topic: due to differing policial and "historical" views. History for the most part is what others tell us it is. Who can say what is and is not truth? It all a matter of what you believe. I will never be an expert on anything because I've managed to live long enough to realize that I actually know nothing for a fact. I may accept things as fact but that is not to say they are the truth of the matter. It's all a little frustrating if you are searching for the truth.

At times I feel that opinions are welcomed here if they echo popular opinion, and by that I mean the opinion of the masses (or membership) and that anything that varies from that commonly held opinion is to be rooted out and quashed. Perhaps no political opinions or comments should be allowed on the forum whatsoever. The title of the forum is, after all, the "Gentleman's Military Interest Club", with a sub title of, "For the serious collector of military history". If we are in search of history, that being accurate and truthful history, we need to look at and hear other views without resorting to name calling and badgering other members. Oh yes, Nazis evil, our side good and cowboys good and Indians bad...oh wait, according to my First Nations brothers that has now changed. It's all a matter of points of view. Using the First Nations' point, the unpopular point of view in the first half of the century was pretty clear. Check out most period Westerns at the cinema. It took several years if not decades of voicing a differing opinion based on fact for the stereo type to be overturned.

Again this is just an observation based on fact...oh wait...facts as I hold them to be true. :speechless: It's all a bit confusing for my only-one-coffee-this-morning brain. ;)

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

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Hi James,

I too do not wish to belabour these points and it is a shame that what started out as a great post soon got :off topic:

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

@ Ed,

Thank you Ed for a very interesting topic and great images.

@ Brian,

Well said Brian.

Regards Eddie.

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