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Photo Essay: British India


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The Prince of Wales Hunts from Elephant-back, 1875-6
The prince toured British India for eight months in 1875 and 1876.

The Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, during a hunt in British India, 1875-76.

Samuel Bourne / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection

In 1857, Indian soldiers known as sepoys took up arms against the British East India Company's rule, in what is called the Indian Revolt of 1857. As a result of the unrest, the British East India Company was dissolved, and the British crown took direct control over what became the British Raj in India.

In this photo, Edward, Prince of Wales, is shown hunting in India from the back of an elephant. Prince Edward made an eight-month-long trip around India in 1875-76, which was widely hailed as a great success. The Prince of Wales's tour inspired the British Parliament to name his mother, Queen Victoria, "Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress of India."

Edward had traveled from Britain on the royal yacht HMSS Serapis, leaving London on October 11, 1875 and arriving in Bombay (Mumbai) on November 8th. He would travel widely across the country, meeting with rajas of the semi-autonomous princely states, visiting with British officials, and, of course, hunting tigers, wild boar, and other types of iconic Indian wildlife.

The Prince of Wales is shown here seated in the howdah atop this elephant; the tusks have been blunted to provide a small measure of safety for its human handlers. Edward's mahout sits on the animal's neck to guide it. Gunbearers and the prince's attendant stand beside the elephant.

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