Sair-i Yurop

Translated by: Sunil Sharma

Nazli Begum of Janjira

Janjira, Gujarat
1874 – 1968

Friday, 22 May 1908
Since we have to go to the royal meeting today all day we prepared for it. We arranged our things. Atiya has gone to buy some necessary items since morning. Her being with us has provided me much support. Without her I was not capable of travelling here. I cannot do anything here. She makes all the arrangements. My face is so downcast from nervousness as if I were sick. But thank God everyone’s health is fine.
I hear that the Maharaja of Cooch Behar will also go to the court today. I don’t know if his daughters will go or not.
At around 4:30 Lady Olivant came and sat for a long time. She has taken a house near us. She told us to come and see her there. We will go some day. After dinner we started dressing for the court. Huzur wore a coffee-coloured turban and a shawl angarkha. The G.C.I.E. star and white ribbon looked very nice on it. Bhai also wore clothes proper to the occasion. Atiya and I wore velvet Indian clothes. We got into the motor car and set off towards the royal palace, reaching there at exactly 10 o’clock. On the stairs there was an older man with many medals and stars on his golden uniform standing to welcome everyone. He led us into grand and ornate rooms. Our feet were slipping on the carpet. Sir Curzon Wiley introduced us to that gentleman who turned out to be Sir John Slade. He is in charge of seating those presented at court on a high position. He led us to the picture gallery and seated us there. This is a very long room in which fine pictures are hanging on both sides. There is such an arrangement of lights that whether it is night or day one has no difficulty in seeing the pictures. Big couches and chairs have been put there. The furniture here is fiery and golden. On the couch opposite us the Maharaja of Nepal, who is here these days, was seated. With him were his five or six young sons. Their faces seem to be Mongolian and their height less than medium. Maharaja sahib who keeps the title of ‘Maharaja’ is Nepal’s Prime Minister. He is very much of outward grandeur and of short stature. I have heard that he is a Muslim from the family of the late Wajid Ali Shah. I don’t know how far this is true. They were wearing red and golden English uniforms but their hats were strange. Round hats set with big pearls on them. Below were tassels of emerald, above a big round ruby and on it what we could take as a rare bird. Its plumes were extended in the air for two or two and a half feet, fluttering in the air, and were about a quarter of a yard away from the hat. This was exactly the hat that each big and small person wore on his head. They must have been worth 20 lakhs at least. Even on their arms there were hanging emeralds. There was no fabric or anything else visible from which the jewels were suspended. The Maharaja of Cooch Behar, his son and Princess Sukriti also arrived and exchanged greetings with us. Maharaja sahib was wearing a white silk sherwani and a small white turban. Diamonds and other jewels were shining on his neck. The style seemed to be feminine but seemed nice at the time. The boy was wearing the fine looking outfit of the Indian Cadet Corps. We did not like the girl’s clothes which were English and not that fine. In a little the whole room was filled with officers and functionaries in red, black and gold uniforms. For half an hour we watched this spectacle. At 10:30 the two doors were opened. First the Maharaja sahib Minister of Nepal got an audience that lasted for some five minutes. Then it was the turn of Cooch Behar. Then it was ours. Atiya and Bhai went and sat on the other side for the public durbar and we entered. Huzur went forward and bowing paid his respects. The King shook hands with him and introduced him to the Queen. She also shook hands. Then I made a salam. First the King and then the Queen shook my hand. The King began to converse with me and the Queen with Huzur. Sir Curzon Wiley was the interpreter and said, ‘The Begum sahiba can speak English well.’ The King asked how I liked London and how the weather was. I said that in my opinion the weather was not worth praising but the city was wonderful. It is such a grand city. He asked how many days we intended to stay. I said two or three weeks more. In the meantime the Queen also addressed me and said, ‘You speak English well.’ After a few such exchanges we took leave. We salaamed, shook hands and left without showing our backs to them.
Then we came into the court. There was a separate magnificent place for the rajas on the right of the dais of the royal throne. The aide de camps took Huzur and had him stand there next to the other rajas. On the left side were the princesses. On the right side near the rajas were the Prince of Wales and the Prince of Teck. In the meantime the King and Queen entered. Upon their arrival the ambassadors of various kingdoms were presented. First the German ambassador was presented. Each ambassador would present his salutations and stand in his place. To call out the name of each one and present him to the King and Queen was the job of the Lord Chamberlain. Then they took the rajas up on the dais. The Princess of Cooch Behar, the Nepali group and I were shown to our places on a couch on the right side.
After the salutations of the ambassadors it was the turn of their wives. Now imagine this sight. Everyone is standing in audience, red and gold uniforms and the beautiful colour and style of the black clothes. Right in front of the throne eight hundred ladies who are to be presented in court today are standing in a line. It was as if this was a special consideration for them otherwise all the men would be standing there.
After the salutations of the ambassadors’ wives it was the turn of the other ladies. Princess Sophie Duleep Singh came first, after her another lady and then Atiya. They would do their salams and sit on the couches on the left side This place is for high ladies. Not all women who had permission to do salam got a seat here. A noble lady came and sat near me, Lady Landsborough, who was introduced to me by Sir John Slade. She had come to present her daughter. I was very happy to meet her. The upper-class women of England are a model of good taste and disposition. She was asking me questions about Jazira. I praised the expensive clothes of the women and she said, ‘They are expensive but nothing compared to your clothes. And nor is this durbar more grand than those that take place in India.’ She was speaking in a good-natured manner and I kept thinking of her clothes and get-up. She was wearing very expensive jewellery with extremely fine coloured emeralds set in it. Besides this she had a long necklace of white pearls hanging to her waist. How can I describe all the jewellery? A train is necessary in the courtly clothes here, i.e. the gown trails far behind one. Women would enter one after another on one side where their trains would be arranged and they would give cards with their names. Passing through many functionaries the cards would reach the Lord Chamberlain. He would call out their names. Then each lady in turn would first curtsy to the King and then to the Queen and exit from another door. There some officers were posted for the service to gather the ladies’ trains and put them in their hands. Some trains are several yards long. The eyes got weary of seeing this sight and began to glaze over. With eight hundred ladies passing like this in front with their colourful clothes and trains seemed like a flowing river with breaking waves from which every moment different colours appear.
Bravo to the King and Queen for calmly observing this spectacle for two to two and a half hours and accepted everyone’s salams with bows. There was a crowd of about three to four thousand people there yesterday but the palace is so big that it did not seem like that.
I said to Lady Landsborough that it must be difficult for the King and Queen to sit for so long and accept everyone’s salam with a smile. She said yes but it was part of the royal duties. The Queen sometimes gets sick with fatigue but she still has to be present. She also told me that for many days she was planning to have a ball in which the King and Queen may come, it was going to be a big affair and would I come. I thanked her for the invitation and said I would come with pleasure. As long as the ladies were being presented there was an excellent band playing in the gallery. When everybody’s salam was over Sir John Slade took us to the dining room. The supper was served in a grand manner and this is a new custom that our King Edward VII has started. Before after the court people would go home exhausted but because he is especially conscious of hospitality that is why he has commanded that there should be refreshments at this occasion. We only drank tea because we were not used to eating at this hour, and refreshed we again began to enjoy the brilliance and beauty of the palace.
The Duchess of Westminster was seated in the first row of couches. I had seen many pictures of her and she is often mentioned in the English magazines. When she arrived I instantly recognized her as the Duchess of Westminster. A brief description of her is necessary. Her face is very beautiful. Her figure is very shapely as if it were made in a mould, in which there is delicacy but with fullness. I was mesmerized seeing God’s power. What can I say about her suitable clothes and jewellery. She had on a necklace in which there was a flowering vine of diamonds. From the right side of the necklace three knots of diamonds were hanging on her shoulder. On her head was a diamond tiara and the hair was done up as they should. Overall just as nature had gifted her with beauty so artifice had doubled its brilliance. I was very pleased that I had seen her and from so close.
After finishing supper we came out with Sir John. He called our car very quickly by way of the telephone and at around 1 o’clock we arrived at our hotel. For some time we talked about the events there and then thanking God that this important milestone had been crossed well we went to sleep.