Published On: Sat, Aug 17th, 2019

Queen Victoria, Maharajah Gulab Singh and Twelve Shawl Goats

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It was not until 1876 that fifty-seven year old Queen Victoria became Empress of India, but there was already a long connection between Her Majesty and the Indian rulers.

The Punjab

The 19th century Punjab covered a vast area of north eastern India, what is now Pakistan and Kashmir, then ruled by various, often warring maharajahs. At the time of the annexation by the British, the independent states of Jammu and Kashmir were in the hands of Maharajah Gulab Singh.

His claim to his estates was approved by the British in the Treaty of Amritsar, but with conditions:

an initial payment of 75 Lakhs of Rupees was to be made,
the right of the British to arbitrate in disputes with any neighbouring states applied,
the provision of military support from Gulab Sigh if requested was to be forthcoming,
in return, the British would provide military support to the Maharajah in times of need
Article 12 of the treaty contained the following condition: The Maharajah Gulab Singh will: “present annually to the British Government one horse, twelve shawl goats of approved breed (six male and six female) and three pairs of Cashmere shawls.” The treaty was signed on March 16 1846.

Kashmir’s Shawl Goats

Kashmir is a remote, mountainous region, subject to extremes of cold. Its terrain is an ideal habitat for certain breeds of goat. The shawl goat has a long, strong outer coat to protect it against wind and rain and underneath, a fine, soft, silky layer that is the source of much prized material. The goats are sometimes referred to as pashmina, a word that has become synonymous with a type of shawl, although few in the modern market will be made from the undercoat of shawl goats. Locally, the fine hairs are knitted while the coarser hairs are used for weaving.

Queen Victoria, Maharajah Gulab Singh and Twelve Shawl Goats

In the spring, the shawl goats moult, often distributing their fine coats against rocks and shrubs so that it can be collected. In the main however, the goats are kept and combed to remove the fine hair in readiness for making it into garments. The amount produced is small which adds to its value. The word Cashmere, taken from the area where the goats live, It applies to a fine type of wool but only the finest cashmere will come from the shawl goats in question.

Queen Victoria’s Tribute

The Queen became the recipient of Gulab Singh’s annual tribute. Each year three shawls were delivered to her. In texture they were so fine that they could easily be threaded through a wedding ring. She bestowed them on particular favourites and they became a much coveted gift. Victoria presented one to her daughter Princess Louise on her marriage to the Marquis of Lorne.

The live goats were initially kept in Windsor Park, providing more natural material. One year, Gulab Singh failed to send his tribute and the Queen wrote to him asking where it was.

When the Queen died, the goats were moved to Whipsnade Zoo and over the years bred with other species thus losing their unique status.

What became of the annual horse, is not known.

About the Author

- I am an internet marketing expert with an experience of 8 years.My hobbies are SEO,Content services and reading ebooks.I am founder of SRJ News andTech Preview.

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