15 September 2017

Queen Victoria’s Hindustani Diary on Display for the First Time at Osborne

A Hindustani diary written by Queen Victoria under the guidance of her servant Abdul Karim has gone on display for the first time.

A visitor looking at the Hindustain diary of Queen Victoria

A diary showing how Queen Victoria learned to write Hindustani under the tutelage of her Indian servant Abdul Karim is on display to the public for the very first time at Osborne, the monarch's beloved home on the Isle of Wight.

Dating from 1895, the rare diary has been lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Archives, and shows Urdu characters in the Victoria's own handwriting. Below, Abdul's careful instruction can be seen. The book is now on display at Osborne, where the Queen spent many hours with her 'Munshi' (or teacher) Abdul. Two signed photographs of her tutor are displayed for the first time.

A photo of Abdul Karim, on display at Osborne

A remarkable friendship

Originally waiting at her table alongside other Indian servants, Abdul Karim forged a close relationship with the Queen and was promoted to be her Indian Secretary and 'Munshi'. The Queen loved to hear Abdul talk about India and his own city of Agra, and within a few weeks of his arrival he had started to teach her some words of Hindustani. This progressed into writing lessons, and the Queen began to keep diaries in the language.

The story of Queen Victoria's relationship with her servant is told in the new film, Victoria & Abdul, also released today, which stars Dame Judi Dench and Ali Fazal and was shot largely on location at Osborne.

Michael Hunter, English Heritage's Curator at Osborne, said:

"This diary gives an intimate glimpse into the relationship of Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim.  It's fascinating to see this elaborate script in her own handwriting, and the painstaking way that Abdul set out the lessons.

"Queen Victoria was incredibly curious about India and its traditions, so to learn Hindustani and write in Urdu was a hobby to which she remained faithful almost up to her death in 1901. It's an honour to have the diary back where it would originally have been written, to be returned home to Osborne once more."

The famous Durbar Room features in the film, and hosts the diary. Designed by Rudyard Kipling's father, Lockwood, and master carver Bhai Ram Singh, the dining room's intricate Indian-style plaster work reflects Queen Victoria's role as Empress of India and is a popular attraction for visitors. The Queen's sitting room where she wrote her journals under the watchful eye of Abdul is also seen in the film.

Close-up view of Queen Victoria's writing

See it for yourself

Queen Victoria's Hindustani diary and photographs of Abdul Karim are on display at Osborne from today (15 September). Costumes worn by Dame Judi Dench, Eddie Izzard and Ali Fazal in the film Victoria & Abdul remain on display in the Durbar Room until 30 September.

Plan your visit to Osborne today

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