Soon to be a major motion picture starring Dame Judi Dench from director Stephen Frears, releasing September 22, 2017.
Tall and handsome, Abdul was just 24 years old when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at tables for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Within a year Abdul had grown to become a powerful figure at court, the queen's teacher, or Munshi; her counsel on Urdu and Indian affairs; and a friend close to the queen's heart. "I am so very fond of him," Queen Victoria would write in 1888. "He is so good and gentle and understanding...a real comfort to me."
This marked the beginning of the most scandalous decade in Queen Victoria's long reign. Devastated first by the death of Prince Albert in 1861 and then her personal servant John Brown in 1883, Queen Victoria quickly found joy in an intense and controversial relationship with her Munshi, who traveled everywhere with her, cooked her curries, and cultivated her understanding of the Indian subcontinent - a region, as empress of India, she was long intrigued by but could never visit. The royal household roiled with resentment, but their devotion grew in defiance of all expectation and the societal pressures of their time and class and lasted until the queen's death on January 22, 1901.
Drawn from never-before-seen firsthand documents that had been closely guarded secrets for a century, Shrabani Basu's Victoria & Abdul is a remarkable history of the last years of the 19th century in English court, an unforgettable view onto the passions of an aging queen and a fascinating portrayal of how a young Indian Muslim came to play a central role at the heart of the British Empire.
"A tale of Empire and intrigue, brought vividly back to life." (Vikas Swarup, author of
"If this had been the plot of a novel, it would have been dismissed as foolishly far-fetched. But Victoria & Abdul is fact rather than fiction, and therein lies its power." ( The Times of India)
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Is This a History Lesson?
- G Baker