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Postcolonial Studies, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.

173192, 2009

Indian princes, dancing girls and

tigers: the Prince of Wales’s tour of
India and Ceylon, 187518761

We have become accustomed to the association between royalty and celebrity

in modern times. Yet the history of the triadic association between the
institutions and cultural formations of royalty, celebrity culture and colonial
imperialism is one that is comparatively little researched. In charting such a
history in the nineteenth century, the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII,
is an exemplary figure and his tour of the subcontinent is a formative case
study in the history of travel and celebrity. The Prince toured India and
Ceylon for four months from 8 November 1875, when he arrived in Bombay,
until 13 March 1876. Contemporary assessment of the tour was that it was an
immense success, paving the way for the conferral of the title of the Empress
of India on Queen Victoria in 1877.2 Since then it has mostly only been
discussed in Edward VII’s biographies, echoing the view of some of the short-
term political effect of the tour, with little effort to examine the tour in the
context of broader political and cultural trends of the period.3 The Prince of
Wales was one of the most famous people in Britain at the time, and the
Prince’s tour was a sensational domestic media event. The immense quantity
of texts and images generated through the tour highlight significant trends in
representing the colonial dynamic, royal spectacle and colonies as travel
destinations.4 This essay examines the representation of the British monarchy,
the Empire, and tourism as seen mainly through the extensive coverage of the
English illustrated weeklies The Illustrated London News and The Graphic.
The representation of the Prince as a celebrity traveller informs us of the
development of the relationship between royalty and celebrity, and travel and
colonial imperialism in the late nineteenth century.
The tour of the Prince coincided with a rapid expansion of the press
propelled by technological improvements in printing, transportation and
telegraphs, accompanied by rising literacy.5 From the 1860s telegraph wires,
along with the railroad, were widely used within India, and the opening of
the Indo-European cable line in 1865 transformed communication in the
Empire.6 By the late 1870s the Empire would become a source of highly
popular events for the press. The tour was one of a number of defining
imperial moments of the 1870s, including the finding of David Livingstone by
Henry Morton Stanley in 1871; Livingstone’s death in 1873 in Central Africa
and his funeral; the durbar held by Lord Lytton, the viceroy of India; and
ISSN 1368-8790 print/ISSN 1466-1888 online/09/02017320 # 2009 The Institute of Postcolonial Studies
DOI: 10.1080/13688790902887163

events in Zululand and Afghanistan in 1879.7 How these events redefined the
Empire and influenced public views of it are questions not fully settled, yet
there is a strong argument that the Empire became increasingly popular with
the British public from the 1870s, especially as the intensification of cultural
propaganda increased in the 1880s.8 Britain’s imperial incursions in Egypt,
the Sudan, West and East Africa, South Africa, China and a number of other
places would be followed by a surge of popular enthusiasm for Empire that
would peak around 1900.9
The transformation of the image of the military during the nineteenth
century was an important factor in the shift in the media coverage of the
colonies. The British military leaders during the 1857 Indian Rebellion, then
known as the Sepoy Mutiny, became immensely popular heroes.10 By the
mid-1870s a significant portion of the illustrated press consisted of heroic
images of officers and soldiers of the Empire fighting in colonial wars. From
the 1880s to the early decades of the twentieth century the illustrated press
would become thoroughly preoccupied with colonial wars. Coverage of such
conflicts would comprise, in my estimate based on a survey of the leading
titles of the British illustrated press, between 50 and 70 per cent of the
contents of these publications. The Illustrated London News and The Graphic
were both aimed at the middle and upper classes, and the latter was more
liberal than the former, but when it came to colonial news there was little
difference in their stance: both favoured the Empire and celebrated the
heroism of the British army. In spite of the popularity of colonial news, the
vastness of the British Empire by the 1880s would mean that each colony
would receive less and less coverage. Even India would be in the news only in
times of ‘crises’ and ‘frontier troubles’, and news would consist largely of
details of warfare from the British perspective rather than sustained analyses
of any given situation.
Given this context, the Prince’s tour and its coverage stand out as unique,
in that the tour was ostensibly a civilian and diplomatic undertaking, rather
than a military campaign, in a period when the media coverage was beginning
to be consumed by colonial wars. Moreover the tour marked, strikingly, the
most intense focus by the British media on India since the 1857 uprising. The
tour was a major topic of the daily press as well, but the nature of the tour,
which required few urgent news items such as the safe arrival of the Prince in
India, was particularly suited to extensive coverage through images. The
Illustrated London News and The Graphic were two of the few papers that
employed special correspondents, especially ‘Special Artists’, before the
1880s. The circulation of The Illustrated London News was five times that
of the elite paper The Times during the 1870s.11 The initial stories of the
Prince’s tour were cabled, but the bulk of the news of the tour, including
artists’ sketches, came through regular mail, taking four weeks to arrive.12
The coverage started in October as the Prince departed from England and
travelled through Europe and the Suez Canal. From 6 November 1875 The
Illustrated London News covered the tour in every issue, including five to six
pages of images per issue, and also included eight-page supplements with four
pages of images in almost every issue through early 1876. The magazine also

issued a forty-eight-page special number with twenty-two images in January

1876. The Graphic’s volume of coverage was similar, and it also published a
supplement in May 1876, coinciding with the return of the Prince to
The tour also needs to be situated in the history of tourism. Although an
extensive scholarship on travelogues exists, the history of the rise of tourism
beyond Europe and the Middle East in the nineteenth century has received
scant attention.14 Moreover the role of the press in the connection between
colonialism and tourism is hardly known. In this period, as the press was
increasingly preoccupied with colonial wars, there was less interest in
travelogues than before, as the golden age of discoveries and exploration
had passed. The tour of the Prince provided a unique occasion for the press to
focus on a singular topic, an unprecedented tour of India and Ceylon by the
future British king. The Prince of Wales was simultaneously the highest of the
imperial authorities to visit India and a diplomatic emissary. He was also a
tourist, a fact that has not been examined. His tour occasioned a unique
convergence of royal spectacle, the theatre of colonies and the theatre of
exotic tourism, affirming English imperial authority, keeping the Prince
constantly in the public eye for a sustained and unprecedented period of time,
and also presenting a great deal of the sights of India and Ceylon. Situating
the tour in the framework of cultural history and postcolonial theory, this
article argues that the tour was significant in the re-forging of the cultural
imaginary of India and Ceylon as travel destinations, and that the tour was a
significant moment in the historical development of modern travel and
celebrity culture.

Royal spectacle and tourism

The publicly stated purpose of the tour was the Prince’s desire to acquaint
himself with the distant colonies that one day he would rule over. The implicit
agenda for the trip, however, was the strengthening of the ties between
England and the colonies in order to affirm British imperial authority. To this
end colonial governments in India and Ceylon were charged with the task of
showing off the popularity of British rule. Royal rituals were an important
means for expressing British nationality,15 and the tour of the Prince was
considered by many in the government to be a significant way of asserting
British imperial authority both in Britain and in the colonies. The Prince’s
idea of the tour was initially opposed by Victoria. She did not feel that he
could represent her, and she also objected to the proposed retinue for the
Prince.16 Moreover the radical press was opposed to what they saw as another
government-funded expensive pleasure trip for the Prince.17 One complicating
issue for the planning of the trip was that the Prince would be expected to
reciprocate the costly presents that Indian rulers would offer him, while on
the other hand the Prince would get to keep those presents that were given to
him by his Indian hosts. Although the Indian government was to pay more
than 100,000 pounds towards the Prince’s personal expenses, the Prince had
to offer gifts of far less value to the Indian princes than those that they would

lavish upon him.18 To further complicate matters, there was a concern that a
war between India and China might break out, in which case the Indian army
should not be disturbed with a royal visit.19 For these reasons, initially, the
tour was far from a unanimously welcome event. It was undertaken only after
extensive negotiations with the Parliament and to a significant degree was
dependent on public opinion.
In addition, for the Prince the tour was also a means of consciously
building his own image and enhancing that of the royal family. The Prince
had been in the public eye since childhood, and images of him as one of
Victoria’s children were ubiquitous. However, his personality was largely
unknown until he undertook a tour of North America in 1860 at the age of
eighteen, which received a great deal of press coverage in North America.20
This tour kept up the high profile of the royal family, something both Disraeli
and Gladstone considered to be important in the face of the public’s
increasing disapproval in the 1860s over Victoria’s seclusion.21 Celebrity
culture is all about the image, the cultural imaginary. Victorian Britain was
rife with celebrity culture for famous people like Tennyson, Anthony Trollope
and Darwin,22 although the most famous were dead people who had reached
mythic status, such as Byron or Nelson. Members of the royal family were
famous because of who they were rather than what they did: for their
‘ascribed’ rather than their ‘achieved’ celebrity, as Chris Rojek would put it.23
Yet their popularity was far from a given, and as such their celebrity had to be
earned through public deeds and the careful cultivation and maintenance of
an image, since most of the celebrities of the period were people thought to
have achieved something extraordinary.
Aware of the massive press coverage the tour would generate, the Prince
took his friend William Howard Russell, The Times correspondent, to
accompany him, along with Sydney Prior Hall, an artist for The Graphic, with
the provision that they would not be allowed to make exclusive dispatches.24
Numerous other correspondents also went to the colonies to cover the tour.
While intending to heighten public enthusiasm for the monarchy and the
Empire through positive media coverage, the British monarchy and the
government were not fully in control of the means, contents and impacts of
the press coverage, as the Prince was dependent on the choices that the press
made in representing him and his hosts, and the events of the tour. The
content of the coverage, and the public reception of it, could not be entirely
foreseen or managed.
The illustrated press emphasized the novelty of the tour. The moderniza-
tion of travel was one of the themes emphasized as new. The Graphic reported
that royal personages rarely made peaceful journeys into distant countries,
and that the Prince’s tour was enabled by the modernization of travel. The
Graphic saw the tour as a new type of diplomacy, providing firsthand
acquaintance with distant colonies that would prevent ‘many misunderstand-
ings ending in wars’.25 The press thus characterized the tour as a unique
combination of the themes of royal diplomacy, the colonies and modern
travel. An important fluidity existed between journalism and travelogue in the
nineteenth century,26 and the coverage of the Prince’s tour showcases this

feature. The tour was covered as news rather than as a travelogue, from a
third-party perspective because the Prince was not writing for the press
directly.27 The tour was covered mainly as a series of events of a diplomatic
nature that the Prince participated in, and apart from historical narratives,
there was little in-depth analysis of the colonies, not even the situation of
issues facing the British there. On the other hand, there was a great deal of
reporting on the sights of India and Ceylon, including numerous cities, and as
such the tour marked a unique event when a months-long trip was thoroughly
covered in the press, generating texts and images that effectively formed a
lengthy, mediated travelogue of sorts. In addition a number of travelogues by
the Prince’s travelling companions and correspondents were published
The tour was covered by the English press almost exclusively from the
perspectives of English reporters and the English in India. The coverage of
Indians was largely limited to that of ceremonial interactions between the
Prince and Indian notables, as well as street scenes and ethnographical
observations. Little attempt was made to report from the perspective of
Indians through interviews or other more direct methods of reporting, nor
did the English press cite the Indian press. This fits into the conventional
framework of the press coverage of the Empire. On 13 November 1875 The
Illustrated London News reproduced an account of the arrival of the Prince at
Bombay telegraphed on 8 November by the Standard’s special correspondent.
The account was primarily from the perspective of the English in Bombay
and expressed the excitement that the Prince’s arrival generated in this group,
and in Bombay overall.
Bombay retired to rest last night in the fullest confidence that the Serapis, with
the Royal Highness on board [ . . .] would not arrive before midday today and
perhaps not till a late hour in the afternoon. Its inhabitants were, however,
startled at an early hour this morning by the firing of successive Royal salutes
from the fleet of war ships which is lying in the harbor. It was 8 o’clock when the
salute began at which hour few of the European residents had either bathed or
dressed themselves, and none had breakfasted. The early morning hours in the
East are devoted to a constitutional ride on horseback, or to lounging in
luxurious dishabillé in the deepest shadow of the coolest verandah of one’s
bungalow, till it is time to prepare for the business of the day. It was in this state
that our English fellow countrymen were found when the guns of the fleet
thundered forth the announcement that an unusual visitor was approaching [. . . .]

There was bustle and excitement everywhere, and crowds of people hurried [. . . .]
Dog carts, buggies, and traps of all sorts, and belonging to all classes, were driven
[ . . .] from all parts of the native town toward the same spot. At a quarter to nine
the Serapis entered the harbor, the most spacious in India, and one of the most
magnificent that any port possesses. [. . .] The yards of the fleet were all manned
[ . . .] and loud English cheers broke out from every side. As the Serapis entered
the seaway formed by the double line of ships a Royal salute was fired from the
vessels [. . . .] The Prince stood, in the full uniform of a Field Marshal [ . . . .] The
spectacle was most beautiful to behold. The sky was of a bright pale blue; the


sun, though already strong had not yet risen to the fierceness of his strength; and
there was just enough of breeze to carry off the white smoke which shot from the
sides of the vessels as his Royal Highness passed.28
At three o’clock the viceroy met the Prince on the Serapis, accompanied by
more salutes fired from the fleet, then at four o’clock the Prince disembarked
in front of two hundred select spectators including officials of the government
of Bombay, Indian Rajahs and ‘fifty or sixty other Princes and chiefs, each of
them resplendent in barbaric pearl and gold’. Upon the embarkation ‘the
land batteries fired a royal salute; and the news was telegraphed to every
Indian fortress, that a simultaneous salute might be fired over the length and
breadth of the land’. At five o’clock a procession passed, with the populace
keeping ‘the most perfect order’. The article described ‘dense throngs of
natives’, with women’s ‘brilliant gold and silver embroidered garments’
adding ‘to the gorgeous variety of the spectacle which greeted his Royal
Highness’s eyes’.29
This description highlights royal spectacle, imperial spectacle and the
theatre of tourism in exotic settings, from the perspectives of the English and
the English in India, and, indirectly, from the perspective of the Prince, who
was simultaneously at the centre of attention and a spectator.30 The passage
on the ship’s arrival describes an exotic, ‘magnificent’ setting from the British
perspective, a setting controlled by the British as the reference to the activities
of the British underlines. The arrival of the Prince into this setting reinforces
the power dynamic between the colonizers, whose power is strengthened by
the injection of high imperial authority, and the colonized, all classes of
whom are seen as vying to welcome the Prince. The movement of the ship on
which the Prince stood, entering the harbour, encapsulates the dynamism of
the colonizers, in implicit contrast to the static quality of India that receives
the visitor. The reference to the ‘barbaric pearl and gold’ and ‘the gorgeous
variety of the spectacle which greeted his Royal Highness’s eyes’ establishes
the gaze of the Prince as that of the traveller enjoying the scenery and
entertainment provided by the less civilized. A lengthy description of Bombay
followed, a more detailed version of what might be found in a guidebook.
What made it distinctive was the large illustrations accompanying the article,
sketches by W Simpson, a Special Artist, including those of ‘types of different
classes of people in Bombay’, an ethnographic observation. The ethnographic
depictions were in line with the collection The People of India, the eighty-
eight-volume catalogue published between 1868 and 1875 containing photo-
graphs of the ‘ethnic types’ of India that represented humans as scientific
The second day of the tour, the Prince’s thirty-fourth birthday, occasioned
more spectacles.32 The Prince received Indian princes in a ‘stately and
splendid’ reception.33 The following day the Prince met with more Indian
princes, held a numerously attended levee, and attended the ‘native school
children’s feast’.34 At night he went to the ball of the Byculla Club, and
remained until 2 o’clock, ‘dancing vigorously’. The following day, with a
party of 400, he visited the Caves of Elephants.35 Three weeks later the events

of the second day were described in great detail, accompanied by images of a

spectacular illumination of the city and the harbour at night.36 Then the
Prince left Bombay for Ceylon, with a stop in Goa. According to The Graphic
the reception for the Prince at Kandy was ‘both imposing and enthusiastic, all
the great Kandyan chiefs having assembled in their State finery to receive
their Sovereign’s son, the humbler natives attesting their welcome by warm
cheers’. Among those present were ‘the wild men of Veddahs’, who by large
presents had been induced to come to Kandy to be exhibited before the
Prince of Wales as an ethnographic display. Here the display, rather than
serving a purpose of scientific investigation, was a source of curiosity and
entertainment.37 An image (Figure 1) of a festive welcome ceremony for the
Prince featuring a torchlight elephant procession, sacred dances and an
illumination was typical of a great many images featuring welcome
ceremonies staged for the Prince during the tour. In Ceylon the Prince
visited a Buddhist temple and saw a sacred tooth of Buddha. One day he shot
wild elephants, shooting one from ten yards ‘when it was about to charge
him’, and wounding two others. On his return home, ‘the wagonette being
overturned, the Prince was thrown into a ditch, but was not at all hurt. He
returned to Colombo on Tuesday, held a Levee at the Governor’s House, went
to the Agri-floricultural Show, and ended the day with a state dinner and a
ball.’38 The press reports, consisting by and large of the Prince’s activities,
portrayed the Prince as possessing much masculine energy that carried him
through his extremely full days. The affirmation of imperial masculinity was

Figure 1:
The Illustrated London News, 8 January 1876, pp 4445. ‘The Perahara Festival at
Kandy, before the Prince of Wales’.

one of the main themes of the narrative of the news coverage, as can be seen
in the image (Figure 2) of the Prince reviewing troops.
Reports on the tour of India and Ceylon continued in this fashion for the
next four months. The full itinerary of the tour was as follows: Bombay*
Mysore*Western Ghauts*Mahratta*Bombay*Baroda*Goa*Colombo*
Kandy*Colombo*S Ceylon*Madras*CalcuttaHyderabad*Lucknow
Rajpootana*the Taj Mahal, Agra*the Terai*Nepal. The coverage of the
tour added up to a textual and visual survey of the subcontinent and Ceylon.
By visiting many corners of the subcontinent including Nepal and Kashmir,
the Prince even engaged in something of adventure travel. One of the

Figure 2:
The Illustrated London News, 25 December 1875, p 636: (top) ‘The Guicowar Palace
of the Motek Bagh, Baroda’; (bottom) ‘Review at Poonah before the Prince of

highlights was the Prince’s reaching Lucknow in February 1876, a site of

obligatory English pilgrimage because of the uprising that had taken place
nineteen years previously. There, it was thought, he sensed a latent hostility
for the first time. The Prince laid the foundation stone of a memorial to the
Indian sepoys who had died while defending the British Residency, and also
met with a group of Indian veterans individually, thus affirming one of the
most significant colonial narratives of the period.39 The Prince also hunted
tigers in the Terai in northern India. The cover of The Graphic on 1 April 1876
depicted one of the Prince’s travel companions shooting at a tiger attacking
the elephant he was riding while hunting in the Terai.40
The Prince was in about a third of all the images produced, almost always
surrounded by Indian and British notables. The coverage included represen-
tations of cities, landscapes and people, welcoming ceremonies, dinners, balls,
entertainments, visits to monuments (Figure 2), temples and other sites,
hunting, portraits, ethnological observations, the founding of hospitals and
other establishments, dedications, knighting ceremonies and military reviews
(Figure 2), all meant to affirm imperial and royal authority embodied by the
Prince, and also to emphasize the work of the civilizing mission in progress.
At the same time they also provided an exotic feast for the eye. Not only was
the Prince seen as carrying out his duties, he was also continuously being
entertained, enjoying himself as a royal tourist taking in the immense variety
of sights and spectacles staged for him. By this period imagined India had
entered Victorian popular cultural realms through a great deal of visual
production such as exhibitions, department stores, museums and paintings.
Saloni Mathur argues that the images of traditional India*‘timeless,
authentic, romantic, exotic*that became so functional and fashionable in
the showcase of Victorian London’*were also, by the 1880s, incoherent and
contested.41 Represented through the English illustrated press which imposed
uniformity on the style and content of the narratives and illustrations, for
British readers the sights and spectacles were the real-life version of imagined
India. The Prince’s tour occasioned the defining of the contents of Indian and
Cingalese cultures. Indian and Cingalese authorities, interacting with and
under the directives of the British, participated in the selection and staging of
what was deemed worthy of showcasing for the Prince and for the British
audience. Edward Said noted that Orientalism is ‘better grasped as a set of
constraints upon and limitations of thought than it is simply as a positive
doctrine’.42 Through the limited agency the colonized had in the cultural
production for the tour, Indian and Cingalese cultures tended to be further

The ‘Royal Tour’ as colonial tourism

To what extent was the Prince a traveller and to what extent a tourist? John
Phillips notes that in European travel narratives the stable identity of the self
is challenged and tested by contingencies to which the self ‘must respond in
consistent and enlightened ways, often achieving considerable enrichment
along the way. The subject of travel narrative must integrate new experiences

and radical geographical and cultural differences within a stable cultural

frame’, and ultimately the traveller’s stable identity is reaffirmed.43 The
travelogue generated by the press coverage of the Prince’s tour fitted this
classic pattern, with some twists. The experiences of contingencies, such as the
route not being entirely fixed at the beginning and thus requiring some
spontaneity, as well as the narrative of progressing through unfamiliar
surroundings and responding to unforeseen circumstances such as the wagon
being overturned, fitted into the traditional European travel narrative. Since
the Prince was not narrating his own travelogue, however, the subjectivity of
the Prince was curiously absent. On one hand, this weakened the narrative
of the stable self being challenged and ultimately prevailing since, for one, the
Prince’s aesthetic control over strange landscapes was mediated. On the other
hand, the framework of the tour was set up so that the Prince’s progress was
far from that of an ordinary traveller. The Prince was to be challenged, but
with an expectation from the start that he would meet the challenge with no
difficulty. The challenge was to show, to the domestic as well as Indian
populaces, that the Prince was worthy of inheriting the Empire. Thus the level
of difficulty was controlled from the beginning, through the elaborate staging
of the tour, including the presence of his entourage, so that he would never
come face to face with real challenge. This is not to say that there was a
complete absence of potential difficulty. The idea of the tour was not
uniformly popular in Britain, and it was far from uniformly welcomed in
India. The mediation by the press, however, ensured that the progress of the
Prince was presented as that of a narrative of explicit affirmation of the
imperial authority, as a variation on the classic travel narrative. The Prince’s
English racial location was never to be doubted from the beginning, unlike in
many travelogues, and any potential inner fragility on the part of the Prince
was to be erased and masked by the affirmation of masculinity. Another twist
had to do with the status of the Prince. For Inderpal Grewal the underlying
difference between a traveller and a tourist has to do with the apparent social
‘class’ which the traveller has and the tourist lacks.44 In this sense the Prince
was the ultimate traveller. However, while the tourist is seen as being led into
pre-determined routes and the traveller is seen as an adventurous leader, the
Prince was a combination of the two, since he was the leader, but his tour was
carefully mapped out, staged and led by others.45
The most popular events were spectacular ones most suited for visual
consumption. The Graphic described a procession at Baroda as ‘a gorgeous
display of Oriental magnificence’ featuring sixteen decorated and attired
their faces and trunks painted in fantastic fashion. The animal destined to carry
the Prince, and his host the little Guicowar, was of extraordinary size [ . . . .] Coils
of gold surrounded his painted legs, while the driver . . . was attired in a costume
befitting so much gorgeousness.46
An image (Figure 3) of a dance in Calcutta was typical in that it featured the
Prince as the central spectator for whom the entertainment was provided.
That the European woman seated next to him looks at him absorbed in

Figure 3:
The Graphic, 26 January 1876, p 97, ‘Dance of Nautch Girls before the Prince of
Wales at the Native Entertainment, Calcutta’.

watching the spectacle underlines this point. On the centre-stage was not the
entertainment but the Prince. While showcasing yet another element of
Indian culture, the image affirmed the colonial power dynamic. The image of
the indigenous entertaining the colonizers simultaneously invited the reader
to identify with the imperial spectator and created a distance between the
reader and that spectator through an emphasis on royalty. The entertaining,
glittering and exotic fantasy-like aspects that the tour highlighted can also be
gleaned in descriptions of magnificent mansions of rajahs and other Indian
notables where the Prince was received and entertained.
The colonial power dynamic was also on display during ‘one of the
grandest of festivals’ that took place during the tour, a Grand Chapter of the
Star of India at Calcutta, where the Prince invested Indian notables with
the order of knighthood. A typical image depicted the Prince surrounded by
Indian princes, showcasing him as the central authority but also a friendly
and courteous visitor.47 Another image showed Indian notables introducing
one another while awaiting the Prince, thus portraying the Prince as an
intermediary connecting Indian rulers and strengthening the cohesion of the
‘Hindoostan’ Empire.48 The spectacle of the Prince of Wales investing Indian
princes was an exemplary ceremony that emphasized the attachment that the
British government sought to create for Indian rulers towards the Empire,

and one that underlined the distinctiveness of Indian princes as an elite group.
Such occasions, as David Cannadine argues, emphasized the pomp and
ceremony of the Empire and were part of the reproduction of the social
hierarchy of Britain in the colonies.49 The celebration of the Prince’s tour, in
this respect, fits into the pattern of ritual making and bestowing of honours
that reinforced imperial connections and class hierarchy.50
The ceremony also allowed the British to feast on more exotic costumes
and general splendour. An illustration (Figure 4) of the Maharajah of
Jodhpore showed him and two children in splendid costumes, and another
illustration (Figure 4) featured the Begum of Bhopal with a veiled face. Indian

Figure 4:
The Illustrated London News, 5 February 1876, p 137. ‘Sketches at the Grand
Chapter of the Star of India at Calcutta’: (top) ‘The Maharajah of Jodhpore’;
(bottom) ‘The Begum of Bhopal and the Maharajah of Puttiala’.

aristocrats and notables were frequently in the news during the tour for two
reasons, first because they were the men*and some women*whom the
Prince saw at ceremonies, receptions and so on, and second, because their
presence formed exotic spectacles of highly decorative effect. Although the
illustrations produced during the tour primarily featured exotic spectacles, at
the same time the images also operated at documentary, aesthetic and
narrative levels, as did Orientalist paintings.51
It is difficult to say from the coverage of the illustrated press whether the
Prince might have felt more affinity with the Indian princes than with English
officers, something that Cannadine argues often characterized the dynamic
among British royalty and aristocrats, indigenous rulers and British
subordinates. However the Prince did deplore to Victoria the ‘rude and
rough manner’ in which English officers treated Indian princes, arguing that
not only rulers but also ‘Natives of all classes’ would ‘be more attached to us
and to our rule,*if they are treated with kindness, and with firmness at the
same time, but not with brutality and contempt’; while some of the English in
India complained that too much attention was being given to ‘blacks’.52
Some journalists also expressed condescending views of Indians in their
travelogues. George Wheeler, special correspondent of The Central News,
described Indian ‘chiefs and their whole tag-rag and bob-tail paraphernalia’
as looking ‘so like a company of poor strolling players’. He mocked the Rajah
of Chota Oodey Pore for looking like ‘a poor, haggard, wretched-looking old
man’.53 Recalling that the term ‘modern civilisation’ merely refers to the
‘civilisation of the western families of the Aryan race’, Wheeler described
‘thousands of ignorant, abject men, who, under the pretext of being holy,
parade the streets naked [ . . .] their whole appearance that of the wildest and
dirtiest savages’.54 He argued that ‘high salaries are but a slight recompense
for the sufferings Englishmen and women must undergo’ due to the heat,
diseases and other dangers, thus characterizing English life in India as full not
of privileges but rather of suffering endured far from the homeland as loyal
subjects of the crown, carrying on their duty of the civilizing mission despite
obstacles, including the populace being unwilling to learn English or change
their ways.55 Likewise J Drew Gay, Special Correspondent of The Daily
Telegraph, frequently referred to the ‘savages’ of India and Ceylon.56 Such
characterization denigrated the elite and poor Indians alike as lacking
modern civilization, clearly distinguishing between the branches of the Aryan
race, and contrasted with those of the illustrated press which represented the
Indian elite as dignified, respectful and decorative. However, these two
different ways of portraying Indians share in common the conviction that
India lacked modern civilization. The tendency of the press coverage to
aestheticize was, along with the tendency to debase, one of the characteristics
that David Spurr identifies as the ‘rhetoric of Empire’.57 The implication
being that having stalled in the development of civilization the colonized
would only be able to mimic, as Homi Bhabha argues, through cultural
interpreters.58 The very absence of such cultural interpreters*anglicized
Indians such as teachers, bureaucrats and soldiers*in the texts and images of

the tour of the Prince, reinforces the perceived difference between the
colonizers and the colonized.
One of the rare reports giving some voice to Indians was published in The
Graphic. An Indian notable indignant at the description of India as ‘barbaric’
in The Times was quoted as bidding the English to compare
the absolute indifference of parents for children and children for parents among
our State-supported paupers with the sense of a family duty which makes each
poor Hindoo household support its own relations [. . . .] We laugh at native finery,
and forget how strange an English lady’s chignon appears to the Hindoo, or how
cruel to the animal-protecting Brahmin the slaughter of a hundred birds to
adorn a headdress. We say they worship stocks of wood and stone; no more, they
answer, than Catholics worship images. This somewhat parrot-like recital [. . .] is
capable, perhaps, of refutation on some points, and slightly irrelevant upon
others, yet there is something in it not unworthy of our thought [. . . .] Were we,
for instance, but half as temperate and frugal as the former, the vice of pauperism
would be hardly known.

This article implies that an Indian perspective is the most appropriate for
addressing pauperism in England, yet otherwise confirms faith in coloniza-
tion, and British superiority. The article contends that ‘our fulfillment of that
higher mission’ ‘alone justifies our being there at all’, highlighting the
civilizing mission of the Empire as the sole justification for colonization.59
The coverage of the tour reinforced the image of the British as modernizers
and reformers, and tended to represent Indian and Cingalese cultures as static
rather than dynamic, by emphasizing traditional entertainment and historical
sites. In doing this the media coverage reinforced the binary representation of
the colonizer and the colonized as essentially different, reinforcing what Said
critiqued as the West’s forgetting of the shared past with the East through the
construction of the Orient.60 At the same time, India and Ceylon were re-cast
as relatively safe and welcoming travel destinations with, especially in the case
of India, a very rich variety of attractions. As Charles Forsdick points out,
‘exoticism’, ‘used to describe a range of representational and relational
practices that allow a member of one culture to observe, interact with and
otherwise process phenomena from a different culture’, should not be
assumed necessarily to be an ‘ultimately destructive’ manoeuvre.61 Although
the representations of Indian and Cingalese cultures were reductive at times,
the sheer quantity of detailed and vivid descriptions also resonated with the
expanding ‘cultures of travel’ such as guidebooks, other publications, colonial
exhibitions and panoramas that disseminated information, whether enligh-
tening or negative.62
By this period India and Ceylon were no longer simply the mysterious
Orient. Although they remained inaccessible to the majority of people other
than through service in the Empire or through emigration, the vast expansion
of organized middle-class tourism through Europe in the nineteenth century
meant that there was an increasing interest in travel beyond Europe and
North America in this period, and visiting a distant place like India was at
least a feasible possibility for the middle class. The 1851 Great Exhibition in

London disseminated a large quantity of images of many parts of the world,

and publications on destinations around the world steadily increased.
Thomas Cook, owner of the Thomas Cook & Son travel agency which
dominated organized travel, first took travellers on an eight-month tour
around the world between September 1872 and May 1873, including to
locations in India and Ceylon. Cook’s letters during the tour were published
in The London Times, thus receiving wide publicity.63 Cook’s stay in India was
very brief, and he spent three days in Ceylon, where he described ‘cinnamon
groves and neighbouring gardens’ and the jungle emitting odours of delicious
fragrance. Jules Verne’s best-selling Around the World in Eighty Days was
published in French and English in 1873, coinciding with Cook’s world tour.
Subsequently Cook’s guided tour around the world was repeated each year, as
well as independent tours. The first edition of Murray’s Handbook to Madras
and Bombay Presidencies had been published in 1859. Handbooks for Bengal
(1882) and Punjab and the North West Frontier Provinces (1883) would be
followed by the first Handbook for all of India, as well as Pakistan, Burma,
and Ceylon, in 1892.64
The tour of the Prince as well as Cook’s tour must have provoked much
curiosity in these colonies. While it is difficult to gauge the extent to which the
Prince’s tour impacted tourism to India and Ceylon, the widespread coverage
generated by the tour should be seen in the context of a steady increase in
travel beyond familiar destinations, as well as the accompanying cultures of
travel. It is the very fantasy-like aspects of the Prince’s tour, central to the
coverage of the illustrated press, that was probably the most effective at
provoking interest. At the same time, although the Prince was far from an
explorer, he was also portrayed as an adventurous traveller. Advertisements
for tourism since the Prince’s Royal Tour have publicized travel by and large
as a means of getting away from mundane daily routines by highlighting the
attractions of distant, exotic places and cultures. Being served, entertained
and pampered, and to a lesser extent engaging in adventure travel, are major
themes of the iconography of modern tourism advertising. Less prominently,
contemporary travel is advertised as a means to observe, learn and interact
with other cultures. The representation of the Prince’s tour, which drew upon
each of these tropes (travel as adventure, as ritualized consumption, as
education), was apt for eliciting such fantasies, made explicit in the context of
colonization. Jill Steward points out that the role of the press as a promoter
of tourism has been neglected, whereas, ‘Arguably, it was the coverage of
foreign travel in the press that helped to make the activity seem normal and
routine and a taken-for-granted-feature of middle-class life.’65 I would add
that such coverage of travel was significantly complemented by the coverage
of travel as something extraordinary of the type that the Prince’s tour
exemplified. Both were needed for the effect of creating a new imaginary of
travel. The context of colonialism meant that tourism was to be an activity of
western consumption highlighted through exotic entertainment; a dynamic
that still persists today to a significant extent.


Conclusion: the spectacle for whom spectacles are staged

Throughout the tour the image of the Prince that circulated through the
domestic British media was one that the British government and the press
regarded to be highly appropriate for his mission. The press was invested in
keeping up an image of the Prince as the highest authority figure of the
Empire ever to visit India and Ceylon. He was seen as a courteous and
curious emissary full of good will for learning about the future distant
subjects, although he never interacted with common Indians*except on
fleeting ceremonial occasions*and showed absolutely no curiosity about the
Indian press which expressed a range of views about the tour and contested
the seamless, positive view of the British press. Although the tour spread a
favourable image of the Prince in India, beyond presaging the way for the
Royal Titles Bill, it seems unlikely that the tour had a deep resonating effect
on relations between the colonizers and the colonized.66 In the English press
the Prince remained a figure seen at a respectful distance, as enjoying the tour
and possessing military valour. The press coverage was about the Prince’s
public life rather than his private life, about him as an emblem and an
ambassador, and not about his personality. The press was not interested in the
Prince’s innermost thoughts, since what was at stake was his image as an
embodiment of the Empire. Nonetheless, in spite of the absence of the
subject’s direct voice, the travelogue fitted the conventional travel narrative of
Europeans who are challenged and enriched by experience. The tour linked
celebrity and colonialism, or more precisely imperial celebrity, colonialism
and tourism, in a significant new way, in that the Prince was the central figure
of the royal and imperial spectacle for whom countless spectacles were staged.
The Prince was simultaneously the celebrity to watch and the celebrity
tourist. Both his enjoyment and the vicarious public enjoyment of his travels,
which highlighted the imperial dynamic, were crucial for the success of the
tour for both the Prince and the colonies.
The tour also re-forged the cultural imaginary of India and Ceylon as
potential destinations, especially for India which, when it had previously
captured the public imagination, was a site of a violent rebellion that nearly
ended English rule. The large quantity of texts and images, including
descriptions of cities akin to guidebook descriptions, formed a travelogue-
like survey, adding to the expanding culture of travel. While this survey
cannot be reduced to a monolithic expression of colonial domination and
exoticism, it is significant that the colonies were repeatedly represented as
sources of entertainment for the Prince, highlighting a fantasy-like combina-
tion of royal spectacle and colonial spectacle. The fantasy-like representation
reinforced the cultural imaginary of India that had become a part of popular
culture in the metropole through a variety of visual and textual productions
including in the field of consumption. The tour occasioned a unique
opportunity for the press to present an in-depth view of the colonies, and
the survey of the subcontinent provided a unique media representation.
However, the emphasis on spectacles meant that the survey was permea-
ted with what Said called ‘regular characteristics’ of Indian and Cingalese

cultures.67 The journey of the Prince was seen as reflecting the modernization
of travel, and his progress as implicitly symbolizing the dynamism of Britain
contrasted with the colonies.
There was a significant difference between India and Ceylon in how the
dynamic of celebrity and colonialism played out, India normally being in the
news much more frequently than Ceylon. Images of festive Ceylon produced
during the tour would prove to be some of the last in the press in this period,
as Ceylon would quickly become, in the press, the land of tea plantations
represented through tea advertisements. Tea, like soap and cocoa, was
branded and packaged for the first time during the 1880s.68 Press coverage of
the cultural aspects of small colonies such as Ceylon was especially dependent
on special events like the tour.
The press coverage gave the impression that the Empire was popular, but it
was not in-depth enough to convey whether the Indian population was
genuinely welcoming towards the Prince, since the coverage was much more
of a travelogue, or tour-as-news, accompanied by historical narratives devoid
of any analysis of political and social issues. Bernard Porter argues that the
British Empire, usually seen as ‘a vast system of control in the world,
immensely powerful, founded on British strength, fuelled by acquisitiveness,
both for commercial profits and for territory, riding roughshod over foreign
societies and cultures’, or ‘a means of spreading modernity and civilization
into the dark places of the earth’, was in reality neither but only something
that was held together through luck, bluff and repression.69 In this respect the
tour of India and Ceylon by the Prince of Wales may be seen as showing little
substantial evidence of immense imperial power, only plenty of expensive
dazzling shows. Yet nevertheless it was precisely such dazzling shows
emphasizing ritual, ceremony, hierarchy and entertainment that helped give
the long-lasting impression of immense imperial power, an impression that
continues to resonate in the tourism industry today which recycles relics and
images from the colonial era and creates an atmosphere of colonial nostalgia.
That the Prince was first of all emblematic of a style of colonial tourism, and
secondly that he was a spectacle who in turn consumed the exotic spectacle
of India and Ceylon in a way that ritualizes and, through the media
representation, popularizes such consumption, has much relevance to
modern notions of tourism and depictions of travel in India and Sri Lanka.

I would like to thank Robert Clarke, Nalini Iyer and Tom Taylor for their suggestions on this article.
The idea had been first suggested after the 1857 Rebellion. According to E F Benson, ‘the Prince’s
immense success with rulers and natives alike had suggested to [the Queen] that this was a suitable
opportunity’, or she may have had the idea before he started: E F Benson, King Edward VII. An
Appreciation, London: Longman’s Green and Co, 1934, p 111.
For a recent sustained discussion of the tour see Chandrika Kaul, ‘Monarchical Display and the Politics
of Empire: Princes of Wales and India 18701920s’, Twentieth Century British History 17(4), 2006,
pp 464488.


The Illustrated London News, founded by Herbert Ingram in 1842 with sixteen pages and thirty-two
woodcuts, was the first illustrated news magazine. Its circulation reached 66,000 in the first year, then
doubled in 1848, and rose again in 1851 during the Great Exhibition. Mason Jackson, The Pictorial
Press: Its Origin and Progress, 1885, pp. 56, cited in Aled Jones, Powers of the Press: Newspapers, Power
and the Public in Nineteenth-Century England, Aldershot: Scholar Press, 1996, p 62.
Andrew S Thompson, Imperial Britain: The Empire in British Policies c.18801932, Harlow: Longman,
2000, p 62.
Robert Kubicek, ‘British Expansion, Empire, and Technological Change’, in Andrew Porter (ed), The
Oxford History of the British Empire: Vol 3, The Nineteenth Century, Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1999, pp 246269, p 251.
John M MacKenzie, ‘The Press and the Dominant Ideology of Empire’, in Simon J Potter (ed),
Newspapers and Empire in Ireland and Britain: Reporting the British Empire, c.18571921, Dublin: Four
Courts Press, 2004, pp 2338, p 30; Clare Pettitt, Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?: Missionaries, Journalists,
Explorers, and Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007, pp 15, 19.
Bernard Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain, Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2004, pp 164, 174.
Bernard Porter, Empire and Superempire: Britain, America and the World, New Haven: Yale University
Press, 2006, p 26. When the two leading mass-circulation newspapers, the Daily Mail and the Daily
Express, would be established in 1896 and 1900 respectively, it would be the spectacle of Empire that
would appeal most strongly to readers: Thompson, Imperial Britain, pp 6263. See also Donald Read,
The Power of News. The History of Reuters, 18491989, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992, chs 34.
John M MacKenzie, ‘Heroic Mythos of Empire’, in John M MacKenzie (ed), Popular Imperialism and
the Military 18501950, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992, pp 109138, pp 113114.
Pettitt, Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?, p 59.
The Observer, cited in Chandrika Kaul, Reporting the Raj: The British Press and India, c.18801922,
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003, p 31.
The Graphic, extra number, The Grand Tour of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales through India,
1 May 1876.
On nineteenth-century European tourism see James Buzzard, The Beaten Track: European Tourism,
Literature, and the Ways to Culture, 18001918, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
See Linda Colley, Britons: Forging a Nation 17071837, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
Virginia Cowles, Gay Monarch: The Life and Pleasures of Edward VII, New York: Harper & Brothers,
1956, p 145.
Philip Magnus, King Edward the Seventh, New York: Penguin Books, 1979, p 173.
Magnus, King Edward the Seventh, p 173.
J H F, ‘English Affairs’, The New York Times [online archive], 14 October 1875, http://query.nyti ?_r1&res9500E2DB133BEF34BC4C52DFB667838E669FDEn pag
(accessed 11 March 2009).
John Plunkett, Queen Victoria: First Media Monarch, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, p 55; Ian
Walter Radforth, Royal Spectacle: The 1860 Visit of the Prince of Wales to Canada and the United States,
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004, p 14. Royal Spectacle focuses on an analysis of diplomatic
relations and how Canadians and Americans saw the event.
Plunkett, Queen Victoria, p 55.
Julia Margaret Cameron, a celebrity photographer, took pictures of all three. Victoria Olsen, From Life:
Julia Margaret Cameron and Victorian Photography, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
Chris Rojek. Celebrity, London: Reaktion, 2001, pp 1720.
Kaul, ‘Monarchical Display and the Politics of Empire’, pp 466467.
The Graphic, extra number. The Grand Tour of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales through India,
1 May 1876, p 3.
Jill Steward, ‘‘‘How and Where to Go’’: The Role of Travel Journalism in Britain and the Evolution of
Foreign Tourism, 18401914’, in John K Walton (ed), Histories of Tourism: Representation, Identity and
Conflict, Clevedon: Channel View Publications, 2005, pp 3954, p 40.
The Prince’s own thoughts about the tour were later published in the press and also in James Macaulay
(ed), Speeches and Addresses of H. R. H. the Prince of Wales: 18631888, London: J Murray, 1889.
ILN, 13 November 1875, ‘The Prince’s Voyage to India’, p 490.
ILN, 13 November 1875, ‘The Prince’s Voyage to India’, p 490.
ILN, 13 November 1875, ‘The Prince’s Voyage to India’, p 490.


David MacDougall, ‘Photo Hierarchicus: Signs and Mirrors in Indian Photography’, Visual Anthro-
pology 5(2), 1992, pp 103129. On this collection see also Sara Suleri, The Rhetoric of English India,
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, p 104.
ILN, 13 November 1875, ‘The Prince’s Voyage to India’, p 490.
ILN, Special Supplement, 20 November 1875, p 514.
ILN, 11 December 1875, p 586.
ILN, Special Supplement, 20 November 1875, p 516.
ILN, 11 December 1875, p 586.
The Graphic, 15 January 1876, p 51.
ILN, 11 December 1875, p 586.
Magnus, King Edward the Seventh, p 180; ILN, 12 February 1876, p 145; The Graphic, 19 February 1876,
p 189.
The Graphic, ‘The Prince of Wales Hunting in the Terai. One of the Suite at Close Quarters’, 1 April
1876, p 313.
Saloni Mathur, India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display, Berkeley: University of
California Press, 2007, p 207.
Edward Said, Orientalism: Western Conceptons of the Orient, New York: Vintage, 1979, p 42.
John Phillips, ‘Lagging Behind: Bhabha, Post-colonial Theory and the Future’, in Steve Clark (ed),
Travel Writing and Empire: Postcolonial Theory in Transit, London: Zed Books, 1999, pp 6380, p 64.
On the traveller’s subjectivity see also Laura E Ciolkowski, ‘Travelers’ Tales: Empire, Victorian Travel,
and the Spectacle of English Womanhood’, Victorian Literature and Culture 26(2), 1998, pp 337366.
Inderpal Grewal, Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire, and the Cultures of Travel, Durham, NC:
Duke University Press, 1996, p 96.
On the tourist and the traveller see also Kristi Siegel and Toni B Wulff, ‘Travel as Spectacle: The Illusion
of Knowledge and Sight’, in Kristi Siegel (ed), Issues in Travel Writing: Empire, Spectacle, and
Displacement, New York: Peter Lang, 2002, pp 109122, p 115.
The Graphic, extra number, The Grand Tour of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales through India,
1 May 1876, p 17.
The Graphic, 8 January 1876, p 34.
ILN, 22 January 1876, p 89.
David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire, London: Penguin, 2001.
On the invention of traditions and rituals see also Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (eds), The
Invention of Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Stephen Deuchar and Amy Meyers, ‘Foreword’, in Nicholas Tromans (ed), The Lure of the East: British
Orientalist Painting, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008, pp 67, p 6.
Prince to Victoria, Royal Archives VIC/Z/468/98, 14 November 1875, cited in Kaul, ‘Monarchical
Display and the Politics of Empire’, pp 468469. Also cited in H E Wortham, Edward VII. Man and
King, New York: Little, Brown and Co, 1931, p 132.
George Wheeler, The Visit of the Prince of Wales. Chronicle of His Royal Highness’s Journeyings in India,
Ceylon, Spain, and Portugal, London: Chapman and Hall, 1876, p 42.
Wheeler, The Visit of the Prince of Wales, p 353.
Wheeler, The Visit of the Prince of Wales, p 357.
J Drew Gay, Special Correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, The Prince of Wales in India From Pall Mall
to the Punjaub, New York: R Worthington, 1877. William Howard Russell, who accompanied the Prince,
published The Prince of Wales’ Tour: A Diary in India; with Some Account of the Visits of His Royal
Highness to the Courts of Greece, Egypt, Spain, and Portugal, London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle &
Rivington, 1877.
David Spurr, The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial
Administration, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.
Homi K Bhaba, The Location of Culture, London: Routledge, 2004.
The Graphic, 1 January 1876, p 2.
Said, Orientalism.
Charles Forsdick, Travel in Twentieth-Century French and Francophone Cultures, Oxford: Oxford
University, 2005, p x.
Forsdick, Travel in Twentieth-Century French and Francophone Cultures, p xii.
The London Times, 23 January 1873; Cook’s Excursionist and Home and Foreign Tourist Advertiser,
American edition, June 1872June 1873. On Cook see Jill Hamilton, Thomas Cook, the Holiday-Maker,
Stroud: Sutton, 2005.


A Handbook for India; Being an Account of the Three Presidencies, and of the Overland Route, London: J
Murray, 1859; Handbook of the Bengal Presidency. With an account of Calcutta City, London: J Murray,
1882; Handbook of the Punjab, Western Rajputana, Kashmir, and Upper Sindh, London: J Murray, 1883; A
Handbook for Travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon, London: J Murray, 1892; A Handbook for Travellers
in India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, London: J Murray, 1892.
Steward, ‘‘‘How and Where to Go’’’, p 40.
Kaul also argues that the royal tour was effective only as far as the colonized were already receptive to
British colonial strategies. Kaul, ‘Monarchical Display and the Politics of Empire’.
Said, Orientalism, p 64.
Anandi Ramamurthy, Imperial Persuaders: Images of Africa and Asia in British Advertising, Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 2003, p 93.
Porter, Empire and Superempire, pp 3742.