India loves its royals. Nearly seven decades after we threw off the yoke of the British crown, the country (or at least the Indian press) still manages to work itself into a state of frenzy whenever someone from the family that once ruled India decides to make a trip to their erstwhile colony.
This weekend, the current darlings of the British monarchy – Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton – get their chance to tour through the former empire. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, not accompanied by the youngest members of the royal family, land in Mumbai on April 10 and will stay in the subcontinent until April 16.
There will be at least two Tajs on their itinerary. The couple will be visiting the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai to pay tribute to the victims of the 26/11 terror attacks along with making a stopover at the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra. In between they're slated to step out to Bhutan and even meet a bunch of Bollywood stars, who seem to be bringing an appropriate level of drama to the occasion.
Drama, of course, is no stranger to the royals, especially when they make their way down to India. Starting with the very first royal visitor, George FitzClarence – an ancestor of current British Prime Minister David Cameron – who sat down to eat beef inside Aurangabad's Ellora temple, the touring royals have always been accompanied by controversy.
Lady Di's chair
That white marble bench in front of the Taj Mahal where the beloved princess posed demurely is still known as the "Diana seat". The image from the February 1992 trip by Prince Charles and Diana was later seen by the British tabloid press as an indication of the rough times the couple were facing and even came to encapsulate the breakdown of the royal marriage. The couple announced their break-up soon after and divorced in 1995. Diana controversially died in a car-crash in 1996.
The innocent kiss gone wrong
In 1980, some people's sensibilities were hurt when then aspiring Bollywood actor Padmini Kolhapure decided to give Prince Charles a peck on his cheek. There were no smartphones, but the shutterbugs still managed to catch the gesture and prompted a minor scandal in the Indian press.
Queen Elizabeth asks for a calf
This picture, along with others, was recently presented to Queen Elizabeth by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It features the newly crowned Queen visiting the atomic centre in Trombay, in February 1961, with memories of the British Raj still fresh in people's minds.
Memories of the luxurious aristocratic ways also seemed to have lingered: during that visit Elizabeth went on a tiger-hunting spree in India and Nepal. The queen infamously even asked for a calf as a bait to hunt tigers, only to be gently turned down by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The 'difficult episode' of Jallianwala Bagh
In 1997, Queen Elizabeth once again returned to India, and this time attempted to face up to some of the United Kingdom's sordid history, which had been mostly ignored in her previous visits in 1961 and 1983.
Elizabeth visited Jallianwala Bagh, the site where British officers opened indiscriminate fire on a 10,000-strong Indian crowd in 1919, and attempted to bow her head in contrition. But the extent of her comments included only going so far as to admitting that the Jallianwala Bagh massacre had been a "difficult episode in our past", without actually offering up an apology.
The Indian payback
On one occasion, though, it was an Indian royal causing a controversy. The Delhi Durbars, also known as the Imperial Durbars, in 1877, 1903 and 1911 were mass gatherings of the subcontinent's royal families brought together to mark the succession of the British crown to the next royal in line.
The spectacular and elaborate festivals organised by the British government were intended to highlight the glory of the monarchy and its Empire over the ruling nations. The festivities involved enormous processions and lines of Indian princes riding on bejeweled elephants.
Sayajirao III Gaekwad of Baroda caused an uproar at the Delhi Durbar of 1911 when he unintentionally committed a breach of protocol. Capping much pre-durbar murmuring over the exact protocol and apparel for the Indian princes, Gaekwad decided to turn up without all the requisite paraphernalia. He was then caught on video giving one quick bow to King George V instead of the requisite three bows, turning away while showing his back, and, apparently, chuckling to himself.
"All hell broke loose," wrote Rohit Agarwal and Sunil Raman in Delhi Durbar 1911: The Complete Story. "Anglo-Indian newspapers like The Pioneer and British newspapers called for action against the Baroda ruler. Later, on the advice of the British Resident in his court, the Maharaja sent a written apology, but the viceroy would have nothing of it. There were calls for deposing him and to reduce the 21-gun salute that he was entitled to. Fortunately for him, he managed to escape any punitive action."