Tanika Gupta on The Empress

Sunday 17th September 2023

Tanika Gupta
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Imperial history: Tanika Gupta’s The Empress (RSC) blends the true story of Queen Victoria’s relationship with Abdul Karim with the experiences of the Indian ayahs who came to Britain during the 19th century. She describes her research for the play: “I also read about Queen Victoria and her Indian manservant Abdul Karim who was gifted to her on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee in 1887. Karim began his work in the Royal household as a waiter standing behind the Queen as she ate her breakfast but soon became the Queen’s close friend and confidante. He taught her Urdu and rose quickly in the ranks to become her munshi (Arabic teacher). Karim served Queen Victoria during the final fourteen years of her reign, gaining her maternal affection over that time, much to the consternation of the Royal Court and particularly the Queen’s son and heir — Edward — who despised him.” (Tanika Gupta, “Process Background”.)

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