The English monarchy has been around for at least a 1000 years (older still if you count Alfred the Great). Which makes it even more impressive that the current head, Queen Elizabeth II, has today become the longest-reigning English monarch in history, beating out her own great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria's record of 63 years and 7 months.
The 89-year-old queen has seen 13 different prime ministers of the UK starting with Winston Churchill through David Cameron. She has lived through the second World War, the break up of the British Empire, the Cold War, Princess Diana’s death, the internet, and now has great grand children. Hers was the first and so far the only televised coronation of a British monarch the world has seen.
Over that six-decade-long reign, Elizabeth has only visited India, a key member of the British Commonwealth, three times – but each one has been memorable in its own way, starting with the first in 1961.
Her visit, the first since her coronation, and a reminder to the newly independent nation of the monarchy it had discarded, still saw huge crowds thronging to see the woman whose father had been Emperor of India. She visited the Lal Bagh “perhaps the finest botanical gardens in the entire country” in Mysore, and her trip was made to coincide with the horticultural show to present all that Mysore had to offer, which was mostly fruit. In the clip we see an old woman presenting her with a mango as the Queen looks a bit confused.
Elizabeth also went tiger hunting in India and in Kathmandu but her request to use a calf as a bait for hunting tigers had to be gently turned down by the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The enthusiasm of the crowd and country seems to have tempered with each successive visit. So while in 1961 we see hordes of crowds cheering for the queen, by 1983 the elephant rides had been replaced by a stately sedan and a ceremonial approach to things.
In 1997 when Queen Elizabeth last visited India, the trip became controversial for her acknowledgement of the Jalianwala Bagh massacre as being a “difficult episode in our past”. While some were satisfied with what was perceived to be an apology, others felt it wasn’t enough.