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Emperor of India
Former Monarchy
Star of India
King George VI.jpg
King-Emperor George VI
First monarch Victoria
Last monarch George VI
Style Imperial Majesty
Official residence Buckingham Palace
Appointer Hereditary
Monarchy began 1 May 1876
Monarchy ended 22 June 1948[1]
Current pretender(s) Title abolished
This article is about the official title "Emperor of India". For the list of Indian emperors, see list of Indian monarchs. For the British battleship, see HMS Emperor of India. For the British medal, see Kaisar-i-Hind Medal.
"Empress of India" redirects here. For the British pre-dreadnought battleship, see HMS Empress of India (1891). For the British dreadnought battleship, see HMS Emperor of India. For the Canadian passenger ships, see RMS Empress of India. For the British medal, see KIH Medal.

The Emperor of India is the formal title used by the British monarchs during the British Raj in India.

The term "Emperor of India" is also used to refer to Indian emperors such as Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Dynasty[2] and Emperor Akbar of the Mughal Empire. For instance, Emperor Ashoka used the word 'Samrat' as his title, which means "Emperor" in Sanskrit and other Indian languages.[3] The title was also used for a few weeks in 1857 by the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II until he was captured by the British.

Bahadur Shah II[edit]

Main article: Bahadur Shah II

Though the Mughal dynasty ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent from the 16th century onwards, they simply used the title Badishah (Badishah or badshah means "Great King" or King of Kings, somewhat close to the title of emperor) without geographic designation. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the rebel sepoys seized Delhi and proclaimed the Mughal Bahadur Shah II as Badishah-e-Hind, or Emperor of India. He had little or no control over the rebellion. The British crushed the rebellion, captured Bahadur Shah and exiled him to Rangoon, Burma in 1858, whereupon the Mughal dynasty came to an end.[4]

British monarchs[edit]

Coins of the British empire and its dominions routinely included the title Ind. Imp., such as this Canadian five-cent piece.
New Crowns for Old depicts Prime Minister Disraeli offering Queen Victoria an imperial crown in exchange for an earl's coronet. She made him Earl of Beaconsfield at this time.[5]

After the Mughal Emperor was deposed by the British East India Company, and after the company itself was dissolved, the title "Empress of India" (or Kaiser-i-Hind, a form coined by the orientalist G.W. Leitner in a deliberate attempt to dissociate British imperial rule from that of preceding dynasties)[6] was taken by Queen Victoria from 1 May 1876, and proclaimed at the Delhi Durbar of 1877. The title was introduced nineteen years after the formal incorporation into the British Empire of Britain's possessions and protectorates on the Indian subcontinent, Ceylon and Burma (though Burma was made a separate colony in 1937). Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is usually credited with the title's creation, who at the same time was granted the title of Earl of Beaconsfield.[7]

When Victoria died, and her son Edward VII ascended the throne, his title became "Emperor of India". The title continued after India became independent on 15 August 1947 and was not formally abandoned until 22 June 1948 under George VI, although the British monarch continued to be the King of India until it became a republic in 1950.

When signing their name for Indian business, a British king-emperor or reigning queen-empress used the initials R I (Rex/Regina Imperator/Imperatrix) or the abbreviation Ind. Imp. (Indiae Imperator/Imperatrix) after their name (while the one reigning queen-empress, Victoria, used the initials R I, the three consorts of the married king-emperors simply used R).

When a male monarch held the title his wife, the queen consort, used the style queen-empress, but was not herself a reigning monarch.

British coins, and those of the Empire and Commonwealth dominions routinely included the abbreviated title Ind. Imp., although in India itself the coins said "Empress", and later "King Emperor". When in 1947 India became independent all coining dies had to be changed, which took up to a year and created some problems. Canadian coins, for example, were minted well into 1948 stamped "1947", the new year's issue indicated by a small maple leaf in one corner. In Great Britain itself the title appeared on coinage through 1948.

List of Emperors of India[edit]

Portrait Name Birth Death Monarch from Monarch until Relationship with predecessor(s) Spouse(s)
Bahadur Shah II.jpg Bahadur Shah II 24 October 1775 7 November 1862 11 May 1857 14 September 1857 Assumed title during the War of Independence Ashraf Mahal
Akhtar Mahal
Zeenat Mahal
Queen Victoria by Heinrich von Angeli.jpg Victoria 24 May 1819 22 January 1901 1 May 1876
[8] [9]
22 January 1901 Given title after dissolution of the East India Company Albert, Prince Consort
Edward VII in coronation robes.jpg Edward VII 9 November 1841 6 May 1910 22 January 1901 6 May 1910 Son of Victoria Alexandra of Denmark
George V of the united Kingdom.jpg George V 3 June 1865 20 January 1936 6 May 1910 20 January 1936 Son of Edward VII Mary of Teck
A022344.jpg Edward VIII 23 June 1894 28 May 1972 20 January 1936 11 December 1936
Son of George V unmarried during reign
King George VI.jpg George VI 14 December 1895 6 February 1952 11 December 1936 22 June 1948 Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Indian Empire was abolished on 15 August 1947.
  2. ^ "Aśoka – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Online encyclopædia. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  3. ^ Ashoka by R. G. Bandarkar (Asian Educational Service: 2000)
  4. ^ William Dalrymple, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857 (2008) pp 179, 200, 208, 275, 339-40
  5. ^ Harold E. Raugh (2004). The Victorians at War, 1815-1914: An Encyclopedia of British Military History. ABC-CLIO. p. 122. 
  6. ^ B.S. Cohn, "Representing Authority in Victorian India", in E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger (eds.), The Invention of Tradition (1983), 165-209, esp. 201-2.
  7. ^ History of the Monarchy, Victoria
  8. ^ Proclaimed Empress of India on 28 April 1876 in the United Kingdom
  9. ^ Proclaimed Empress of India on 1 January 1877 in India

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