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The Empress and the SikhsDate: Tuesday, 07 April, 2009



Queen Victoria's reign is inextricably associated with Britain's great age of industrialisation, economic progress and, especially empire.  Within that vast empire India was recognised as "The Jewel in the Crown" yet very little is known of the remarkable historical relationship between the Empress and the Sikhs of the Punjab.

'Nothing is more painful for any one than the thought that their children and grandchildren have no future , and may become absolute beggars. How much more dreadful must this be to proud people, who are the sons and grand-sons of Great Princes.'
Queen Victoria in a letter to Lord Dalhousie Governor General of India, October  1854

During her reign the Sikhs would become noted for the resolute defence of their own sovereign kingdom and their subsequent unswerving loyalty and gallantry to Britain.

Drawing on the lives of Queen Victoria and Maharajah Duleep Singh an illustrated talk was delivered to The Victoria League, a voluntary organisation based in Scotland which provides hospitality to overseas students stying in the UK, during their annual social event. The talk explored this powerful yet rarely related episode of British history which encompasses imperial conquest, annexation, service and unparalleled kinship.

'With family connections to some of the Sikh regiments among our members there was keen interest in Harbinder's talk which gave an overview on the long and surprisingly parallel experiences of Empire between the Scots and Sikhs. With such a lot to talk on, we inevitably just touched the surface of many of the events and issues; but for many of the families without links to that part of the world or period in our joint histories it provided us with a fascinating insight. You could have heard a pin drop throughout the talk as everyone was paying such close attention to what Harbinder was telling us. The talk was for an hour and everyone there wished it could have been for much longer!'

Susie Walker Munroe - Victoria League

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