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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Gertrude Bell
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1 entry, paper

Thurs 1. [1 January 1903] H [Hugo]'s boy Muni came in with an air of
having found the exactly right congratulations and said "Christmas!"
We started off at 9 for the Durbar and got there at 10.30. The road
already packed with people. The road was watered both for going
and coming so that we had practically no dust. A most amusing party.
We walked round and I met General Fagan's daughter who
introduced me to one who knew Burma and I photographed the Shan
chiefs, gorgeous in 3 tiered gold armour with gold pagodas with wings
on their heads. They posed for me and one fumbled in his armour
and produced a card - the Keng Tang Sawbwa. Talked to Mr Landon
and Mr Chirol and Oliver in his jacket and looked at Rajas. The boy
Dewas, the elder line[?] had a rope of pearls, 5 or 6 strings deep
slung round his shoulder, Patiala the most gorgeous pearls - there
must have been millions worth of jewels. Old Bundi was dressed in
the forever fashionable costume of very full white skirts. The
emeralds, uncut and of enormous size lay on their chests like green
lakes or hung from pearl tassels from their turbans or strung with
pearls round their necks. Saw Kitchener arrive and then the Veterans
- a crowd of old men, white and native together. The whole
horseshoe stood up and shouted and the bands played See the
conquering hero. At the end came the Gurkhas some 20 of them in
bottle green, old men, some halt with wounds, some bent double with
years, and last an old blind man leaning on a stick who as he passed
turned his blind eyes towards us and saluted with a trembling hand
the unseen shouting thousands of the race to which he had stood true.
Next the Highland band, most tremendous swagger, then the
Connaughts, much cheered. Then the Viceroy's bodyguard of native
cavalry, red and gold with blue and gold turbans, then the Cadet
Corps in pale blue and gold and then the Viceroy with Pertab Singh
riding beside him. The air trembled with the big salutes and the
cracking of rifles down the lines of soldiers. Then rode round the
heralds in magnificent embroidered clothes and read the King's
Proclamation after which the King was cheered and then, outside, the
troops cheered, but faintly. Arthur told us they simply refused to cheer
Lord C and just before the aides de camp had ridden down the lines
and said all the men must cheer and moved the Yorkshires and
another regiment up to do it, but the men stood silent. Then Lord C
made a very good speech, but too long. He said that 1/5th [one fifth]
of the population of the globe was represented and ended with a fine
peroration "I trust, I trust in the integrity of my country". After that I flew
away to photograph the Gurkha veterans and at 3.30 we were off and
home at 5, very hungry in spite of our sandwiches. Col. Gascoyne
and Mr Strachey came to call and Arthur and Oliver to dinner, after
which we played Bridge. They left at 11. At the Durbar we sat
between the Playfairs and the Daveys. A kind little Highlander
allowed me to sit down and photograph. I also met Mr Cookson. The
Highlanders were acting as ushers. But the men in the arena below
had a hard time. They stood at the salute in the front of the Dais all the
time. The Connaughts were loudly cheered as they left, the Curzons
scarcely at all. She looked lovely in pale blue and a wisteria hat.
The Duke had an escort of the 9th Lancers whose leave Lord C.
stopped the other day on account of the mysterious death of a P........
Coolie - they say there was no evidence ag. the regiment and further
that when they were asked after they came back from Africa to whom
a VC shd be given, they unanimously elected the bheestie. A rumour
spread that the Duke had specially asked for this escort, but I
afterwards heard on good authority that this was untrue (Mr
Brocklebank, who has a son in the 9th). There were only 3 cavalry
regiments in Delhi and the 9th had to do escort for someone. Anyway
they were cheered and their presence caused great excitement.
Arthur told us that Lord C., chiefly because of this incident, was so
desperately unpopular that when the general cheer came after the
proclamation it was known that the soldiers would say not a word.
Just before the psychological moment, aides galloped round and
ordered the officers to make the men cheer; also the Yorkshires and
another were brought forward to made a good noise, but all the men
stood absolutely silent and only the native regiments and the officials
cheered. The army hatred of Lord C. seems to be partly unjust for
Major Dunlop Smith told me that one reason of it was that Lord C. had
tried to introduce electric punkahs instead of coolie punkahs in the
men's messes and that this had been violently opposed because the
Sergeants made a handsome income out of the coolies' pay which
passed through their hands. Major D.S. said "I know the worst of his
Bad manners and bad language you get from him - I've suffered from
him, but you also get the necessary thing done without months of
correspondence and miles of red tape. Also the frontier people are
fire and flames for him - Mr Cox at Muscat [Masqat], Mr Hughes Buller
at Quetta - they know they can go ahead without fear of being
repudiated. And they say the Quetta railway ought to be through to
Nushki[?] in 2 years. [Written at top of second page of entry:] It was
the R.. of Kutch who drove in by the state entry and had to be ejected.
The Nizam has precedence over both Govs. General, but he always
went behind Lord Northcote out of politeness

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