Queen Victoria’s trusted servant, the Munshi. Abdul Kareem photographed at Balmoral


Abdul Karim, Queen Victoria’s Munshi or Hindustani teacher, a very good full length 7½ x 6 ins portrait [19 x 15 mm] on part of an old card album leaf.

The Indian servant is shown here not in uniform but wearing something more akin to Indian court dress. The  photograph is not credited but a  hunting tableau in which he is similarly attired  is attributed on the Royal Collection Trust website to Robert Milne of Aboyne and dated to 1894.

A good short account of the Munshi can be found in the recent book Miles Taylor: Empress, Queen Victoria and IndiaYale University Press 2018. The Munshi Abdul Karim was the most influential and privileged of Queen Victoria’s Indian servants and members of the royal family and courtiers were very suspicious of this influence. Excluded by Her Majesty’s tendency to want to talk to him in Hindustani, their suspicions eventually led to his dismissal by the Prince of Wales [later King Edward VII]  and the destruction of his papers and photographs. jul22/2


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