Magazine article History Today

Lord Curzon Takes Office as Viceroy of India January 6th, 1899

Magazine article History Today

Lord Curzon Takes Office as Viceroy of India January 6th, 1899

Article excerpt

`The East is a university in which the scholar never takes his degree', George Curzon, Viceroy-designate of India, told an Old Etonian dinner in 1898. `It is a temple where the suppliant adores but never catches sight of the object of his devotion ... I know that I have everything to learn. I have, perhaps, many things to unlearn. But if the test of the pupil be application, and if the test of the worshipper be faith, I hope that I may pass through the ordeal unscathed.' Brilliant, cultivated and witty, an elitist's elitist, Curzon had already been to India in the 1880s and 1890s and loved the country dearly, but he was also a convinced imperialist who believed in the benefits of Western civilisation. He would not escape unscathed.

The passage to India took three weeks and the newly created Lord Curzon of Kedleston arrived in Bombay in SS Arabia on December 30th, 1898, with his beautiful American wife and their two baby daughters. Greeted by an address from the Bombay Municipal Corporation, the Curzons drove through cheering crowds to a reception for 1,400 people who filed past them as they stood on a golden carpet. His first speech on Indian soil, in which he undertook `to hold the scales even' between the British and the races, religions and interests of the land, went down well and he wrote home: `the reception we receive everywhere is one of extraordinary friendliness and even enthusiasm'.

The Curzons sped across the country to Calcutta by train. The train drew up at the wrong place, the band omitted to play `God Save the Queen' and the red carpet was the size of a postage stamp, or so Curzon complained, but he loved pageantry and his spirits rose as he and Lady Curzon passed regally in their state carriage through packed crowds in the cheerfully bedecked streets and past lines of troops in Dalhousie Square. …

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