Starting in the 1870s, Queen Victoria started sending members of the Royal Family on Royal Visits to different parts of the Empire. There were several purposes for these visits.
In October 1875, Albert Edward Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Victoria, embarked on an extensive tour of the Indian subcontinent. He arrived in Bombay and then travelled to Madras, Ceylon and finally Calcutta. The intent of this visit was to inspire the local princes’ loyalty to the British Empress and affirm their central role in the maintenance of the empire.
In the course of his four-month trip, the prince travelled by boat, rail, carriage and elephant to all corners of the Indian subcontinent. He visited more than 21 towns and cities in modern-day India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka and was guest at more than 90 royal courts. In accordance with Indian protocol, each regional ruler presented him with elaborate gifts which ranged from jewellery to weaponry, ceremonial objects to courtly nick-nacks. All items received – more than 2,000 of them – were the finest examples of Indian design and workmanship.
Wherever he went, he was showered with valuable gifts by the “loyal” Indian feudatories. He collected so much in 6 months that one of the ships was filled with the jewels, paintings, antique weapons, live animals, embroideries brocades and all kinds of contemporary art works. He returned and the gifts went on an exhibition in England for 6 months.
In return the Prince of Wales gave Indian Princes a copy of Rig-veda translated by Max Muller.