MossValley: 1858 Royal Proclamation in India celebrations (end of East India Company), ILN
MossValley banner

MossValley Home

Proclamation of the Queen's rule in India:
the Illuminations

Transcript from
The Illustrated London News
1 January 1859

Click thumbnails for enlargements in a separate window

The 1st of November, 1858, will ever be memorable in the history of our Indian empire. On this day, as duly recorded in our Journal, her Majesty's Proclamation to the Princes, Chiefs, and People of India was read throughout nearly every district in India, whereby it was officially announced that the political authority of the East India Company had ceased to exist, and that the Government of India had been transferred to the management of the Crown. This important State document, and a supplementary proclamation by the Governor-Generals, were read in the chief towns of the three Presidencies amid great rejoicing. We engrave this week three Photographic Sketches, which have obligingly been forwarded to us from Calcutta and Bombay, in relation to this great event.

Reading the proclamation at Calcutta

Reading the Queen's proclamation at Calcutta, from a photograph by M. A. Williamson - click for enlargement The assumption of the reins of Government in India by her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria was celebrated at Calcutta with all fitting pomp and with great enthusiasm, both on the part of natives and of Europeans. From all quarters there poured into the city such a concourse of people as had never before been witnessed there. Government House was, of course, the great centre of attraction; and shortly after three o'clock the streets surrounding it became almost impenetrable. From the Esplanade to Tank-square the entire space was alive with a surging crowd.

The proclamation was read, according to programme, at four p.m.; the troops were all in attendance, and the public mustered in crowds, forming a very striking assemblage in the square before the great steps of Government House. The document was read in English by Mr. Beadon, and in Bengali by Baboo Samachurn Sircar. At the conclusion the Royal flag was hoisted at the head of the mast erected for the occasion before Government House, and it was saluted by the cheers of the European portion of the crowd, led by Mr. Halliday on the first round, and again by a sailor who hoisted the flag, and who had placed himself conspicuously on the Dragon Gun. Our Engraving represents Mr. Cecil Beadon reading the proclamation; Mr. Halliday, Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, is on his right, with Mr. Grant and Chief Justice Colville.

The illuminations at night were worthy of the occasion; and, whether they were a real proof of rejoicing on the assumption of the empire by the Queen or not, the old servants of the Company and the now servants of the Queen did their work well. No other city in the world could have prepared such a gorgeous spectacle.

The City of Palaces shone a city of fire. The Government House was illuminated at every point — the lines of its architecture, of the cornices, of its pilasters, and of its columns, were brought out in the most brilliant manner. The dome for once became an ornament, and a superb one, lines of fire streaking it like a melon; and a magnificent crown, surmounted by the cross, shone out in all the beauty of dazzling light. The night was dark as Erebus, thus giving further effect to the illuminations. The columns of the Baboo's Ghat at a short distance shone as one mass of bright light, marking all its lines and distinctly tracing the architecture. This was the character of the majority of the illuminations, the houses all appearing as though built of flame. The devices were the usual compliments to her Majesty, and "Queen Victoria" shone over the whole city in letters of fire.

Auckland Hotel (Hall of All Nations), Calcutta, from a photograph by Mr. James Mandy - click for enlargement The Auckland Hotel (Hall of all Nations), which was superbly illuminated, is shown in the annexed Illustration. Among the various designs and devices displayed on this building was a transparency of her Majesty the Queen, surmounted by a cross, above which, in brilliant jets of gas, were the words "Long Live our Noble Queen!"

From one end of Calcutta to the other there was a succession of illuminations and transparencies, giving to the city a carnavalesque appearance which, says our Correspondent, it is impossible to describe.

The ceremony at Bombay

The demonstration on the 1st of November at Bombay was also highly successful. The Royal proclamation was read from a platform erected on the steps of the Townhall. The civil, military, and naval officers of Government having met the Governor in the Durbar-room, a procession was formed, preceded by trumpeters and chobdars, which had a very grand effect. On arriving at the front of the platform a flourish of trumpets was blown, and the chief secretary to Government stepped forward and read in English the Royal proclamation. At its conclusion the Royal standard of England was unfurled, the bands struck up "God Save the Queen," and a Royal salute from the ramparts of Fort George proclaimed that Victoria I. had assumed the sovereignty of India. The cheers from the platform were taken up by ten thousand voices from the crowd beneath, until tower and steeple almost trembled with the reverberation. In the evening the whole town was illuminated, a brilliant display of fireworks took place on the Esplanade, and all the vessels in the harbour were lighted up with great brilliancy.

The residence of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, at Bombay, illuminated, from a photograph by Mr. H. Hinton - click for enlargement Of the various sections of the community that were anxious to mark the day with rejoicing and demonstrations of loyalty, the foremost and most conspicuous were the Parsees. In their houses — some of them princely mansions — they vied with each other in highly ornamental designs. Entire streets occupied by them were adorned with triumphal arches, and tastefully devised transparencies and decorations. Conspicuous in the blaze of light stood out the mansion of the Parsee baronet Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, which we have engraved.

The Mohammedan community also took an active part in the festive demonstration by illuminating the grand mosque, in the Green-market, which was visible for miles around. Lord Elphinstone was everywhere received by the native community with enthusiasm. As his Lordship was proceeding to the Townhall, near Hormusjee Wadia's Fire Temple, a number of Parsees, dressed in their flowing snow-white robes, received the representatives of Majesty by a band of music, whilst a shower of roses was thrown into his Lordship's carriage.


Government of India Act, 1858
East India Company
Calcutta / Kolkata

Banglapedia: India Act, 1858

Moving Here site: a PDF file of the proclamation can be viewed/downloaded

India Office (British Library): Historical Background

Kamat's PotPourri: First Indian War of Independence (summary of events leading to the transfer of government of India)

The Athaenium: The Sepoy Mutiny, India, 1857 (another summary)

Masthead of the Illustrated London News

Home  |  Wrexham area  |  General  |  Sheffield area  |  Asia  |  Military

Welsh Flag

Located in Wales
(flag from Dingbats-UK)

Interested in Genealogy? - visit RootsWeb!

FastCounter by bCentral

Created with the
CoffeeCup HTML Editor


Transcripts, photos, scanned images and other site content copyright © MossValley, 2001-06
All rights reserved (please view terms)