Recently, Frogmore Cottage on Queen Elizabeth II's estate in Windsor was announced as the new home to parents-to-be Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. While we can't stop gushing over the property, you will be surprised to know that it has an interesting British Raj-era connect with India.
Apparently, that cottage was a royal gift to Abdul Karim by Queen Victoria, then Empress of India, as a sign of acknowledging his service and showing her affection towards her Indian aide and confidant.
Karim, who was only 24-years-old at that time, was referred to as her "Munshi" (attendant). He reached England from Agra, to present Queen Victoria with a special mohar (gold coin), to mark her Golden Jubilee in 1887.
He quickly grew close to the monarch, who bestowed many gifts on him, including the Frogmore Cottage for his own use.
"Queen Victoria gave it to Abdul Karim as a special gift. She would often visit the cottage and have tea with his wife and him. He had decorated the house with many exotic things, including presents given to him by European royalty," said Shrabani Basu, the author of 'Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant'.
"There is also a sad angle to the story. Hours after Queen Victoria's funeral, the new king, Edward VII, ordered that all the letters written by his mother to Karim be seized from his house. They were burnt in a bonfire outside Frogmore Cottage and Abdul was ordered to return home," said Ms Basu, whose book formed the basis of the Oscar-nominated film 'Victoria and Abdul' last year.
Ms. Basu came across this rare friendship during her research and then followed it up with a visit to Windsor Castle and asked to look at Queen Victoria's Hindustani journals -- a collection of note-books filled with the monarch's handwriting practicing Urdu with her "Munshi" Karim.
"His story is now well known in Britain and around the world. Despite Edward VII's attempt to destroy the letters, Abdul could not be deleted from history," adds the author.
Last month, Kensington Palace confirmed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are expecting their first child in the spring of 2019, will move out of their London home at Nottingham Cottage in Kensington Palace before the due date and make the 10-bedroom Frogmore Cottage their family home.
"Windsor is a very special place for Their Royal Highnesses and they are grateful that their official residence will be on the estate. The Duke and Duchess office will continue to be based at Kensington Palace," a spokesperson for the couple said.
The Frogmore Cottage has served as the royal family's favorite retreat for many years. Situated in the peaceful and secluded Frogmore House estate, near Windsor Castle, surrounded by 35 acres of lush green Berkshire countryside. It has its own man-made lake, Frogmore Lake, and is home to the Royal Burial Ground and the tomb of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. According to reports, the cottage will undergo a multi-million-pound refit for the new family.