Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of a British World, 1860-1911 examines the ritual space of nineteenth-century royal tours of empire and the diverse array of historical actors who participated in them. The book is a tale of royals who were ambivalent and bored partners in the project of empire; colonial administrators who used royal ceremonies to pursue a multiplicity of projects and interests or to imagine themselves as African chiefs or heirs to the Mughal emperors; local princes and chiefs who were bullied and bruised by the politics of the royal tour, even as some of them used the tour to symbolically appropriate or resist British cultural power; and settlers of European descent and people of colour in the empire who made claims on the rights and responsibilities of imperial citizenship and as co-owners of Britain’s global empire. Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of a British World suggests that the diverse responses to the royal tours of the nineteenth century demonstrate how a multi-centred British-imperial culture was forged in the empire and was constantly made and remade, appropriated and contested. In this context, subjects of empire provincialized the British Isles, centring the colonies in their political and cultural constructions of empire, Britishness, citizenship, and loyalty.
Comparing the recent travels of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to those of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York at the turn of the twentieth century, the chapter examines the royal tour as a function of the modern British monarchy and its history from the reign of Queen Victoria to the present day. Framing its analysis around the ways in which various stakeholders understood and responded to both the royal tours of the nineteenth century and those of the twenty-first century, it argues that the queens’ subjects, from African and South Asian intellectuals to performing Aboriginal troupes, contributed importantly to a British-imperial culture and to the meanings of the royal tour.
Chapter one examines the conceptual space between the projection of Queen Victoria as a symbol of empire and nineteenth-century royals often ambivalent attitude toward the empire and, particularly, the royal tours. It also describes the experiences of royal tourists of empire between the first royal tours of 1860 and the coronation durbar of 1911. Using correspondence to, from, and about travelling royals – including two future kings – the chapter examines Victorian and Edwardian royals’ encounters with the empire from their daily routines to their participation in Mughal-inspired durbars with Indian princes.
Chapter two examines how ‘native’ princes and chiefs in Africa, South Asia, and New Zealand encountered the empire and British royals during the tours of empire. In particular, the chapter focuses on the ways that princes and chiefs, through the royal tour, symbolically resisted British appropriation of local political traditions or used connections with the British to invent or accentuate their own statuses and authority. At the same time, it also explores how colonial administrators, such as Lord Lytton in India or Theophilus Shepstone in Natal, sought to naturalize British rule by re-imagining themselves as Mughal governors or African chiefs within an imperial hierarchy.
Global Britishness and settler cultures in South Africa and New Zealand
Charles V. Reed
Chapter three examines how colonial settlers imagined their relationships with a British ‘homeland’ and a larger British world. By examining the robust English-language print cultures in South Africa and New Zealand, the chapter explores how colonial settlers used the forum of the royal tour to self-fashion communal mythologies and identities in the languages of Britishness and imperial citizenship not only in individual colonies – in New Zealand or the Cape Colony – but also in provincial and urban cores – in the Eastern Cape or Dunedin, for instance. While the royal tours were used by colonial officials and local elites as instruments of propaganda and social control, colonial subjects in the empire often used the languages of Britishness and imperial citizenship to protest injustices, whether local or imperial, or to challenge racial or ethnic determinism.
Britishness, respectability, and imperial citizenship
Charles V. Reed
Chapter four explores how a modern politics and mass culture were mobilised by Western-educated respectables of colour in southern Africa and the British Raj to make claim on Britishness and imperial citizenship. In particular, it explores how historical actors such as Francis Z.S. Peregrino, Viswanath Narayan Mandalik, John Tengo Jabavu, and Mohandas Gandhi, participated in the networks of a British imperial world and in the making of a British imperial culture. Through the circuits of empire, respectables of colour came to identify themselves as members of a global community of ‘natives’ and Britishers and invested their notions of respectability in the promises of an imperial citizenship. Using the rich resources of independent African and South Asian newspapers, which covered and editorialised the royal tours with enthusiasm and at length, the chapter examines how South African and South Asian respectables claimed a more genuine understanding of British constitutionalism than the governments in Cape Town or Calcutta and through this understanding advocated a non-racial respectable status and an imperial citizenship.
Colonial subjects and the appeal for imperial justice
Charles V. Reed
Chapter five examines a different kind of ‘royal tour’, the pilgrimage of colonial subjects ‘home’ to Great Britain in order to petition the queen/king for justice. Culturally imbued with the notion of the Great (White) King/Queen, colonial subjects brought their cases against British or settler governments in the colonies to the metropole in hopes of inspiring imperial intervention against colonial injustices and abuses. Through an examination of two visits by British subjects – the 1884 visit of the Maori King to London and the 1909 delegation in opposition to the Union of South Africa – and their failures to inspire change in imperial policy (in the case of the Union of South Africa) or even an audience (in the case of the Maori King), the chapter demonstrates how ‘imperial networks’ short-circuited when the empire came home.
The final chapter examines the royal tour through the lens of the 1911 coronation durbar and its aftermath. It argues that the durbar represented both the political and cultural pinnacle of the ritual apparatus developed during the second half of the nineteenth century, but also the ways in which it was unravelling in the years before the First World War. It also demonstrated how imperial culture was made by complex modes of reception and appropriation, how ideas about empire, citizenship, and identity were forged in encounters and experiences ‘on the ground’, as it were, and how colonial knowledge was always imperfect and partial.