Description

In 1887, soon after Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Abdul Karim was one of two Indians who arrived in Britain to attend the Queen at the Royal Household. This photograph of Karim dates from 1894, the year that he was elevated to the position of Queen Victoria’s Indian Secretary, with the title of ‘Hafiz’. His role was to assist the Queen with her ‘boxes’ and correspondence.

Abdul Karim’s career in the royal household

Prior to this appointment, a 24-year-old Karim was described by Queen Victoria as ‘tall with fine serious countenance’.[1] Originally a clerk in Agra, he soon became a favourite with Queen Victoria and she promoted him to be her native language teacher, known as a Munshi, teaching her Hindustani. He was given titles, land and cottages in royal estates. Victoria also had his portrait painted. This attention displeased the royal household, leading to several intrigues maligning his character.

Abdul Karim’s later life

After Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, Karim was given a pension, sent back to India and his papers were destroyed. He died in 1909.

[1] Queen Victoria’s journals, 23 June 1887, vol. 85 (1 January 1887–4 July 1887), reference RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) (Princess Beatrice's copies), p. 285 [accessed April 2017].

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