Why Prince Charles gets the unroyal treatment on tour of India
New Delhi — His great-great-grandfather, the first Prince of Wales to visit India, brought along his own taxidermist to attend to the tigers slain by the royal gun. His great-uncle, who later ruled as Edward VII, sailed home laden with jewels and exotic wild animals from the rulers of India's princely states.
But Britain's Prince Charles, currently on a 13-day official tour here, is seeing more demonstrators than elephants. Where his great-uncle enjoyed tiger hunts and grouse shooting during a tour in 1921, Charles has stuck to bird watching at a wildlife sanctuary. Ex-maharajahs and maharanis who turned out to watch him play polo came sans titles or privy purses. They were stripped away in 1971.
A royal visit to India clearly is not what it used to be -- but then neither is the old British Empire since grandfather George VI relinquished his title as King-Emperor of India 33 years ago.
For Prince Charles, the fourth Prince of Wales to tour the once crown jewel of the British Empire, independent India is displaying the mix of ancient cultures and modern development that unfallingly fascinates visitors here. Some Indians, many of a post-independence generation too young to be awed by royalty, are also displaying flashes of anger at what they see as remnants of a colonial mentality -- in India as well as Great Britain.
"The fuss New Delhi is making would make one believe that we have not gone beyond the first quarter of the 20th century," sniffed the pro-communist newspaper the Patriot.
Demonstrators have greeted the Prince with protests against racial discrimination encountered by Indian visitors and residents in Britain. The complaints highlight both the stresses and strengths of an enduring Indo-British relationship often described on both sides of the ocean as a love-hate affair.
Although Indians united in the largest mass protest movement in history to pressure the British out of their country, much of Britain remains behind -- by Indian choice. India has modeled its parliamentary form of government and legal system after Britain's, and British military traditions run strong in the armed forces here.
An Oxford or Cambridge education and accent remain marks of distinction for the elite and their children. Many ambitious immigrants look to the former seat of empire for opportunities they cannot find at home.
On the British side, there is pride in the voluntary and orderly letting go of power in 1947 and in the transplant of British democratic systems to alien soil. Britain remains India's largest single bilateral aid donor and a major trading partner.
The Prince will leave India Dec. 6 for Nepal.