After the longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom passed away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, 8 September, while offering his condolences, shared a special moment he had had with her.
He said, “During one of the meetings she showed me the handkerchief Mahatma Gandhi gifted her on her wedding. I will always cherish that gesture.”
The Queen has been an undeniable presence not only in the chapters of the modern world’s history, but also for India.
How the Association Began
Queen Elizabeth II was the first reigning British monarch to visit India in 50 years in 1961. It’s from then that her association with the country began. She visited the country again, 22 years later, in 1983. Her last visit was in 1997.
Born on 21 April 1926, the official coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place on 2 June 1953, around five years after India’s independence.
The Queen, along with her husband and Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, had visited the national capital in January 1961.
During the Delhi leg of her 1961 tour, she also visited Rajghat and offered a ceremonial wreath at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial.
In the visitor's book at Gandhi's Samadhi (cremation site), the Queen wrote, "It Is Very Rare To Her To Write Anything Other Than Her Signature."
She also formally opened the institute buildings of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on 27 January at an impressive ceremony attended by the then President Rajendra Prasad.
The Queen was gifted an artistic model of the 12-century minaret, Qutub Minar, while the Duke of Edinburgh was presented a silver candelabra, according to rare archival footage of the royal tour.
During her first visit, the Queen and Prince Philip also visited Agra, Bombay, Benares, Udaipur, Jaipur, Bangalore, Madras, and Calcutta. She also visited Pakistan during her trip to the Indian subcontinent.
The Queen had visited the Taj Mahal in Agra an open-top car. In Varanasi, she took an elephant ride in a royal procession, enjoying the hospitality of the erstwhile Maharaja of Benares.
After 1961, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited India together again in 1983 and 1997, when India marked the 50th year of its Independence. The Duke of Edinburgh, who died last year aged 99, had also visited India in 1959.
In 1983, the Queen and Prince Philip visited the country at the invitation of then-President Giani Zail Singh. This time, the royal couple stayed at the refurbished wing of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Queen presented Mother Teresa with the Insignia of the Honorary Order of Merit.
During her third visit to the country to mark the 50th anniversary of India's Independence, Queen Elizabeth visited the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial at Amritsar.
Back then, the Queen had acknowledged:
"It is no secret that there have been some difficult episodes in our past. Jallianwala Bagh is a distressing example."
Reportedly, she even bowed her head and placed a wreath at the memorial, as per a report in The Independent.