The Queen

Published: April 23, 2012
The writer is assistant professor of history at Forman Christian College and an editor at Oxford University Press

The writer is assistant professor of history at Forman Christian College and an editor at Oxford University Press

Saturday, April 21, 2012 marked the 86th birthday of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, making her the second-longest reigning monarch in the history of Britain, after the 63-year reign of Queen Empress Victoria. Interestingly, both Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II have had a close connection with South Asia, and especially Pakistan. Queen Victoria, even though she could not visit the country, took a keen interest in Indian affairs and even employed an Indian secretary (munshi) to teach her Hindustani. The faults of the British Raj notwithstanding –– and there were many –– we owe a great deal of development concerning democracy, rights, administration, railways, telegraph, roads, etc., to the Raj. The Raj is a part of our heritage, with all its problems, and there is no use trying to ignore it.

Just over half a century later, Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne on February 6, 1952, not only as Queen of the United Kingdom but also as the Queen of Pakistan (as Pakistan had still not become a republic). She proclaimed that: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong”. Since then, Elizabeth II has been a great example of service and strength of character, not only for the countries in which she is head of state, but for a large part of the world.

Even in the most anti-royal of places and among the most republican of people, Queen Elizabeth II has managed to attract large crowds and keen interest. In her two visits to Pakistan in 1961 and 1997 — after Pakistan had become a republic — the Queen attracted nearly a quarter of the population of Lahore in 1961 and hundreds of thousands even in 1997. In both of her visits, people spontaneously thronged to her and the leaders of the country were baffled by the love and affection she garnered. So how did a person who only visited Pakistan twice in her life and who was formally the head of state for only four years in the 1950s, achieve such popularity?

First, there is an obvious mystique about any monarchy. Its rituals, pomp and circumstance and longevity command respect, awe and inspiration — after all, over a billion people watched the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton last year. In South Asia, due to the persistence of local principalities (as late as 1969 in Pakistan), people are still familiar with such an institution and so obvious linkages are made. Secondly, Elizabeth II, and good monarchs in general, represent that which modern democracy can never represent — life-long, filial, unquestioning and total devotion to the country. Modern politics, especially in countries like Pakistan, is rife with people jostling for power, self-interest and short-term gains. Therefore, in such circumstances the image of a monarch, who even at 85 years of age works long hours and attends hundreds of engagements, out of a sense of duty and devotion to her country is simply admirable. Obviously, the Queen is a queen and does not need to do anything. She can sit pretty in her palace and scoff at the people but instead, she continuously tours the countries that she governs and almost daily replies to correspondence, often from common people around the world. Again, simply, out of devotion.

Ancient Indian philosophy has a concept of  ‘Rajdharma’ which perfectly explains the way in which Queen Elizabeth II relates to her role as queen. In Rajdharma, the monarch is the ‘father’ of the land which is the ‘mother’ and the people are the ‘children’. This familial relationship infuses the spirit of love, devotion and a lasting bond between the sovereign, land and the people as if they were a part of one large family. No wonder, then, that the princely states in India were largely spared communal tensions when the same was tearing apart British India. It also explains how troubled the Nawab of Bahawalpur was in 1947 when he heard that Hindus and Sikhs in his state migrated to India and implored them to reconsider.

Maybe her long reign is a reminder of an age which is fast disappearing, where people served others out of a sense of duty and love and not brazen self-interest. Thank you, Queen Elizabeth II, once Queen of Pakistan, for being that example.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • Nadir
    Apr 23, 2012 - 11:04PM

    Tell all of this to the population of Diego Garcia who were evicted by a Royal decree.


  • Talha
    Apr 24, 2012 - 12:54AM

    Long live the Queen.

    Are you a British agent?


  • Ali Tanoli
    Apr 24, 2012 - 12:56AM

    There is no more queen lovers left in the world i guess…..


  • Mughal bacha.
    Apr 24, 2012 - 1:02AM

    what about kashmir and palestine the gifts of queens.


  • qalandar
    Apr 24, 2012 - 2:02AM

    there is a large self interest in performing the said functions that the author ignores – namely, the billions of pounds worth of assets that the British monarch owns. The ‘work at night’ is the only justification for aristocratic distinction. Further, Hilter too worked long hours and was dedicated to his nation…it does not follow from this that we ought to thank him. Likewise, the authors basis for praise misses the point. The faults of the Raj are enormous and can not be excused because a old lady has a ‘work ethic’….ironic then that on this same day a British writer has taken the British empire and the shameful monarchy to task – while our brown sahibs prefer to ‘ignore’ the crimes of the Raj and the monarch that represented it and gave it an ideological justification. Recommend

  • Apr 24, 2012 - 2:24AM

    We would have been part of the rebel alliance, using ‘The Force’ to battle evil empire. We meet again Obi Wan!


  • musheir
    Apr 24, 2012 - 2:43AM

    don’t be fooled by the royals they are as racist as they come princess diana didn’t live to tell the tale of their racism


  • Praja tantra
    Apr 24, 2012 - 6:01AM

    Excelent exlanation of rajdharma. That is why we indians consider country as the motherland (matrubhumi, vande mataram, bharat mata, mother india). We are the only nation where the country is given status of mother. France and Germany, on the other hand, consider nation as fatherland (faterland, patrie). India is the only country in the world that is mother for her children. Thank you for the article.


  • faraz
    Apr 24, 2012 - 8:09AM

    I have yet to meet an elder citizen who didn’t hear his parents admiring British rule for the peace they maintained


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Apr 24, 2012 - 10:46AM

    Considering the fact that none of the Muslim League leaders went to jail, unlike Gandhi or Nehru or Patel. And popularity of Queen in Pak as opposed to Indian indifference (may be Diana was more popular)…….does this tell us something about the Partition of India?


  • Kashmirian
    Apr 24, 2012 - 1:49PM

    All the old people in my district Gujranwala always admire the rule of Brithishers on pakistani areas, they say it was so peaceful that you cannot even imagine in today´s circumstances. Our pakistani areas were always backwards, had almost nothing to offer but still the Britishers invested a lot in our areas in the form of Schools, Hospitals, colleges , railway etc. While it is true that British milked the resources of the areas which fall in modern day india but that was not the case for areas that fall in modern day pakistan.


  • Pakistani
    Apr 24, 2012 - 1:57PM

    @Yuri Kondratyuk:

    The struggle for the Congress and the Muslime league were very different in nature. While the Congress could outwardly create mayhem and voice out their opinions strognly agaisnt the British Raj while at the same time, being in cahoots in private, the ML had to take a much more transparent route to achieve Pakistan’s independence. As a party led by a man of principles, they were fighting on the basis of logic and reason. And sometimes that IS enough by itself. Going to jail is not a benchmark.


  • Abid P Khan
    Apr 24, 2012 - 6:41PM

    An extremely interesting and relevant discussion is taking place on The Guardian’s pages. (The link is given below.) I believe it is worth reading, what our ex-masters thought then and do now.


    link text: Deny the British empire’s crimes? No, we ignore them


  • Ali Tanoli
    Apr 24, 2012 - 6:53PM

    Why they are so nice in the country and evils out side.?????


  • Udaya Bose
    Apr 25, 2012 - 12:40PM

    Just curious as to what connection Victoria had with Pakistan. It is of course anachronistic considering Victoria died in 1901.
    Ah ! Was it her Munshi? Abdul Karim, the Munshi, was born in Lalitpur near Jhansi. Is that in Pakistan?
    But don’t you see, he was a MUSLIM and by extension a Pakistani. QED. Zindabad to that.


  • yasir
    Apr 25, 2012 - 5:07PM

    Highly flawed article with incomplete facts depicting only one side of the story.


  • Apr 25, 2012 - 9:31PM

    Allah save Her Majesty The Queen and bless the Royal Family.

    Mohammed Abbasi
    Association of British Muslims


  • Abid P Khan
    Apr 26, 2012 - 2:25PM

    @Mohammed Abbasi:

    “Allah save Her Majesty The Queen and bless the Royal Family.
    Mohammed Abbasi
    Association of British Muslims”

    Tell me, you are joking!


  • history buff
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:26AM

    @Udaya Bose

    I thought the Pakistan reference was obvious: Victoria had adopted Maharaja Duleep Singh of Lahore, and as far as I know, Lahore and most of the state Duleep Singh and his ancestors ruled over forms Pakistan.


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