King George V’s Announcement of Delhi as Capital Stunned Many
It was on December 12, 1911 that King George V announced the move of India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi.
The year was 1911. The date: December 12. The venue: Coronation Park, New Delhi.
And the honourable attendees included King George V and Queen Mary.
It was on December 12, that the then-King-Emperor caught the whole nation off guard when he announced the move of India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi.
We are pleased to announce to our people that on the advice of our ministers, tendered after consultation with our Governor-General-in-Council, we have decided upon the transfer of the seat of the Government of India, from Calcutta to the ancient capital of Delhi...King George V on December 12, 1911
The announcement stunned the audience of princes, officials and soldiers.
This excerpt from Sam Miller’s Delhi, Adventures in a Megacity gives us a sense of the occasion.
For this park was the location of the Durbar of 1911, where King George V, the only reigning British monarch to visit the subcontinent, stunned his audience of princes, officials and soldiers by declaring that Delhi would replace Calcutta as the capital of India. After the final collapse of the Mughal Empire in 1857, Delhi had been despoiled by the British and allowed to turn into a shrunken, provincial backwater. Now, it would be transformed into a majestic imperial capital, and the original intention was to build the new city, New Delhi, at the site of the Durbar. But after two years of arguing, New Delhi’s planners chose a site twelve kilometres to the south, at Raisina Hill, from where India is still ruled. The British had decided that North Delhi was too marshy and too flat; it was too far from the ruins of ancient empires; and the architects wanted to build a Viceregal palace on a hill-top, so it would command an impressive vista, and, most important of all, create a sense of awe among Britain’s Indian subjects. The Durbar site became an overgrown reliquary known as Coronation Park, with busts and statues of long-dead British rulers, noses held high in the air, peeping through the foliage.
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