Abdul Karim’s writings, hidden by his family until now, throw new light on a close and controversial relationship, says Ben Leach.

'I am so very fond of him. He is so good and gentle and understanding… and is a real comfort to me.”

These were the words of Queen Victoria speaking to her daughter-in-law, Louise, Duchess of Connaught, on November 3, 1888, at Balmoral. Perhaps surprising, though, is who she was talking about – not her beloved husband, Albert, who had died in 1861. Nor John Brown, her loyal Scottish ghillie, who in many ways filled the void left by Albert, since Brown had died in 1883.

Instead, Queen Victoria was referring to Abdul Karim, her 24-year-old Indian servant.

Her relationship with Karim was one that sent shockwaves through the royal court – and ended up being one of the most scandalous periods of her 64-year reign.

Indeed, such was the ill-feeling that when Victoria died, her son King Edward ordered all records of their relationship, including correspondence and photographs, to be destroyed.


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