It’s no secret that I’m an Anglophile–oh not 1000%. I understand fully about colonialism–after all I spent a few years in a former British Colony that didn’t fare well after independence. Like sharecroppers here, it is still pretty much tied to the U.K. economically.
India, and what is today Pakistan, however, loom large on the world’s stage. The partion of India and Pakistan into two countries lit a fuse that has exploded in war at various times since 1947. You may not know that Prince Philip’s Uncle–Prince Charles’ mentor and “honorary Grandfather,” Lord Mountbatten, was the man who “gave away India,” and lit the fuse.
But all of that is still to come–many years in the future in Indian Summers, which is up to 1932 this season. At this point India is making serious noise about independence. Tired of having their riches taken back to Britain, tired of being second class citizens in their own country, a revolt is brewing.
Here are a few items that might interest you if you are a fan of this series.
Back in the 1980’s, when it was still Masterpiece Theater, PBS ran Jewel in the Crown. Taking as its name the famous statement about India’s place in the British Empire, it’s a fabulous sprawling 70’s-80’s mini-series with a stellar cast. Drawn for the four novel series by Paul Scott (known collectively as the Raj Quartet) is set a little later–1940’s when the War is stretching the British Empire to the breaking point. Britain must have India’s cooperation to stay in the war. It features the seemingly obligatory cross-cultural romance and all the intrigue that goes with that. I
read devoured the books in Peace Corps in that former British Colony I mentioned at the start of this post. So much to love here! You can probably find it on Youtube or from the library, but it is also available for a small fee on Amazon’s video service. Jewel in the Crown.
E.M. Forster’s novel, A Passage to India, is set the 1920’s–the beginning of the end of the Raj. The great Dehli Durbar of 1912 is now but a memory. Indians are starting to be vocal about their dislike of their colonial masters. A mystery, wrapped in various culture clashes, makes this a tremendously compelling book. A Passage to India.
One of the most interesting things about this film is the producer–another relative, this time by marriage, to Prince Philip. John Knatchbull, the late Baron Brabourne, produced the film. His father, Michael, the 5th Baron Brabourne, was Governor of Bombay and, later, of Bengal. John, the 7th Baron (the 6th was killed in World War II) married Prince Philip’s first cousin, Lady Patricia Mountbatten–herself daughter of India’s last viceroy and architect of the partition of India and Pakistan.
This story takes place a bit earlier than Indian Summers–in the 1920s. The film is lavish with lush locations, an outstanding cast and a very compelling story. Passage to India.
PBS also gave viewers The Last Viceroy–the story of the partitan and Indian (and Pakistani) independence, highlighting (obviously) the role of Lord Mountbatten–Prince Philip’s uncle. There are times when the dialogue is unbelievably stilted–such as when it is revealed that Lord Mountbatten (often called by his old title–“Lord Louis” or his life-long nickname, Dickie) mentions “Plenipotentiary Powers.” All that means is he gets to be King–er, um, dictator,….make all the decisions without contacting the Secretary for India or the Prime Minister back in London.The series emphasizes how very stressful the whole thing was for Lord and Lady M–for example the servants and their caste system disputes meant that Lady M was forced to give up and clean up after her dog–and there were LEGIONS of servants around the place. Stick with it, it does get better! It was all so tense and so stressful though that the Mountbattens HAD to get away in November to be at the wedding of Prince Philip and the then Princess Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey. Well, the groom’s side (Dickie was strictly eligible to be on EITHER side) would have been pretty sparse since all his sisters had married Germans….. (A funny bit of trivia here is that this show–well, the Viceregal robes and all the regalia that the Viceroy wore in the show, are mentioned in the wonderful novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.)
Freedom at Midnight is the classic journalistic account of the transfer of power from the United Kingdom to newly independent Pakistan and India. This is no boring, academic tome. This is history as it was being made.
India Remembered is the memoir of Mountbatten’s younger daughter, Lady Pamela Hicks (mother of India Hicks who is everywhere these days on tv and elsewhere) who was 18 and newly sprung from a wartime British girls’ boarding school. It was hoped that she would write more about her mother’s well-known and very visible affair with Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. Given the stories she willingly tells in her second book, it’s surprising that she deemed this one only a loving friendship, claiming ridiculously, that they could never have been alone with all the servants around. Right…. But anyone bold enough to say they never liked their own mother (and with good reason if you read the second book!) I guess can have her way.
Left photo shows the broiling hot Dehli Durbar–or coronation–of King George V and Queen Mary (grandparents of the present Queen) in 1911. Can you imagine sitting in all that FUR in the Indian sun? These were not folks to trifle with. The had GRIT.
Read more about the REAL Jewel in the Crown–the famed Koh-i-Noor Diamond shown Queen Alexandra’s crown, here.