English Prince Albert and fascinating Indian gifts worthy of him - 1875 02

Encouraged by his mother, Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales (heir-apparent and future king Edward VII) undertook a four-month tour of the Subcontinent in October 1875 with a view to getting himself familiar with India and the people that he was going to rule in the future. Particularly, he wanted to establish a close rapport with the Indian rulers.  On that tour he traveled   nearly 10,000 miles by land and sea, covering different terrains, different regions, etc.  According to  Sir William Howard Russell, writer of the official tour diary, noted that the Prince had 'seen more of the country in the time than any living man'. 

The royal tour was an opportunity to establish personal and diplomatic links with local Indian rulers, and sought to strengthen ties between the Subcontinent and the British Crown before the declaration of Queen Victoria as Empress of India. It included visits to a number of royal courts, allowing the Prince to experience the splendour and spectacle of Indian courtly traditions, and to learn about the cultures, history and religions of a country he would one day rule.

In accordance with protocols observed by the British rulers, the Prince was presented with valuable gifts  that would suit his tastes and status. The gifts presented to the prince were known for their unique design and craftsmanship  native to that region and represent items  of superb quality and amazing workmanship that can not be duplicated.  The prince received around 2000 gifts of historical significance and artistic splendor. The Prince of Wales Indian collections toured many places in England and Europe between 1876 and 1883 and was seen  by more than 700000 people.  Way back in December 2017, for the first time after a lapse of 130 years, the dazzling collection of Prince Albert was on display in Scotland - at The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse. It brought back the historic and diplomatic  visit made by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in 1875 when Lord Northbrook was the Viceroy of India. The exhibition in Scotland forms part of the 2017 UK-India Year of Culture and long standing relationship between these two countries.

Presented below are some of the exquisite gifts received by Prince Albert during that tour of the Indian subcontinent. Photo Credit:  alaintruong.com

India, casket. alaintruong.com

Above image: Amritsar, Punjab, Casket and Address of Welcome circa 1875. Gold, velvet, silver-gilt thread, emeralds, rubies, diamonds, turquoises, enamel, gold sequins, paper, opaque watercolor, black ink; 7.8 x 33.0 x 13.1 cm , Royal Collection Trust  © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017.................................

This casket with its inscription of ‘A E’ stands for Albert Edward in English, Gurmukhi, Urdu and Devanagar. It i was presented jointly on behalf of the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu communities when the Prince visited the city. The Prince also  visited  the Harmindar Sahib or Golden Temple, the principal Sikh holy temple completed in 1604.

South India. Spearhead. alaintruong.com

Above image: South Indian. Spearhead, 7th century. Steel, 49.5 x 7.4 x 7.5 cm , Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017..................................

This spearhead dates from the late sixteenth century. The finely cut, pierced and chased motifs make reference to the monumental South Indian temples constructed in the same period by the Nayak rulers

S. India. Dagger and scabbardalaintruong.com

Above image: South India. Dagger and scabbard, 1800-75. Watered crucible steel, gold, ivory, wood, velvet, diamonds, 37.2 x 12.7 x 5.0 cm, Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017..................

This dagger is incised directly below the hilt with ten avatars (incarnations) of the Hindu God Vishnu. Apparently, it was made for a rich Hindu patron.
The scabbard mounts have been adapted for presentation with the addition of the Prince of Wales’s feather

India. Knife and sheath, alaintruong.com.

Above image: Indian. Knife and sheath, circa 1870 - 1875. Silver, gold, wood and rubies; 28.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 cm , Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017.................................
This ceremonial knife known as a pichangatti and traditionally carried by men in Coorg, was presented to the Prince during his attendance at the races at Guindy Park, Madras. The knife is fitted with various grooming implements including tweezers, a scraper, a file and an ear pick. Knives of this type would usually be made of steel, but in this exceptional example the blade is made of silver.

India. rosewater sprinklers,alaintruong.com

Above image: Nahan Foundry. Pair of rosewater sprinklers, 1873-76. Silver, 37 x 10.7 cm ( Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017...............................

The Raja of Nahan  founded  the Nahan Foundry in 1873. The foundry usually produced industrial objects such as sugar-cane crushers and railings, but as a gift for the Prince made these sprinklers that are supposedly automatic. However the pump mechanism seen at the base of the sprinkler’s neck is not functional.

S. India, Gold bangle with rubies.alaintruong.com

Above image: South India. Bangle, circa 1850 - 1875. Gold and rubies, 3.3 x 8.8 x 8.8 cm , Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017..................

Trichinopoly (now in Tamil Nadu) was well-known  for its highly sculptural gold jewelry.

 The Prince purchased this bangle depicting heads of makara (mythical sea creatures), the two largest heads being inlaid with ruby eyes. The Prince purchased this bangle from a peddler, referred to as ‘boxwallah’ in William Howard Russell’s diary, and presented it to Queen Victoria as a birthday present.

India, necklace - gold, diamond, etc.alaintruong.com

 Above image: Indian. Necklace, circa 1800 - 1878. Gold, enamel, diamonds, rubies, pearls and emeralds; 22.6 x 15.5 x 0.7 cm , Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017...............

London-based jewellers Phillips Brothers & Sons admired Indian enameling and gem setting. This piece of  jewelry inspires  techniques of the subcontinent. Here they have encased the diamonds to preserve the original kundan setting. The red and green enamelled ornaments represent an attempt by the jeweler to emulate Indian enamel work.

India, Bottle and salver, alaintruong.com

 Above image: Indian. Bottle and salver, circa 1870 - 1875. Gold, enamel, diamonds and a ruby; 26.5 x 18.8 x 18.8 cm, Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017.......................

Jaipur was a well-known  centre for polychrome enameling. This enameled bottle and salver of remarkable quality showcases the skill and precision of the enameler.

India Paan Box,, Indore.alaintruong.com

Above image: Indian, Indore. Pair of boxes for betel nut (paan), circa 1870 - 1875. Silver and silver gilt, 11.5 x 12.2 cm , Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017..................

Paan or betel-leaf chewing is common across India and is part of the culture among Hindus and also muslims. Paan is a mixture of ingredients such as shavings of betel nut (a mild stimulant with similar effects to caffeine), seeds, coconut and occasionally tobacco wrapped in a betel leaf, which was offered at the end of formal court gatherings. The individual hinged covers are designed to store the various ingredients used to prepare paan. The compartments are in the shape of betel leaves.