Delhi Durbar 1911



In 1902 The 10th Royal Hussars sailed for India, arriving in Bombay in October, where, in 1905, they received a visit from the Prince and Princess of Wales – later to become King George V and Queen Mary. In 1907 the regiment moved to Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) where they remained until 1912.

On 6th May 1910, King George V succeeded his father, Edward VII, to the throne. With his titles came that of Emperor of India, ruling an Empire on which it was said the sun never set. King George’s grand-mother, Queen Victoria, had become the first Empress of India in 1877, and had been succeeded by King Edward in 1901. Durbars had been held to celebrate both these successions, but the 1911 Durbar was the only time the monarch was present.

A Durbar is a gathering of subjects paying homage to their ruler. The word comes from Persian and refers to a formal meeting where the Shah would discuss matters of state. Under British rule, this developed in India into a ceremonial gathering where the rulers of the semi-independent states comprising the Raj would gather to pay respects and pledge loyalty to the Emperor.

For the Durbar, King George and Queen Mary wore their Coronation robes; the King wore a crown specially made for the occasion, decorated with over 6,000 diamonds, with rubies, sapphires and emeralds.  Celebrations began on 7th December with the arrival of the King and Queen. Over the next few days a number of events took place including the royal couple greeting over a million people at the Red Fort in Delhi. The culmination, on the 12th, was the Durbar proper in The Royal Camp (still in existence as Coronation Park, in north Delhi).

Over 100,000 people saw 20,000 men of the British and Indian Armies march past Their Majesties. The 10th Royal Hussars provided part of the Royal escort (with troops from the Royal Horse Artillery and The 18th King George’s Own Lancers, an Indian Army regiment). The King and Queen sat on two thrones in a Royal Pavilion – a crimson and gold canopy raised over a dais covered with a cloth of gold.

The State Princes – including the famous cricketer, The Jam of Nawanagar (better known as ‘Ranji’) – paid homage to Their Majesties, and a Royal proclamation was read. In this, various announcements were made, including one that has an effect to this day. Until 1911, the capital of India was Calcutta (now Kolkata): at the Durbar it was announced that this honour would now transfer to the historic Mughal capital of Delhi – still the capital of that vast country.

For The Tenth the Durbar began with the departure of the Advance Party on 30th October; their task was to set up camp 6 miles from Delhi for the rest of the regiment, who arrived by rail on the 23rd and 24th November. The regiment then stayed under canvas until final departure between the 19th and 21st December, arriving in Rawalpindi on Christmas Eve.

Officers and men who participated in the Durbar were awarded the Durbar Medal: many of The Tenth received this award.

Various sporting tournaments were held, but The Tenth did not fare well, going out of the polo tournament by losing 8-4 to The King’s Dragoon Guards (who were the losing finalists) in the first round, which was a disappointment to a regiment with such a fine tradition in the sport. However, the Regimental Gazette of January 1912 describes the Durbar as “magnificent” and as “ever-memorable”.

Just over two years later the regiment, and most of the men who took part in the celebrations, were to be embroiled in the horrors of the Western Front when The 10th Royal Hussars arrived in France.