This cartoon, from the satirical magazine Punch, depicts a young Queen Victoria wearing coronation robes and holding a sceptre. In front of her kneels an Indian woman. It is representative of the beginning of Britain’s ‘official’ monarchical relationship with India, and further highlights contemporary views towards the change in administration of India.
The punch line, ‘The Accession of the Queen of India’, refers to the events following the 1857 Indian Rebellion, in which Indian soldiers revolted against British rule. In the fallout the East India Company was stripped of its power and possessions and the government of India came under the direct control of the British Crown. During this transfer of control, Queen Victoria issued a proclamation recognising Indians as British subjects and granting them equality of citizenship – at least on paper – declaring that ‘all shall alike enjoy the equal impartial protection of the Law’.
The cartoon, however, suggests a different view. The two women – Queen Victoria and a nameless woman wearing a lehenga choli – represent their respective nations, Britain and India. Their body language, and Queen Victoria’s coronation robes, implies a narrative of India submissively subjecting to the power and will of the British monarchy.
Twenty years later, Prime Minister Disraeli initiated an Act of Parliament which elevated Queen Victoria to the position of Empress of India. All British monarchs held the title until 1947, when imperial rule in India ended and India and Pakistan became independent nations.