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W Watson : Ballater, Queen Victoria (1819–1901) with Mohammed Abdul Karim (1863-1909) at Balmoral, c.1890, RCIN 2105802 ©

On 1 January 1877, Queen Victoria was created Empress of India. Though she never visited the country, she was fascinated by its culture and employed a number of Indian servants including Abdul Karim (pictured), who became the Queen’s Indian Secretary.  Karim taught the Queen to speak Hindustani (a dialect which uses both Hindi and Urdu words) and to write in Urdu script, and she became sufficiently adept to keep brief diaries.

The entries displayed here record the Queen's activities while in Florence in March 1894. The Queen wrote the English text at the bottom; above that, the English text was put into the correct word order for the translation, in parallel with the Hindustani words in an English phonetic transliteration. Finally, the Queen wrote the text in Urdu characters at the top.

The entry dated 23 March 1894 reads:

Today I went to take tea at Lady Paget’s. The day was extremely fine. I went out as usual in the Morning after Church (this being Good Friday) in the Garden