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Emperor of India

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Emperor/Empress of India (Kaisar-i-Hind, Urdu: قیصر ا ہند ‎, Hindi: कैसर-ए-हिंद)[1] was a title used by British monarchs from 1 May 1876 (see Royal Titles Act 1876) to 22 June 1948. [2][3][4]

Emperor/Empress of India
The badge of the Order of the Star of India was used as the emblem of British India.
King George VI of England, formal photo portrait, circa 1940-1946.jpg
Last in Office
George VI

11 December 1936 – 22 June 1948
StyleHer Imperial Majesty
1 May 1876 – 22 January 1901
His Imperial Majesty
22 January 1901 – 22 June 1948
First monarchVictoria
Last monarchGeorge VI
Formation1 May 1876
Abolition22 June 1948
ResidenceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Buckingham Palace
British Raj India
Viceroy's House


New Crowns for Old, the cartoon's caption references a scene in Aladdin where lamps are exchanged. The Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, is offering Queen Victoria an imperial crown in exchange for an earl's coronet. She made him the Earl of Beaconsfield at this time.[5]

After the nominal Mughal Emperor was deposed at the conclusion of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (10 May 1857 - 1 November 1858), the government of the United Kingdom decided to transfer control of British India and its princely states from the mercantile East India Company (EIC) to the Crown, thus marking the beginning of the British Raj. The EIC was officially dissolved on 1 June 1874, and the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, decided to offer Queen Victoria the title "Empress of India" shortly afterwards. Victoria gleefully accepted this prestigious style on 1 May 1876. The first Delhi Durbar (which served as an imperial coronation) was held in her honour eight months later on 1 January 1877.[6]

The idea of having Victoria proclaimed Empress of India was not particularly new, as Lord Ellenborough had already suggested it in 1843 upon becoming the Governor-General of India. By 1874, Major-General Sir Henry Ponsonby, the Queen's Private Secretary, had ordered English charters to be scrutinised 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 realisation that her influence was manifestly on the decline, was urging the move.[7] Another factor may have been that the Queen's first child, Victoria, was married to Crown Prince Frederick, the heir to the German Empire. Upon becoming empress, the Princess Royal would "outrank" her mother.[8] By January 1876, the Queen's insistence was so great that Benjamin Disraeli felt that he could procrastinate no longer.[7] Initially, Victoria had actually considered the style "Empress of Great Britain, Ireland, and India", but Disraeli had persuaded the Queen to limit the title to India in order to avoid controversy.[9]

Many in the United Kingdom, however, regarded the assumption of the title as an obvious development from the 1858 Government of India Act, which resulted in the founding of the British Raj. The public were of the opinion that the title of "Queen" was no longer adequate for the ceremonial ruler of what was often referred to informally as the Indian Empire. The new styling underlined the fact that the native states were no longer a mere agglomeration but a collective entity.[10]

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

When Edward VII ascended to the throne on 22 January 1901, he continued the imperial tradition laid down by his mother, Queen Victoria, by adopting the title "Emperor of India". Three subsequent British monarchs followed in his footsteps, and it continued to be used after India had become independent on 15 August 1947. It was not until 22 June 1948 that the style was officially abolished during the reign of George VI.[3]

When signing off Indian business, the reigning British king-emperors or queen-empresses 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 used the style queen-empress, despite the fact that she was not a reigning monarch in her own right.

British coins, as well as those of the Empire and the Commonwealth, routinely included the abbreviated title Ind. Imp.. Coins in India, on the other hand, were stamped with the word "Empress", and later "King-Emperor". When India became independent in 1947, 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. The title appeared on coinage in the United Kingdom throughout 1948.

List of Emperors/Empresses of IndiaEdit

Portrait Name Lifespan Reign Delhi Durbar House
  Victoria 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901 (81 years, 7 months, 4 weeks, and 1 day) 1 May 1876 – 22 January 1901 (24 years, 8 months, and 3 weeks) 1 January 1877 House of Hanover
  Edward VII 9 November 1841 – 6 May 1910 (68 years, 5 months, 3 weeks, and 6 days) 22 January 1901 – 6 May 1910 (9 years, 3 months, and 2 weeks) 1 January 1903 House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
  George V 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936 (70 years, 7 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days) 6 May 1910 – 20 January 1936 (25 years, 8 months, and 2 weeks) 12 December 1911 House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha: 6 May 1910 – 17 July 1917 (7 years, 2 months, 1 week, and 4 days)

House of Windsor: 17 July 1917 – 20 January 1936 (18 years, 6 months, and 3 days)

  Edward VIII 23 June 1894 – 28 May 1972 (77 years, 11 months, and 5 days) 20 January 1936 – 11 December 1936 (10 months and 3 weeks) None House of Windsor
  George VI 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952 (56 years, 1 month, 3 weeks, and 2 days) 11 December 1936 – 22 June 1948 (11 years, 6 months, 1 week, and 4 days) None House of Windsor


  1. ^ Kaisar-i-Hind Medal, Kaisar literally meaning “Emperor/Empress” in Hindustani
  2. ^ "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'
  3. ^ a b Indian Independence Act 1947 (10 & 11 Geo. 6. c. 30)
  4. ^ Titles such as "King of Canada" had been rejected in 1901. David Kenneth Fieldhouse (1985). Select Documents on the Constitutional History of the British Empire and Commonwealth: Settler self-government, 1840-1900. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-313-27326-1.
  5. ^ Harold E. Raugh (2004). The Victorians at War, 1815-1914: An Encyclopedia of British Military History. ABC-CLIO. p. 122. ISBN 9781576079256.
  6. ^ L. A. Knight, "The Royal Titles Act and India", The Historical Journal, Cambridge University Press, Vol. 11, No. 3 (1968), pp. 488-489.
  7. ^ a b L. A. Knight, p. 489.
  8. ^ Remembering Vicky, the Queen Britain never had
  9. ^ L. A. Knight, p. 488.
  10. ^ L. A. Knight, pp. 491, 496