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Born: December 9, 1934
York, North Yorkshire, England, UK
Born: May 24, 1819
Birthplace: Kensington Palace, London, UK
Death: January 22, 1901, Osborne House, Isle of Wight, UK
Reign: June 20, 1837 – January 22, 1901
Born: October 15, 1986
Birthplace: Lalitpur near Jhansi, British India
Death: April 1909, Agra, British India
Secretary to Queen (1892 – 1901)
Born: September 18, 1980
Born: February 7, 1962
Bertie, Prince of Wales (King Edward VII)
Born: November 9, 1841
Birthplace: Buckingham Palace, London, UK
Death: May 6, 1910, Buckingham Palace, London, UK
Born: May 13, 1946
Rugby, Warwickshire, England, UK
Death: April 7, 2017, Northampton, England, UK
Sir Henry Ponsonby
Born: December 10, 1825
Death: November 21, 1895, UK
The Queen's Private Secretary (1870 – 1895)
Born: July 26, 1968
Camden Town, London, England, UK
Jane Spencer, Baroness Churchill
Born: June 1, 1826
Death: December 24, 1900, Osborne House, Isle of Wight, UK
Lady of the Bedchamber (1854 – 1900)
Born: October 19, 1940
Cabra, Dublin, Ireland
Lord Salisbury (Prime Minister)
Born: February 3, 1830
Birthplace: Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK
Death: August 22, 1903, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK
Born: abt 1964
Lanarkshire, Scotland, UK
Dr. James Reid
Born: October 23, 1849
Birthplace: Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, UK
Death: June 28, 1923, UK
Born: August 4, 1969
London, England, UK
Death: March 7, 1922
Confidential Attendant of Queen Victoria
Not exactly, or at least not entirely. Prior to arriving in England, Abdul Karim had worked as a prison clerk in Uttar Pradesh, India, which had been under formal British rule for close to three decades. According to the Victoria and Abdul true story, the jail's superintendent, John Tyler, had met the Queen at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886, where he showcased carpets the inmates had made as part of a rehabilitation program. The Queen was impressed and asked Tyler to select two Indian attendants to help her at her Golden Jubilee, which marked fifty years of being on the throne. She wanted help communicating with the Indian dignitaries in attendance. In part due to his tallness, Abdul Karim, then 24, was chosen. In the movie, he first presents a newly minted ceremonial coin to the 81-year-old Queen. -Smithsonian Magazine
Like in the Victoria and Abdul movie, our fact-checking of the true story confirmed that there is no evidence to suggest that her relationship with Karim ever turned romantic. After author Shrabani Basu was contacted by Karim's family (who she had almost given up looking for), they shared his diaries with her in 2010. His writings suggested nothing romantic. However, his friendship with Queen Victoria was still unusually intimate, as evidenced by the correspondence displayed below. The two even spent a night together at Glassat Shiel, a remote cottage in Scotland where she had previously stayed with her late servant John Brown (another subject of controversy). -Smithsonian Magazine
"I am so very fond of him," Victoria wrote of Karim. "He is so good and gentle and understanding . . . and is a real comfort to me." Author Basu told The Telegraph that Karim spoke to Victoria not as a Queen, but rather as a human being and he was one of the only people in her life to do so. Her own children even kept their distance from her. Despite their closeness, Basu doesn't believe that they had a physical relationship.
Yes. Karim was married to Rashidan Karim. When he expressed that he wanted to go back to Agra to be with his wife, Victoria invited her to come to England to live with her husband. She gave them homes on all of the key royal estates in the United Kingdom and land in India. She even offered them conception advice, telling Karim and his wife, "She should be careful at the particular time every month not to tire herself." Victoria likely had some knowledge on the subject since she had nine children of her own. -The Telegraph
Not likely. When it comes to historical accuracy, the biggest issue that most critics have with the film is its portrayal of Victoria as a progressive who holds strong anti-racist views. The movie proposes that her appointment of a Muslim to a key position in the Royal Household was a win for diversity, a cause for which she is depicted as a champion. Certainly the current political climate may have helped to shape this, positioning Victoria (Judi Dench) as the righteous leader who denounces racism and intolerance. Critics haven't held back, calling the movie's characterization of Victoria "peculiar," "laughable," and "fiction," citing that the film attempts to lecture us about today's Islamophobia. But what do we know about Victoria and this time period that makes the movie's characterization of Victoria untrue?
This Era in England's history is known as the Raj era, a period that was largely defined by imperial oppression of India and its citizens, who were under the direct rule of Britain. The film ignores the subjugation going on outside of Britain and the palace walls. Instead, it narrows the focus and keeps our eyes on the relationship between Queen Victoria and Abdul, not the United Kingdom and its colonies, which the Queen oversaw. She had in fact been in power during such events as the Indian Rebellion of 1857, which found rebels in India rising up against Crown rule, which up until that point had been enforced by the British East India Company and its private army. A good number of Indians were unhappy with steep land taxes and invasive British-based social reforms.
Even after the rebellion (which the British suppressed), when Britain ruled directly, taxes were still high and the British depleted Indian revenues to fund an inflated bureaucracy (including in London). A great racial divide emerged between Indians and the class-conscious Britons. The divide lasted until the end of the British Raj in 1947, long after Queen Victoria's passing. So if the movie makes her out to be a champion against racial intolerance, it can certainly be argued that she didn't do enough to improve racial equality outside the palace walls. Yet, we must also remember that the Queen, who was known for her high moral standards, had influence but little direct political power since the United Kingdom was already a seasoned constitutional monarchy by that point. -BBC
No. In the movie, Abdul Karim is portrayed as wise and passive instead of ambitious and at times self-serving. "Whatever Her Majesty wants" is the tone of his character. In researching the Victoria and Abdul true story, we discovered that, like everyone else, the real Karim indeed had flaws.
For example, the movie implies that Queen Victoria introduced the idea of Karim being knighted herself to a shocked Royal House. In reality, Karim had worked tirelessly to convince Victoria to give him a knighthood. Another less savory side of Karim that the movie turns away from is when Victoria's doctor, Dr. James Reid (Paul Higgins), breaks the news to her that Karim, a married man, is riddled with gonorrhea. As Vulture critic David Edelstein noted, the movie pushes too much political correctness for its own good. Karim (Ali Fazal) is so saintly that he comes across as two dimensional and boring.
Yes. This was confirmed in a letter written by her assistant private secretary Fritz Ponsonby, who complained of her preferential treatment of Karim. He concluded by sharing the Queen's thoughts on the matter, "the Queen says it is 'race prejudice' and that we are jealous of the poor Munshi." The term "Munshi" is a Persian word that in British India came to mean a native language teacher or secretary employed by Europeans.
Obviously, it wasn't merely because they were of a different social status. Historians note that Victoria's family and staff exhibited both racial and social prejudices. Compounding that was their jealousy of Karim. He was afforded privileges they weren't, such as traveling with her through Europe; honors; titles; personal gifts; a private carriage; and the best seats at banquets and opera houses. As indicated in the previous question, she also commissioned several portraits of Karim, in addition to recruiting local journalists to write about him. She hosted his visiting family members and even helped Karim's dad secure a pension. Since the passing of her Scottish confidante John Brown in 1883, Karim was the only servant who she welcomed into her inner circle. -Vanity Fair
For the dark-skinned Karim to eat at the same table as the white servants was intolerable, notes historian Carolly Erickson in her book Her Little Majesty. The idea that he partook in daily duties alongside them was seen as an outrage.
Yes. Dench starred as Victoria 20 years earlier in the 1997 movie Mrs. Brown, which explored the close relationship she had with her Scottish servant and confidante John Brown following the death of her husband Albert. The movie's title refers to the nickname that other staff members gave the Queen behind her back. Like her friendship with Abdul Karim, her relationship with John Brown, portrayed by Billy Connolly in the film, was not approved of by the royal court. However, it wasn't nearly as detested, mainly because Brown was a white European and not a dark-skinned Indian. -Vanity Fair
Watch the Victoria and Abdul movie preview below.