Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A Chance Discovery In India.

In March 2015 we made our fourth visit to India, a country we find fascinating.

We had recently visited my 4th cousin, who we had discovered living in West Sussex, and is the granddaughter of Warwick Brookes MP, 1875-1935. Her mother Claire, the MP's daughter had married into the Durand family, and her husband's own mother came from the Bruce family, the Earls of Kincardine and Elgin. My cousin has an 1894 photograph of her grandmother, taken in Shimla, India in 1894, on her living room wall.

During our tour of the North we visited both Shimla, the Summer administrative centre of the British Empire in India, as well as Dharamsala, where by chance we visited the Church of St. John in the wilderness, the oldest Anglican Church in Northern India.

To our amazement we found that James Bruce, the brother of my cousin's great grandfather had been Viceroy of India 1862-1863, and had died there from a heart attack in 1863. His wife had erected a memorial to him at this church which is also the location of his last resting place.

His son, Victor Bruce, also became Viceroy of India later, and he of course would be the cousin of the lady whose photograph adorns the living room wall in West Sussex. He was Viceroy at the time the photograph was taken in Shimla, most likely at the Viceregal Lodge, which we also visited.

The above images are of the Viceregal Lodge in Shimla, and Christ Church Shimla, the location of Victor Bruce's daughter's own wedding.

A little more digging revealed that my cousin's grandmother's future husband, Algernon George Durand was the military secretary to the Viceroy in 1894. They married back in London in 1895.

It is with all this information that it now appears this is how the two of them may have met, and the photograph on my cousin's wall is of her grandmother Elizabeth Marjorie Bruce, dressed in a ball gown, taken in Shimla in 1894, most likely while she was there visiting her own cousin the Viceroy. We toured the inside of the Viceregal Lodge and were able to see for ourselves the opulent ballroom that would possibly have been the location of the portrait at the beginning of this post.

As an unrelated matter, we also visited McLeod Ganj, the location of the Dalai Lama Temple, his holiness' residence in India while living in exile from Tibet. On our second day there we were lucky enough to meet the man himself. A very surreal experience.

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