NPR

Queen Victoria's Unlikely Bond With Indian Attendant Made Curry Classy

The new film Victoria & Abdul sheds light on this extraordinary friendship, which had a spicy side effect: Curries, once a way to use up leftovers, began to simmer regularly in the royal kitchens.
In the last 13 years of Queen Victoria's life, she spent a great deal of time with Abdul Karim, who came from India initially to wait on the queen's table, but soon became part of her inner circle. And despite all opposition, Victoria and Karim curried on. Source: Alexander Bassano/Spencer Arnold

They met at breakfast. On the third morning of her Golden Jubilee celebrations in June 1887, a tired Queen Victoria was greeted by a tall, bearded young man in a scarlet tunic and white turban. Victoria was 68, Abdul Karim, 23. As he knelt to kiss her feet, she was struck by what she described in her diary as his "fine serious countenance." Some inexplicable connection was made that day, with the queen, who was still grieving the death of her beloved Scottish servant and companion John Brown, deeply drawn to Karim.

It was the start of an extraordinary friendship — and the theme of a syrupy new film. is a nostalgic colonial romp redeemed mainly by Judi Dench's stirring performance as an obstinate old lioness, but it shines the spotlight on this highly unconventional relationship that dominated the lonely queen's final years and broke the boundaries of race, class and religion in

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