This film is held by the BFI (ID: 446044).


No main title. Men in military uniform disembarking from a small launch. A second launch from which the Prince and Princess of Wales (later George V and Queen Mary) disembark, they are greeted by five men (one of whom is Indian) and are followed by other guests. The royal party at the top of some stairs (either in the harbour or on a boat). Military parade, beginning with soldiers in kilts followed by others in white military uniform. Long shot of the Royal Party on a raised dias; camera pans to the left revealing select audience composed of British and Indians. Soldiers on a parade ground, camera pans to the right brining into view a landau. The Prince enters the landau, which then moves off. City street lined with Indians; Royal procession enters from the left. Troops on horseback parading through city streets. A convey of camels passing down a city street. Long shot of teeming crowds in a city. A procession, featuring Indian and British troops on horseback and a Royal carriage.



Between November 1905 and March 1906, the Prince and Princess of Wales (later George V and Queen Mary) embarked on a tour of India, which represented the most extensive survey of the sub-continent undertaken by members of the Royal Family. The tour began in Bombay, described by the contemporary observer Theodore Morrison as being ‘a city in which, more than anywhere else, Indian society has assumed a Western complexion’ (Morrison, 1905, 916). The royal couple then travelled throughout India and also visited Burma. Included in the itinerary was Bengal, which was then witnessing nationalist unrest, prompted by the decision of the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, to partition the state (Morrison, 1905, 916). Morrison describes the tour of the royal couple as being of ‘great political importance’, arguing that it would help to cement ‘loyalty to the Crown’ and also ‘counteract the secessionist tendency’ (Morrison, 1905, 915, 917).

The Prince and Princess were both affected by their visit to India. Mary developed a romantic passion for the country: following her return to England she was known to remark ‘Lovely India, beautiful India’ (Edwards, 1984, 147). The Prince was shaken out of what Anne Edwards describes as his ‘political complacency' (Edwards, 1984, 147-48). His experiences in the sub-continent caused him to remark on several matters. He spoke out about the lack of contact between British and Indians, and later wrote critically that the ‘general bearing of the European towards the Native was to say the least unsympathetic’ (Rose, 1983, 65). He also argued that the Indian Princes ‘ought to be treated with greater tact and sympathy, more as equals than inferiors’ (Rose, 1983, 65). His views differed from those of Lord Curzon, who had been relieved of his Viceroyalty shortly before the visit, but stayed on to perform the official greeting in Bombay. Curzon had argued against giving Indians senior government posts due to the fact that they ‘are crooked-minded and corrupt’; he therefore believed that the British had ‘to go on ruling them’ (Rose, 1983, 66). In contrast the Prince could see that Indians should be given ‘a greater share in the government’ (Rose, 1983, 66). This is not to say that he supported nationalists’ aims. He protested that the Indian National Congress ‘misrepresents every action of the Government and holds us up to the ignorant masses as monsters and tyrants’ (Rose, 1983, 66), and he spoke of the ‘absolute justice and integrity of our rule’ (Reed, 1906, 471). The Prince also commented on other aspects of Indian society. He chastised Gophal Gokhale, the president of the INC, about the poor treatment of women within the Indian social system (Rose, 1983, 67).

The royal couple nevertheless only received a partial view of India. Anne Edwards notes that they were ‘protected from the true plight of the Indian people’ (Edwards, 1984, 149). The schedule of the tour was altered to avoid visiting Ajmer, which was suffering from famine and plague. In contrast, the royal couple were throughout ‘entertained in a lavish style unequalled in their own Court or any other they had been to’ (Edwards, 1984, 151).

This film of the royal tour was made in 1905 by the British division of the French film company Pathé Frères. It features the initial stages of the tour – the landing and reception at Bombay, and a Durbar in Indore, the city to which the party was redirected following the cancelled visit to Ajmer (Edwards, 1984, 149). In a reception speech that can be witnessed in this film, the Prince stated that he wished to make ‘an acquaintance with the [sub-continent’s] various classes, official and non-official, British and Indian’ (Reed, 1906, 14). However, G. F. Abbott, who reported on the royal tour for the Calcutta newspaper The Statesman, wrote of the visit to Bombay that ‘For a whole week there was nothing but the clattering of hoofs, the rattling of wheels, the thunder of salutes, the glitter of state-coaches, the sheen of maharajas, and the infliction of platitudinous oratory’ (Abbott, 1906, 20).



G. F. Abbott’s statement is fair description of the subject matter captured in this film. We see the royal party, accompanied by Lord and Lady Curzon, being received by Maharajas as they land in Bombay; there is footage of the Prince’s reception speech; and in this six-minute film there are no less than five military parades. Abbott writes of having the ‘privilege to be bored’ at these functions, and notes that ‘their poor Royal Highnesses endured it all with truly princely patience’ (Abbott, 1906, 20).

This film does not provide us with a chance to gauge the royal couple’s reactions. They are commonly filmed from a distance, and frequently it is difficult to distinguish them from other dignitaries who populate the screen. The film is nevertheless revealing in relation to the itinerary provided for the Prince and Princess. The India that they witness in Bombay is one of courtly and military ritual. Moreover, their parades of the city’s streets are hurried affairs: we see them being rushed through Bombay in horse-drawn carriages; it is difficult for us to concentrate upon the royal couple, just as it would have been for the crowds who have lined the streets.

In some of the scenes we witness the local people in the manner that the royal party would have witnessed them: as a distant and undifferentiated mass. In others we get a view of the ‘ordinary’ people of India that would have been denied to the royal couple. In one sequence the cameraman begins filming a street prior to the arrival of a parade. On the far pavement impoverished men can be seen, and they provide a contrast with the richly decorated pageantry that follows.

There is also an interesting scene in which the cameraman films camels being herded down a city street. Here he has diverted his attention from the royal formalities. However, the shot provides a visual reminder of a scene that has preceded it: the cameraman films the camel convoy from the same position that he has filmed an earlier royal possession, and as they advance they cut similar diagonals across the screen. These two scenes leave the impression of parallel but separate worlds. There is one further sequence that is filmed away from the royal formalities. Tellingly, it provides a greater chance to focus on the people of Bombay than any of the scenes in which the Prince and Princess are present. The cameraman films a teeming city street, and with a panning shot he attempts something of an ethnographical study of the people. Unfortunately, his study suffers from the fact that is a long shot and is a little out of focus.

It is with two further panned shots that the cameraman creates his most revealing sequences. The first occurs as the Prince makes his reception speech. The camera is initially focussed on the Prince as he delivers his oration on a dais.  It then pans to the left and reveals the fringes of the invited crowd. Here European ladies can be seen mingling with finely dressed Parsi women, a sight that would only have been possible in a westernised city like Bombay. Stanley Reed remarks that ‘Elsewhere in India the rigours of the purdah shut off well-born women from all participation in public ceremonies’ (Reed, 1906, 9). (In a picture featured in Stanley Reed’s book, the cameraman can be seen filming this shot.)

A reverse motion, moving from left to right, and from the people towards the Prince, is used in the second of these panned shots, filmed at the Durbar in Indore. Here the cameraman pans steadily across the Prince’s stationary carriage, filming the Indian soldiers who tend the horses and the guards who hold open the carriage door, and then finally the Prince, who appears and quickly enters the carriage. In both of these sequences the panning movement is used to almost political ends: it democratises the action, giving as much time to serving men and to spectators as it does to the Prince. And, once again, the cameraman gets a closer and more prolonged view of the people of India than was afforded to the royal couple themselves.

Richard Osborne (February 2010)


Works Cited

Abbott, G.F., Through India With the Prince (London: Edward Arnold, 1906).

Edwards, Anne, Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984).

Morrison, Theodore, ‘The Indian Tour of the Prince of Wales’, North American Review, 181/589 (December 1905), 912-20.

Reed, Stanley, The Royal Tour in India: A Record of the Tour of T.R.H. The Prince and Princess of Wales in India and Burma, from November 1905 to March 1906 (Bombay: Bennett, Coleman & Co, 1906).

Rose, Kenneth, King George V (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983).




Technical Data

Running Time:
6 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film
381 ft

Production Credits

Production Company
Pathé Frères Cinema