Finding the Maharajah a wife: the 'domestication' of monarchy and the making of Queen Victoria's 'imperial family'

In this talk, I look at Anglo-Indian relations from a royal and gendered perspective: by analysing the manner in which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert attempted to assert pseudo-paternal authority over two young deposed Indian royals, Maharajah Duleep Singh of Punjab and Princess Gouramma of Coorg, whom they effectively took on as wards from the 1850s. Drawing on new findings from my research in the Royal Archives, I will examine the nature of the British royal couple’s interest in ‘domesticating’ Duleep Singh and Gouramma, and above all, their attempt to arrange their marriage – which was arguably pursued with a view to influencing Indian society by placing a new pair of cultural role models before it.

I argue that these ideas and plans must be regarded as being inextricably linked to the manner in which the Victorian monarchy looked for ways to promote its dynastic ambitions and uphold the ‘monarchical principle’ in the changing world of the nineteenth century – in this instance, experimenting with how imperial society could afford new means to assert royal cultural and political influence.