The royal visit of 1905 that left an indelible mark on history of Madras

There was not much visible loyalty to the ruler, as long as the East India Company ruled Madras.
King George V and Queen Mary
King George V and Queen Mary


After the sepoy mutiny, the British royalty took over the administration of the country. Victoria the first queen empress of India was too old and immobile to travel to her new dominion. Victoria made up for her obesity and age by insisting that her reluctant son travels to the dominions.
Royal visits allowed British subjects in far-flung colonies exposure to actual members of the sovereign’s family. George was only a second son and his grandmother Victoria seemed to stick onto the throne as if she was almost immortal. 
But suddenly his brother would die after becoming engaged to Mary of Teck (after whom Queen Mary’s College is named). George became Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne, and married the girl Mary as well.
George’s 1905 Indian visit was the most intense and ambitious royal visit ever. George and Mary crossed the Suez Canal and reach Bombay. He would spend months crisscrossing the country, shooting tigers, playing polo and watching ceremonial traditional dances. 
True to the anticipation it was going to be an orgy of loyalty. People would have looked on in disbelief if somebody had thought this country would rise and demand independence in another 40 years.
Papers said, “now that their Royal Highnesses intend visiting India, it is the bounden duty of every citizen, be rich or poor, to give them a fitting reception and commemorate the great event”.
The Prince was in Madras arriving from Rangoon on a ship and stayed only for five days, starting January 24 of 1906. Around 1,000 people welcomed him on the harbor nearing completion. The crowd waited as the ship’s arrival time could not be predicted. 
Many of them, kings and zamindars, who had waited for none before in their lives, remained in the shamiana. The famous hotelier D Angelis had put up a food counter.
The city was keen to welcome its future emperor. 30,000 people were fed by philanthropists in the city, the day the Prince arrived. The roads from the harbor to Government House were lined with Venetian masts. 
On the North Bench Road, these were entwined with evergreens and surmounted with palm leaves. Arches of the reception committee were erected in the form of a Hindu temple gopuram and made of coconut leaves. Workmen from Tanjore and Kumbakonam were employed in its construction.
The prince arrived at a royal salute of booming guns and landed on the new pier. He would travel along the beach road and esplanade to the government house. 
Galleries were erected on the side of the procession to enable the common man to purchase tickets to see the royal procession. Some Indian papers ridiculed it asking if the Prince was some museum object to be viewed thus.
Every night there was a brilliant display of fireworks from the warships Hyacinth and the Fox in the harbor. Crowds gathered on the Marina to watch the sky light up.
The Prince would inaugurate the Victoria technical institute within the Egmore museum campus hoping the institute would improve the condition of the craftsmen of the Presidency. The Indo-Saracenic building is now the national art gallery.
Princess Mary had her agenda. She visited the Victoria Gosha hospital in Triplicane (now Kasturba hospital). Interestingly, one of the mounted police horses knocked down a boy in the crowd who was rushed to the same hospital. 
The concerned princess and the Governor’s wife overlooked his bandaging. The news was sent from the hospital in the evening that the boy was discharged and it evoked relief in the princess.
The Government of Madras has begun to make inquiries amongst the native citizens of Madras regarding the public feeling concerning altering the name Black Town (the oldest civilian part of the city) to George Town. The government felt it would not only be a graceful compliment to the Prince, but would commemorate his visit to Madras in a special and permanent manner.
A Gazette Extraordinary issued by the Madras Government said that a portion of Madras hitherto known as a Black Town will in future be called George Town. Also stated was that the change was made at the expressed desire of the Prince to whom the popular sentiment in the matter has been represented.
The Prince regretted that time will not permit a visit to this portion of the city. Statues of the Prince would crop up later in the black town to express thanks.
A Tamil newspaper Swadesamitran, while acknowledging that the Prince of Wales readily gave his consent to ‘Black Town’ being named after him, doubted whether he would have so readily consented if asked to grant political privileges to the Indians, or to reduce the existing heavy taxation.
The Prince would leave to Mysore and those who organised the successful visit were knighted. Newspapers are full of letters with complaints about not being given due place in the gallery or somebody not being knighted.
George would come back in 1911 to crown himself as King-Emperor in a Delhi durbar. Though he did not visit Madras, the city would erupt in loyalty again — with Carnatic songs hailing the royal couple to saree designs with Roman pillars (still popular as Durbar Pet).

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