Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was the world’s most-travelled monarch. In her 70 years on the throne, she visited 140 countries, spending almost four years on state visits.

During her travails and the course of her life, she had many encounters with Indian greats. The Queen visited the country not once but thrice, meeting prime ministers and presidents, visiting monuments, and touching many a heart.

Also read: Queen Elizabeth II death live updates

In the event of her death on Thursday, we take a short trip down memory lane.

When Queen removed sandals before visiting Raj Ghat

In 1952, Elizabeth II was the first monarch to ascend to the throne after India fought the British and became independent. She made her first visit to the country nine years after becoming queen in 1961 with her husband Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The Queen was the first British monarch to visit India in 50 years. Her grandfather King George V and Queen Mary had visited in 1911, decades before India got Independence.

Elizabeth II and her husband were received at Delhi airport by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, President Rajendra Prasad, and Vice President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan The couple were Guests of Honour at the Republic Day Parade at the invitation of Dr Prasad.

Nehru also hosted an event at Ramlila Maidan to welcome the Queen, where she gave a speech thanking India for the warm welcome. An enduring image from the tour, shows the Queen addressing a massive crowd of several thousand people packed into Ramlila Grounds, dressed in a fur coat and hat.

During the event, the Delhi Corporation gifted the queen a two-feet long model of the Qutub Minar made of elephant tusk. The Duke received a silver candelabra, reports India Today. In Delhi, she inaugurated the institute buildings of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on 27 January, where she planted a sapling on the premises.

The royal couple visited Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial Raj Ghat in the Capital and the Queen, keeping with the Indian tradition, took off her sandals; her husband did the same. She also wrote a tribute in the visitor’s book. It is said that it’s rare for her to write anything other than her signature. Interestingly, Gandhi had personally woven a shawl as a gift to the Queen (then a princess) for her wedding.

Adventures in India

The British royals’ next stop was the Taj Mahal in Agra to which they drove in an open car, waving to hundreds who gathered on the roads to get a glimpse of the monarch. They then visited Udaipur, where they got a royal welcome from the Maharana Bhagwat Singh Mewar and in Jaipur, they were invited to a hunting day by the maharaja and Philip reportedly killed a tiger. In Varanasi, she took an elephant ride in a royal procession, enjoying the hospitality of the erstwhile Maharaja of Benares.

The Queen and Prince Philip toured Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata — then Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta, reports news agency PTI.

Meeting Indira Gandhi, Mother Teresa

The Queen’s next visit to India came two decades later in 1983. She visited the country at the invitation of then-President Giani Zail Singh. This time, the royal couple stayed at the refurbished wing of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

During this visit, the monarch met the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She also Mother Teresa and presented her with the honorary Order of the Merit, a British award for eminent service. The order is limited to only 24 members, although the British monarch can appoint foreigners as “honorary members”.

Visiting Jallianwala Bagh, Golden Temple

The Queen’s last visit to India came in 1997, as India marked 50 years of Independence. It was significant in more ways than one, as she referred to “difficult episodes” of colonial history.

“It is no secret that there have been some difficult episodes in our past. Jallianwala Bagh is a distressing example,” the monarch noted in her banquet address.

The royal couple later paid a visit to the scene of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar and placed a wreath at the memorial, amid widespread calls for an apology for the thousands killed at the orders of British General Reginald Dyer during the Raj. She also visited the Golden Temple, where she was presented with a replica of the holy site.

In Delhi, she met with then President KR Narayanan and his wife Usha Narayanan, and then Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral and his wife Sheela Gujral. She also visited St Thomas school in the Capital.

Hosting India’s presidents

Over the years, the sovereign has hosted three Indian presidents – Dr Radhakrishnan in 1963, R Venkataraman in 1990, and Pratibha Patil in 2009, reports PTI.

“Britain and India have a long-shared history which today is a source of great strength in building a new partnership fit for this new century,” the Queen said in her state banquet address for President Patil at Buckingham Palace.

Nearly two million of our own citizens are tied by descent and enduring family links to India. They represent one of the United Kingdom’s most dynamic and successful communities… relations between our two countries are built on strong and deep foundations, and are set fair for the 21st century,” she added.

Meeting Manmohan Singh and Modi

In the two last decades, the Queen met former PM Dr Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi several times.

In April 2009, the Queen met Dr Manmohan Singh during a reception hosted for G20 leaders at Buckingham Palace in London.

She met Modi during his visits to the United Kingdom in 2015 and 2018. In 2015, the PM was invited to lunch at Buckingham Palace in London. Her Royal Highness gave him a tour of the palace and showcased the royal art and artefact collection.

The second meeting between the duo took place in April 2018 when PM Modi was on a four-day visit to the UK. He met Elizabeth II ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which saw a gathering of 53 heads of government. This meeting again culminated in a royal dinner gala which was hosted by the Queen for the world leaders.

In a tribute to the Queen after her death, PM recalled the time she had shown him a gift from Mahatma Gandhi. “I will never forget her warmth and kindness. I will always cherish that gesture,” he wrote on Twitter.

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