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Emperor of India

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Emperor (or Empress) of India[Note 1] was a title used by the British monarchs during the British Raj in the Indian subcontinent from 1876 (see Royal Titles Act 1876) until 1948,[a][1][2] after India had gained independence from the United Kingdom, when for a transitional period the British monarch was also king of the independent dominions of India and Pakistan.

Emperor of India
The badge of the Order of the Star of India, used as an emblem of British India
King George VI.jpg
Last in office
George VI

11 December 1936 – 15 August 1947
Style Her Imperial Majesty
His Imperial Majesty
First monarch Victoria
Last monarch George VI
Formation 1 May 1876
Abolition 22 June 1948
Residence United Kingdom United Kingdom
Buckingham Palace
British Raj India
Viceroy's House
Appointer Hereditary

The term "Emperor of India" is also used retrospectively to refer to pre-British Indian rulers from various dynasties. (see List of Indian monarchs).


British monarchsEdit

New Crowns for Old, the cartoon's caption references a scene in Aladdin where lamps are exchanged. Depicted is Prime Minister Disraeli offering Queen Victoria an imperial crown in exchange for an earl's coronet. She made him Earl of Beaconsfield at this time.[3]

After the British East India Company (EIC) deposed the nominal Mughal Emperor, and after the British government dissolved the EIC in 1874, Queen Victoria was given the title "Empress of India" (or Kaisar-i-Hind) from 1 May 1876. The new title was proclaimed at the Delhi Durbar of 1877. The title came into use nineteen years after British India and the British protected states ('princely states') on the Indian subcontinent came under the control of the British Crown, following the dissolution of the British East India Company. It was eagerly assumed by Victoria in 1876, after she had been pressuring Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Benjamin Disraeli for some years to agree to her taking this title.[4]

The idea of having Victoria proclaimed Empress of India was not particularly new as Lord Ellenborough had already suggested it in 1843 on becoming Governor-General of India. By 1874, Major-General Sir Henry Ponsonby, the Queen's Private Secretary, had investigations well in hand and English charters had been scrutinized for imperial titles, with Edgar and Stephen mentioned as sound precedents. The Queen, possibly irritated by the sallies of the republicans, the tendency to democracy, and the realization that her influence was manifestly on the decline, was urging the move.[5] Another factor may have been that the Queen's first child, Victoria, was married to Crown Prince Frederick the heir to the German Empire. When she became empress she would then "outrank" her mother.[6] By January, 1876, the Queen's insistence was such that the Prime Minister felt he could procrastinate no more.[5] Initially, Victoria had actually considered the style "Empress of Great Britain, Ireland and India" but the cautious Disraeli, in his desire to avoid controversy, persuaded the Queen to limit the title to India.[7]

However, many in Britain regarded the assumption of the title as a fairly obvious development from the 1858 Government of India Act when the Crown replaced the East India Company, as the title 'Queen' was no longer considered adequate for the head of what had become known as the Indian Empire. The new styling would underline the fact that the native states were no longer a mere agglomeration but a collective entity.[8]

Coins of the British Empire and its dominions routinely included the title Ind. Imp., such as this Canadian five-cent piece.

When Victoria's successor Edward VII ascended the throne in 1901, he continued to use the title "Emperor of India", as did subsequent British monarchs. The title continued after India became independent on 15 August 1947 until it was formally abandoned on 22 June 1948[2] during the reign of King George VI. George VI continued as King of India until 26 January 1950, when the country's new constitution made it a sovereign democratic republic, although still within the Commonwealth of Nations following the 1949 London Declaration.

When signing off Indian business, the reigning British King-Emperors or queen-empress used the initials R I (Rex/Regina Imperator/Imperatrix) or the abbreviation Ind. Imp. (Indiae Imperator/Imperatrix) after their name (while the one reigning queen-empress, Victoria, used the initials R I, the wives of king-emperors simply used R). When a male monarch held the title his wife, the queen consort, used the style queen-empress, though she was not herself a reigning monarch.

British coins and those of the Empire and Commonwealth routinely included the abbreviated title Ind. Imp., although in India itself the coins said "Empress", and later "King Emperor". When in 1947 India became independent all coining dies had to be changed, which took up to a year and created some problems. Canadian coins, for example, were minted well into 1948 but stamped "1947", the new year's issue indicated by a small maple leaf in one corner. In Great Britain itself the title appeared on coinage through 1948.

List of British Emperors and Empresses of IndiaEdit

Portrait Name Birth Death Emperor from Emperor until Accession to the office Consort
  Victoria 24 May 1819 22 January 1901 1 May 1876[b] 22 January 1901 Given title after dissolution of the East India Company
  Edward VII 9 November 1841 6 May 1910 22 January 1901 6 May 1910 Son of Victoria Alexandra of Denmark
  George V 3 June 1865 20 January 1936 6 May 1910 20 January 1936 Son of Edward VII Mary of Teck
  Edward VIII 23 June 1894 28 May 1972 20 January 1936 11 December 1936
Son of George V
  George VI 14 December 1895 6 February 1952 11 December 1936 22 June 1948 Brother of Edward VIII Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon


  1. ^ The Indian form of the title was Kaisar-i-Hind .
  1. ^ British rule in India ended on 15 August 1947, but George VI retained the title of King-Emperor until 22 June 1948, and thereafter remained monarch of India until India became a republic on 26 January 1950. He continued as King of Pakistan until his death.
  2. ^ Proclaimed Empress of India on 28 April 1876 in the United Kingdom and on 1 January 1877 in India.


  1. ^ "No. 38330". The London Gazette. 22 June 1948. p. 3647.  Royal Proclamation of 22 June 1948, made in accordance with the Indian Independence Act 1947, 10 & 11 GEO. 6. CH. 30.('Section 7: ...(2)The assent of the Parliament of the United Kingdom is hereby given to the omission from the Royal Style and Titles of the words " Indiae Imperator " and the words " Emperor of India " and to the issue by His Majesty for that purpose of His Royal Proclamation under the Great Seal of the Realm.'). According to this Royal Proclamation, the King retained the Style and Titles 'George VI by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith', and he thus remained King of the various Dominions, including India and Pakistan, though these two (and others) eventually chose to abandon their monarchies and became republics.
  2. ^ a b Indian Independence Act 1947 (10 & 11 Geo. 6. c. 30)
  3. ^ Harold E. Raugh (2004). The Victorians at War, 1815-1914: An Encyclopedia of British Military History. ABC-CLIO. p. 122. ISBN 9781576079256. 
  4. ^ L. A. Knight, "The Royal Titles Act and India", The Historical Journal, Cambridge University Press, Vol. 11, No. 3 (1968), pp. 488-489.
  5. ^ a b L. A. Knight, p. 489.
  6. ^ Remembering Vicky, the Queen Britain never had
  7. ^ L. A. Knight, p. 488.
  8. ^ L. A. Knight, pp. 491, 496