Princess May of Teck was married to Prince George, Duke of York, in 1893. During the next twenty years she was to accompany her husband on three major Empire tours. On the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901, the Prince of Wales ascended the throne as King Edward VII, and his son became Duke of Cornwall and York; from March to November of that year he undertook a voyage on HMS Ophir which included Australia, New Zealand and Canada, as well as smaller places en route. On his return, Prince George was created Prince of Wales. From October 1905 to April 1906 the Prince and Princess paid a visit to India and Burma, on HMS Renown. Princess May prepared conscientiously for this undertaking, reading widely, and she found the sub-continent an astounding revelation. It would be no exaggeration to say that Princess May fell in love with India (James Pope-Hennessy Queen Mary (1959), p 396-397) The Prince of Wales became King George V on the death of his father in 1910, and decided to return to India for a Coronation Durbar as Emperor of India in 1911; the King and Queen left England in November and returned in February 1912. She died in 1953.
This collection forms part of the Queen Mary Collection on India. There are 29 albums. The collection falls into several groups:
1: Visit of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) to India in 1875-1876.;
2 and 3 Malta and Ceylon on the Royal Tour 1901.;
4-19 and 29; Visit to India in 1905-1906.
The main record is in albums 6 and 7 where there are 688 photographs with some captions written by the Prince of Wales. This includes scenes of the tour itself and also a large number of professional photographs of buildings and places visited.
Also relating to the entire tour are album 8, which appears to be a professionally prepared and titled volume, album 9, a collection of photographs taken and presented by Sir Charles Cust, and 4 and 5 which are two albums of architectural views from places visited during the tour.
Number 10 has views of the Royal Train and 11-19 and 29 related to particular places visited.
The lists for numbers 6 and 7 have been cross-referred to other albums at appropriate places;
20-23: Delhi Durbar tour of 1911-1912. 20 is a substantial collection with 520 prints covering the whole tour and the other three albums relate to other aspects.;
24 and 25 Collection of 140 photographs of India and Ceylon, probably all dating from 1916;
26: Photographs of Hindu rites;
27: Photographs of drawings of buildings planned for New Delhi;
28: album of photographs recording the unveiling of a statute of King George at Kalutara, South Ceylon, 1916.
In keeping with the status of the royal travellers, the most distinguished photographers available were selected to record the visit to the sub-continent and to have their work bound into handsome presentation souvenir volumes.
QM 2 records a visit to Ceylon which took place in 1901, a few years before the majority of the events recorded in the collection, but as with the main Indian tours the most respected photographer was chosen to compile the album of 58 platinum prints of views in the island. Not only were most of the prints taken by the firm of W.L.H. Skeen and Co., active in Ceylon since the very early 1860s, but the letterpress sections were produced by another section of the family, the Government printer George J.A. Skeen.
On the same visit (en route to Australia) the Duke and Duchess of Malta briefly visited Malta and here also they were presented with an album of views prepared by Richard Ellis, a prestigious and long-established local firm.
The documentary record of the royal tour of India of 1905-1906, comprising a comprehensive coverage of their visits to Bombay, Indore, Bikaner, Peshawar, Agra, Madras, Mysore, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Gwalior, Quetta and Karachi is contained in QM 6 and 7. The majority of this work was taken by the firms of Bourne and Shepherd and Lala Deen Dayal, active in the sub-continent since the 1860s and 1870s respectively.
The scenes in the Elephant Keddah in Mysore (QM 6) were by Barton and Son and Co of Bangalore - see also QM 29.
Other photographers also supplied material from some of the more far-flung locations visited by the Prince and Princess, including views in Burma by P. Klier, and scenes from the Northwest Frontier by Frederick Bremner.
More informal, amateur photography is contained in QM 9, a record of the tour made by Sir Charles Cust.
Other work by Bourne and Shepherd inevitably occurs in other parts of the collection. In particular QM 4 and 5 are two volumes of architectural studies by the firm which present a general conspectus of the architectural heritage of the subcontinent. While printed and bound specifically for presentation to the royal couple several of the views in fact date back to the 1860s when Samuel Bourne undertook his photographic travels in India. Also by Bourne and Shepherd is the album of hand-tinted views of HMS Terrible being coaled at Bombay in 1912 (QM 23).
Further work by the firm of Lala Deen Diyal, offering a detailed documentation of the part of the royal tour in Bombay and Indore in 1905 is to be found in QM 12.
After Bourne and Shepherd and Lala Deen Diyal, the firm of Johnston and Hoffman, founded in Calcutta in around 1880, was one of the best established business in India, and they naturally took some part in the photographic record produced. QM 10 is an album containing interior and exterior views of the royal train specially built to carry the Prince and Princess during the 1905-1906 tour, and photographed by Johnston and Hoffman. The firm also took a number the views in QM 20, an album containing a record of the second tour and Delhi Durbar in 1911-1912.
Other local photographers less well known, but all producing work of high documentary quality, were responsible for other albums, such as R. Jalbhoy of Karachi (QM 11) and J. and H. King of Simla who recorded the Rawalpindi Manoeuvres of December 1905 (QM 16).
Other photographers remain anonymous, particularly the operators who compiled the albums presented by various of the princely states such as Udaipur (QM 130) Jaipur (QM 14), Bikaner (QM 15), and Gwalior (QM 17-19) and this is unfortunate, since their work is often of comparable quality to that of their better known contemporaries.
Queen Mary acquired many souvenirs from these Indian visits and a substantial collection of books. After the death of King George V in 1936, she moved from Buckingham Palace to Marlborough House, and disposed of most of her Indian material, presenting the books to the India Office Library. The Independence and partition of India in 1947 came as a great shock to her, and when the proposal of the division of the India Office Library between India and Pakistan was put forward, she decided to withdraw her collection from it; in 1950 she presented it to the Royal Empire Society, together with a few other books which had remained in her possession.