Queen Victoria, the queen of almost half of the world, was a tyrant. Although she has a long history as the wife of Prince Albert and as a Queen of Honor. It also mentions some of the infamous behaviors in her character. The close relationship between Munshi and Queen Victoria is described as a hidden story of the royal family as well as a disgusting story.

Hafiz Mohammad Abdul Karim

Abdul, the eldest of six children of a hospital assistant, was born in 1863. In 1867, at the age of 24.l, the turning point in his life came when he met Queen Victoria. According to the custom of the time, Abdul was one of the two servants sent as a gift from India to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Because of his experience and skills, Abdul could quickly win the hearts of the Queen and the palace. At the time, the Queen was sixty-eight years old. Abdul, who soon became the Queen’s personal assistant, worked as the Queen’s closest servant until her death.

A picture of queens Victoria's Indian Servants
Picture: A picture of queens Victoria’s Indian Servants

Why was Abdul called Munshi?

Queen Victoria began to refer to Abdul as Munshi, meaning teacher. The Queen then appointed him as the Secretary of India and gave him the posts of CIE and CVO.

A picture of queen Victoria and Munshi, 1897
Picture: A picture of Queen Victoria and Munshi, 1897

The Controversial friendship between Queen Victoria and Munshi

In 1888, Queen Victoria told her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Canoe, that it was a pleasure to live with him, whom she understood very well. She also was very dear to him. Munshi was allowed to spend time with the Queen at the Balmoral Estate in Windsor Castle and also at the summerhouse in Scotland. He was allowed to do paintings with her too. Although she was the Empress of India, she never visited India. The Queen learned about India from Munshi. He was also fluent in Urdu, introduced the Queen to Urdu as well as Indian food. His freedom in the palace was a threat to the royal family.

Abdul Karim with the Battenberg children of Princess Beatrice: Alexander, Leopold and Victoria Eugenie
Picture: Abdul Karim with the Battenberg children of Princess Beatrice: Alexander, Leopold, and Victoria Eugenie

As the Queen’s love for Munshi grew, the royal family began to hate Munshi because of racism and classism. They called it the Munshi Mania. But the Queen liked Munshi so much that his Indian food recipes were included in the royal food records by the Queen herself. The Queen did not hesitate to include the words “your mother, your friend” in the letters sent to Munshi. She also sends kisses in her letters to Munshi. The Queen gave Munshi a house in England and brought his aunt and wife to England and appointed Munshi’s father as the assistant doctor at the Agra Prison. The Queen had also gone to Munshi’s house to meet his wife.

The Queen wrote in her diary, ” now I can speak Urdu with my Indian friends . It was really a beautiful experience”.

The Queen’s other affairs

The picture of the queen and John Brown
Picture: The picture of the queen and John Brown

After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen S had a close relationship with John Brown, who was a Scotland servant. It is said that John Brown filled the void left by the death of Prince Albert. Their relationship went too far that the Queen was sometimes referred to as Mrs.Brown. It was a gift to Queen Munshi, who arrived four years after Brown’s death.

The hatred of the royals and the end

Before she dies, Munshi is added to the group that pays her last respects to the Queen at her last will. When the Queen died in 1901, Munshi was allowed to join the funeral procession by Prince Edward. Accordingly, Munshi was among those who last saw the Queen.

The Queen’s eldest son, Edward VII, orders the deportation of Munshi immediately after the Queen’s funeral. While he burns all documents related to the Queen and Munshi, the Queen’s daughter, Princess Beatrice, tried to erase all notes about Munshi from the Queen’s diaries. The royal family considered this relationship between the Queen and Munshi, which has been around for nearly ten years, to be the most infamous event for them. Munshi, who came to Agra after his deportation from England, lived on the land gifted by Queen Munshi and died in 1909 at the age of 46.

The Journalist who dug up a buried past

Exploratory journalist Sharbani Basu during a visit to the Queen’s isle of the wright summer house in 2003 saw a servant named Abdul Kareem standing next to the Queen in some of the paintings there. Commenting to the Daily Telegraph in 2017, she said that she saw him not as a servant but as an aristocrat. She went on to say that he(Abdul) had a strange look with a book that aroused my curiosity.

 Sharbani Basu
Picture: Sharbani Basu

For five years after that scene in 2003, Basu researched it. She also contacted historians in the long run and studied almost all the diaries and notebooks in which the Queen was accustomed to the Urdu language.

There Basu found notes on how Queen visited sick Munshi, how she drank tea with his wife, and about the kittens in Munshi’s house, the Queen’s love for India, and the Queen’s love for Munshi.

Munshi
Picture: Munshi

Another coincidence was that in 2010 a member of the Munshi family gave Basu a diary. It was Munshi’s diary that he was careful enough not to get destroyed by the royal family.

There Abdul Munshi had written;

“From Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 to her Diamond Jubilee in 1997, my life is all about the kindness and respect of the Queen While I was
temporarily settled in an unknown country. All these treasures that I have been received because of her. I regularly pray to Almighty God to grant our Queen forever happiness.”

Munshi Later
Picture: Munshi Later

About 100 years after the Queen’s death, Sharbani Basu wrote a book entitled Victoria and Abdul, based on the story of the Queen and Abdul Munshi. Later a film was made based on that story.

From the movie "Victoria and Abdul"
Picture: From the movie “Victoria and Abdul”

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