Christmas with the Maharajah

Christmas is fast approaching, and with that in mind we thought we’d share with you a few of the Christmassy things we have in the archives.

Today we’re looking at the Alanbrooke papers in the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, and the opulence and luxury of the Maharaja of Gwalior’s celebrations at Christmas and New Year, 1910.

Among the events planned for the week-long programme of festivities were a dinner and fancy dress ball on Christmas eve; a Christmas day motor procession to a fair, led by the Maharaja in his Rolls Royce; and no fewer than four hunting expeditions.

Brooke seems to have had quite a lively time at the Christmas eve fancy dress ball according to his diary entry for the day:

“…I was introduced to a few people & had some quite good dances, and got to bed by about 2AM; but it was not long before the lobster salad from supper took effect, and soon found myself waltzing madly round with my partner transformed into a tiger. The dream being made even more realistic by my waking to hear the Maharaja’s caged lions roaring close to the house.”

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of lobster salad having that kind of effect on anyone before. Wine, champagne and cognac on the other hand….

New Year’s Eve saw the guests participate in a ‘drawing-room gymkhana’, highlights of which included a game of musical chairs requiring four umpires to quash any attempts at cheating, and a treasure hunting game in which winners were ‘congratulated on their keen sense of perception’. The night ended with their second fancy dress ball of the week. Hopefully no lobster salad was served this time!

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