Victoria and Abdul — script

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\n\f . \r , \n
The pageboy running.
\n\f . \n \r\f
\n\f . \r \r
A fanfare. The main doors y open. The fanfare reaches its climax.
Enter the Queen. We see her properly for the very rst time. She is a
tiny, almost spherical gure, old, frail, glum and dreadfully tired.
Ponsonby leads her to her seat. The entourage follow: the Prince of
Wales, laughing coarsely with Lady Churchill, Dr Reid, various
\n  \t
Open the doors! Open the doors! Open the doors!
\n\f . \r \r
who will walk you back to the north wall where you will
stand till the end of the meal. Would you like me to run
through that again?
A page rushes in.

Mr Yorke. She’s leaving Paddington!
Everybody out.
 . \f \n. 
The Queen’s train. Children wave ags as it passes.
\n\f . \f \r\t. \r 
Hundreds of guests are milling.
\n\f . \n \r\f, \n\f  
Where are the bloody quenelles? You two. Out of it!
Abdul and Mohammed are evicted from the kitchen by the chef. Then
a voice:
She’s at the station!
Abdul and Mohammed are grabbed by Alick Yorke.
For God’s sake just wait where you were told. Open the
\n\f . \f \n. 
A little pageboy runs in shouting:
with a Cumberland gravy, braised beef à la Hussarde, leg of
lamb, the pheasant and those potato ribbon things. Dessert:
\n\f . \r , \n, \n\f  
Bigge, Mohammed and Abdul with their suitcases walking down a
corridor in full ceremonial garb.
Four thirty: royal train to Windsor. Six thirty: full supper.
Including the ceremonial presentation of a mohar.
\n\f .    , \n\f  . 
Abdul, Mohammed and Bigge arrive in a vast hall. Tables are laid for
\n\f . \r \f
A cloud of powder as Mrs Tuck applies a vast powder brush to the
Queen. Just as she is about to emerge from the cloud we cut to
Have you any idea how cold it is? We’re gonna bloody
Why on earth did you agree to come?
Had no choice. The tall guy fell off an elephant and I got
drafted in at the last moment. Five thousand miles to
present a bloody medal.
But it’s a very great honour.
Honour?! My father fought in the Mutiny. Have you
tasted English food? They eat pig’s blood.
They do not eat pig’s blood!
I’m telling you they have pig’s blood in sausages. And
the brains of sheep. The place is barbaric.
Not to worry.
Abdul shows Mohammed a little tin containing a load of spices.
A present from my mother.
My advice: eat as much as you can before we hit land.
He passes Abdul another bun.
We both have a cushion?

He’s very short.
We had to swop him at the last minute. The tall guy had an
Abdul beams at Mohammed, who is distinctly unhappy.
Mohammed looks sourly and does not respond.
\n\f . \f
A group of straining footmen roll Queen Victoria over and then
 . \f   . 
Abdul and Mohammed standing in front of Bigge, who has a chart on
a tripod.

Not in Agra. In England.

You’ll present the mohar at an ofcial function. Like an
On a horse?

I don’t think there’ll be a horse.
An equerry always has a horse, Mr Tyler, sir.

Well, maybe not like an equerry exactly. They were actually
after Hindus but I thought you’d do. What do you say?
Are you sure there isn’t a horse?
\n\f . \f
 \t. \f\f
Another dark room. The curtains are thrown, light streams into the
room. We see Mrs Tuck at the window. In the shadows is a large bed
into which a enormous mound appears to be upholstered.
Good morning, Your Majesty.
We cut to:
 . \f \f  
Abdul is now with Tyler, a portly Englishman, Bigge, and what looks
like his short, squat Indian manservant.

This is Mr Bigge – extra Groom in Waiting to the Royal
Household who will be in charge. This is Abdul.
\n\f .  
Abdul bows to the guard enthusiastically. The lugubrious guard
unlocks several locks on the rusting iron gate. The door slams shut.
Abdul hurries along the corridor. We see pitiful inmates, all at looms
Words appear on screen:
\t\n \n\f \r   \n\f\n
 \f -\n\r 
\n\f . \t
 , \n\f\n
A darkened room. Someone is moving in the darkness. Then the
shutters of the room are thrown wide open and the blinding light
reveals: Abdul, twenty-four, smiling into the sun – we hear sound of
themuezzin’s call to prayer in the distance.
 .  , 
Abdul praying in the glorious sunshine. We see all of Agra below him,
the Taj Mahal in the distance.
 .   , 
\b \t \b\n \f\r:  \f 
 \r  \b
by Shrabani Basu
At the end of the room is the Peacock Throne.
\f $\n \n
. The Peacock Throne.
The Queen sits on the throne.
An exact copy of the one in Agra. And, of course, the
She is wearing the Koh-i-Noor brooch.
\f $\n \n
Now I really do feel like the Empress of India.
Salisbury looks horried at the portrait of Abdul. Then his eye falls
upon the real Abdul who is in full Munshi uniform, a owing smock.
Abdul beams at the Prime Minister.
\t \n
Don’t blame me. I was in Monte Carlo.
I’m afraid she is a law unto herself, Prime Minister.
For God’s sake. She’ll be wearing a burqa next. I am
holding you entirely responsible, Ponsonby.
They have arrived at the Queen, who is waiting with Dr Reid, Lady
Churchill, Miss Phipps and the usual entourage.
\f $\n \n
Prime Minister, you are late.
I’m terribly sorry, Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
\n\f . \n\f \n$\n\f , \t
Queen Victoria is sitting on a chair. Mrs Karim takes off her burqa.
We glimpse the gorgeous costume underneath, full of colour. Then we
see her face. Her nose is pierced with a gold chain linked to her ear.
She giggles like a schoolgirl. Victoria is transxed.
\f $\n \n
Oh, you really are beautiful.
Mrs Karim giggles again, not understanding a word. The Queen
\f $\n \n
Tum bahut sundar ho.
[You are very beautiful.]
Mrs Karim beams. Her mother watches inscrutably from her burqa.
Abdul looks on at the whole scene, proud as Punch.
\f $\n \n
Main tum yahaan hai bahut khush hoon.
to have you here.]
 . \t\f \r. 
A carriage arrives. Ponsonby is waiting for Lord Salisbury, who
 . \t
A groom and pony-driven carriage wait for the Queen. The royal
visitors are leaving. Bertie marches up the path, Ponsonby anxiously
following close behind:
\t \n
Dr Reid is on Ponsonby’s heels.
aside, to Ponsonby
The Munshi’s wife then whispers to him again for an interminably
long time. Everyone waits politely. Finally he turns and smiles.
‘Apart from the cold.’
They laugh gently.
\t \n
Your Majesty, Sophia – the Queen of Greece, Grand
Duchess Sophie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Princess Helena
Augusta Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-
Augustenburg, I would like to take this opportunity on
behalf of myself, my wife and my wife’s mother to thank
Her Majesty Victoria Regina of the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress
of India, for accommodating us in this beautiful cottage.
Weare extremely grateful for her innite kindness and
interior decoration. The gift of hospitality and friendship
tostrangers is of very high importance in our culture and
we are honoured to repay it in our very small way. What is
ours is yours.
\t \n
under his breath
Quite literally.
And this is how the world should be. Here we are,
representatives of the great nations of the world, all
\n\f . \t
A knock at the door. Abdul opens the door to nd the Queen.
\f $\n \n
I hope it’s not inconvenient. I just thought we’d pop round
 .  . 
A chocolate-box cottage on the Osborne Estate. We see the Queen is
accompanied by a vast entourage of people.
\n\f . \n\f \n$\n\f , \t
A ‘tableau’ of Queen Victoria, Ponsonby, Lady Churchill, the Queen
, the Grand Duchess Sophie of Saxe-Weimar-
, Princess Helena of Schleswig-Holstein-
, and their entourages,
Mohammed, Abdul, Ahmed, Mrs Karim and the mother-in-law along
\n\f . & . \t\f \r. 
\f $\n \n
I think she looks rather splendid.
But you can’t actually see her, Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
I think it’s rather dignied.
 . \t\f \r. 
Abdul turns and helps another fully burqa’d lady from the carriage.
\n\f . \n  , \t\f \r. 
Another scandalised gasp from the company.
Oh my God. Another one! How many has he got in there?
\t \n
The ruddy sod’s a bigamist!
\n \r\n
 . \t\f \r. 
Abdul stands with his two burqua’d ladies while Mohammed and
\n \r\n
 . \t\f \r. \r 
Abdul holds out his hand and Mrs Karim emerges from the carriage –
in full burqa.
\n\f . \n  , \t\f \r. 
There is an audible gasp from Miss Phipps.
\t \n
What the devil is she wearing?
\n \r\n
You can’t even see her face!
 . \t\f \r. 
 . \t\f \r. 
I didn’t think it mattered.
\f $\n \n
almost childish pleasure. Finally the Queen and Abdul stumble and
come to a stop. Abdul smiling at the Queen. Still holding her.
\f $\n \n
Abdul, I have not been so happy for years.
When I came to England, I was terried of you. But you
are a very kind lady. You are a very unique lady to me.
\f $\n \n
And you are very, very ‘unique’ to me, Abdul.
I know that you are very much older than me. And you are
a humble Munshi. But I think you are the most special
person in my whole life.
His eyes are alight. They look at each other intimately.
Even more special than my wife.
\f $\n \n
The Queen is computing this information, her face severe.
\f $\n \n
You are married?!
Of course.
\f $\n \n
But where is your wife?
\f $\n \n
Why didn’t you tell me you were married?
‘Little Buttercup’ poorly. She dries, is about to continue, but Ponsonby
prompts the applause.
Bravo! More! More!
But to everyone’s relief Puccini produces a glass of champagne and
Bellissimo, Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
I was taught by Mendelssohn, you know.
Puccini raises his glass.
To the Queen.
\f $\n \n
To me.
She knocks back the champagne.
 . , \f. \f\n\r
The Queen is tipsy. She holds on to Abdul’s arm as they walk along
the terrace in the warm evening air, Florence twinkling below. Bertie
and Lady Churchill look on aghast. The Queen is singing the melody
of the Gilbert and Sullivan song:
\f $\n \n
La, la, la, la, la, la.
She lifts her arm as she walks, half dancing.
We should not have drunk all that champagne.
She giggles.
May I?
Abdul takes the Queen’s other hand and they waltz their way along
the terrace, ‘la-la-ing’ an accompaniment. We are close up on their
But she is imprisoned for her love, Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
\f $\n \n
But nally she dies, leaving him utterly bereft.
\f $\n \n
I’m not sure we do like the sound of it. We prefer comic
opera. Do you know any Gilbert and Sullivan?
Perhaps Your Majesty will sing us a song?
\f $\n \n
Oh no. I couldn’t possibly.
But please, Your Majesty.
\t \n
God save us!
\f $\n \n
Well, just one. From
. Bertie.
\t \n
Do I have to?
Bertie, reluctantly, goes to the piano.
\f $\n \n
‘Little Buttercup’. In C.
Bertie sits at the piano with immense reluctance. Queen Victoria sings
\f $\n \n
Oh, yes, every Emperor had a Durbar Room. Full of the
nest things known to man.
\f $\n \n
Well, I am the Empress of India. I should have a Durbar
A brilliant idea, Your Majesty. But where would you put it?
\f $\n \n
The Isle of Wight. Obviously.
Ponsonby arrives.
Signor Puccini has arrived, Your Majesty.
\n\f . \f . \f\n\r
We are in the middle of the recital. The Royal Household are listening
to a fat man singing ‘Donna non vidi mai’ at the piano. Abdul is
listening intently next to the Queen, Bertie next to Lady Churchill.
\f $\n \n
Bertie. Make sure you shut that door.
Bertie pushes past Abdul unhappily and leaves. The Queen grabs
Abdul’s hand
\f $\n \n
\n\f . \f
 \n. \n\f.  
The baroque splendour of the Queen’s carriage. The Queen is in bed.
Abdul is there.
I just want to apologise about the emergency brake, Your
Majesty. I hope you weren’t too badly injured.
\f $\n \n
\f $\n \n
That will be all.
The Queen walks off upstairs.
\n\f . \n \n. 
The train is trundling along. Mohammed blows his nose into his
A spiritual advisor!? You haven’t an idea in your head. You
Bertie looks horried as the Queen approaches him.
\f $\n \n
Good evening, Bertie.
\t \n
Aside Mohammed whispers to Abdul.
What the hell are you wearing?
Before Bertie can question Queen Victoria about this turn of events the
Head Waiter announces:
\r \n 
Dinner is served.
\n\f . \r ,  \n
Bertie with Queen Victoria.
\t \n
Lady Churchill was absolutely scandalised. A servant. And
\f $\n \n
The Munshi is a Muslim scholar. He knows the Koran off
by heart and for your information is no longer a servant.
He is to be given a staff of his own.
\t \n
\f $\n \n
Well, you are a servant no longer. You are my teacher. You
shall teach me Urdu and the Koran and anything else you
think of.
\n\f . \r. \t. \f\n\r
A dozen local guests are waiting for the dinner. Mohammed is
standing with a tray of sherry. Across the room Ponsonby, Bertie,
MissPhipps, Lady Churchill and Dr Reid are gathered in a huddle.
\t \n
What the hell is a Munshi?
Apparently it’s some sort of ‘spiritual teacher’, Your Royal
\t \n
Queen Victoria thinks about this.
In the Koran it says: we are here for the good of others.
\f $\n \n
Abdul is trying to cheer up Her Majesty with his enthusiasm.
Oh yes, I am a Haz. I know the Koran by heart.
\f $\n \n
By heart. Isn’t it very long?
\f $\n \n
And you know every word?
Many Muslim people know the Koran.
\f $\n \n
I thought you were a Hindu.
I am a Muslim, Your Majesty. I learnt the Koran from my
She turns to Abdul.
\f $\n \n
They don’t understand anything, those stupid aristocratic
fools. Toadying around. Jockeying for position. I’ve had this
my whole life. They couldn’t bear me bringing dear John
\t \n
Were you learning Urdu?!
\f $\n \n
Yes, I was, as a matter of fact.
\t \n
Do you think that’s entirely appropriate?
\f $\n \n
I am the Empress of India. What could be more appropriate
than learning Urdu?
\t \n
\f $\n \n
You are absolutely right. I can’t have all of these
distractions. Ponsonby, I wish to go to Glassalt Shiel.
\t \n
Everybody is surprised. She looks at Bertie.
\f $\n \n
\t \n
But I’ve only just got here.
 . \r\n, 
Drone shot of stunning scenery of the lochside. A tiny boat in the loch
\n\f . \f
The Queen is laughing as she tries to repeat Abdul’s phrase.
\f $\n \n
Apanni trishnup kili ap abdu tel new ad.
Nearly. Again.
\f $\n \n
Apanni trishnup kili ap abdu tel new ad.
Apni. Ni.
Abdul slaps his knees.
\f $\n \n
Knee. Knee.
Apani utkrsta sabaka kelie apa abdula dhan yavada. Thank
you, Abdul, for your excellent lesson.
\f $\n \n
Apani utkrsta sabaka kelie apa abdula dhan yavada!
That’s it. You did it. Now write it down.
\n\f . \n,  \n \r \n \n\f 
A new fat arse is on show as its owner bends in to look through the
keyhole. The doors y open. The arse stands up straight.
\f $\n \n
\t \n
\f $\n \n
Were you spying on me?
\f $\n \n
\n\f . \n. \r 
The gaggle of Ladies in Waiting and members of the Household has got
bigger and they are listening outside, full of consternation.
He’s teaching her Hindi!
Urdu, actually: the Muslim version.
\n\f . \f
Mairn raini hoom.
\f $\n \n
Mer ranee whoo.
That’s it! That’s it! You are the Queen.
He writes it down.
You see. Now you . . .
\n\f . \n
Now Dr Reid has joined the group. He is looking through the keyhole.
She’s writing in the journal. And she’s speaking in
Urdu, actually. The Muslim version.
Mohammed raises an eyebrow.
\f $\n \n
Of course I am sure.
But why would you want to speak Hindi?
\f $\n \n
I am Empress of India. Look. I have ordered a book. I want
you to give me private lessons.
I can’t teach you Hindi.
\f $\n \n
Why ever not?
You are the Empress of India. You must learn Urdu. The
language of the Mughals. Oh there are a thousand
languages in India but Urdu is the most noble. The
difference is when you write it down. In Urdu you write
like this.
He demonstrates it.
This is Persian script. Just like Arabic. And for Hindi you
write like this –in Devanagari:
He demonstrates.
The Persian script is most superior.
\f $\n \n
I am the Queen. Mairn raini hoom.
\f $\n \n
Er donny hoo.
Mairn raini hoom.
\f $\n \n
Hey Donnneee whoo.
\f $\n \n
I am perfectly capable of working through the boxes. Abdul
is very helpful with his blotter.
But these are parliamentary papers, Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
I am aware of that.
But Abdul is a servant. He cannot assist with the boxes.
\f $\n \n
I am the Queen of England. I will have whatever help with
my boxes that I require.
The piping stops.
\f $\n \n
I wish she’d bloody well go to bed.
The Ghillie wearily knocks back a dram from his hip ask. The piping
starts again. Lady Phipps yawns. The unfortunate dancing Ghillie
wearily raises his arms for another reel.
\n\f .   \n. \f\n\r
Abdul and Mohammed walk to bed. Ahead of them is a butler, with
atray, careering from wall to wall. They pass an open door and inside
see the kitchen staff with bottles of whisky open and someone playing
the ddle. Suddenly the music stops. They all look at Abdul and
Mohammed looking in at them. The door closes. Abdul and Mohammed
look at the closed door. The strathspey starts up again.
\n\f . \f
The Queen is sitting at her desk, Abdul by her side. A servant comes
in and puts down the boxes. Ponsonby blows his nose and takes her
Your boxes.
\f $\n \n
Thank you.
And the blank journal you requested.
They’re very scratchy,Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
Everything in Scotland is scratchy. (
To Ponsonby.
does Bertie come?
Tomorrow, Your Majesty. He is on his way from Monte
The Queen takes a slurp of the tea then puts the cup on the table.
Suddenly there’s a splish in the teacup. Then a pitter-pat as rain hits
 . $\n\n\f\n   \r \n \f .  \f. 
Torrential rain. Queen Victoria is being led along by a river by a
ghillie with an umbrella. Behind her, Abdul and Mohammed,
\f $\n \n
Ponsonby. I would like a mango.
\f $\n \n
Yes, I would like to taste a mango.
It’s impossible. They only grow in India, Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
I am the Empress of India, so have one sent. I hope you
will like Scotland, Abdul.
 .   \r .  \f. 
Scottish mists. The vast landscape of Scotland. A train of unkies
\f $\n \n
But what happened to Shah Jahan?
He was overthrown by his son and died in Agra Fort.
\f $\n \n
They buried him in the Taj Mahal next to his wife. They
put an inscription: ‘Here lies Shah Jahan who left this world
I don’t know, they smashed it up.
\f $\n \n
How awful.
Oh, they are always smashing things up. All the British
soldiers have taken the jewels from the Taj Mahal.
\f $\n \n
British soldiers?!
Oh yes, after the Mutiny.
\f $\n \n
But this is terrible.
At least you have the diamond.
 . \f. \n\f  . 
Dr Reid looking through the binoculars.
What can they be talking about? An Indian and a servant
Lady Churchill grabs the binoculars.
What on earth does she see in him?
We see Abdul from Lady Churchill’s point of view.
Well, he is rather handsome.
 . \r , $\f  
Queen Victoria continues talking to Abdul as they walk.
No. I just make a ledger of the prisoners.
\f $\n \n
Indeed we are all prisoners.
Indeed we are, Your Majesty.
\n\f . \r , \f 
Lady Phipps is listening at the door.
No, this is true. Everything I write is the very truth.
\f $\n \n
I don’t understand, if you are an author why you are here,
presenting the . . . thing, the . . .
The mohar. It is my humble privilege to serve Her Majesty.
The Queen takes a piece of headed notepaper and starts writing.
To Doctor Reid . . . A very successful movement . . . this
morning at eight a.m. . . .
\n\f . \n,  \n \r \n \n\f 
Bigge, various Ladies in Waiting and the two unkeys. They are trying
to look through the keyhole.
What’s he doing?
\n\f . \n \n\f . \r 
What the hell were you thinking?!
You said present the jelly.
\f $\n \n
Is that absolutely necessary?
We really have to box in the Boers if we possibly can, Your
\f $\n \n
Prime Minister, you really are terribly depressing.
Food starts to arrive.
Ah, luncheon!
 . \r , \t  \r \f  
A wobbling jelly. We pull up to see Abdul carefully carrying it, followed
by Mohammed who has his own. Queen Victoria is at the table,
looking dour and fearsome. Abdul starts to panic as the jelly starts
wobbling perilously on the plate. The more he nears the Queen the
more errant the giant jelly becomes. With a great deal of sweat and
consternation Abdul navigates the jelly to Her Majesty.
Jelly, Your Majesty.
Abdul puts the jelly in front of the Queen, her eyes light up. Abdul
bows ostentatiously, then drops to his knees. The entire table of guests
crane round to see what he is doing. Bigge and Ponsonby look on in
horror. The Queen looks down curiously. The whole Royal Household
seem to hold their breath. Abdul suddenly lunges down – everyone
come to you when the Queen is seated and you will present
the pudding, as requested.
Abdul looks at the jelly on the table.
Excuse me, but what is it?
That is a jelly. A pudding made from the liquor of fruit.
Abdul and Mohammed survey it with great curiosity.
\f $\n \n
The what?
The mohar. The ceremonial coin presented yesterday by
the Indian servants.
\f $\n \n
I thought the tall one was terribly handsome.
\n\f . \r , \n
Arthur Bigge running at a surprising lick.
\n\f . \n  \n,  \f  \n\f  
Bigge runs up to a door at the top. He throws it open. We see two small
\n\f . \r , \r \f
The Queen is eating a goose egg with a silver spoon. Dr Reid and a
phalanx of silent unkeys are in attendance. Ponsonby is nishing his
itinerary for the day:
. . . And the Crown Princess Lili’uokalani.
\f $\n \n
Who on earth is she?
Hawaii, Your Majesty. She has composed a song for you on
the ukelele – but we have managed to put her off. Then the
afternoon audience with Prime Minister Salisbury.
And your movements, Your Highness?
\f $\n \n
None to speak of.
Not even during the day?
\f $\n \n
We last moved on Sunday evening.
I fear the celebratory dinners are taking their toll. May I
suggest some Benger’s Mixture, Your Majesty?
\f $\n \n
I refuse to eat Benger’s. It’s baby food.
But it is imperative, Your Majesty, that the royal colon
receives a little roughage.
\f $\n \n
Is there anything else?
Was Your Highness pleased with the mohar?
We hear Mr Bigge sharply chide Abdul.
His smile falls and he drops his head.
\n\f . \f . \r \n\f , \f\n\f
As before: a dark room, a curtain is drawn by Mrs Tuck. The room lls
with sunlight and we see we are in the Queen’s bedchamber.
Good morning, Your Majesty.
Again we see the Queen seemingly upholstered into her bed. The group
of servants approach to extract her.
\n\f . %\n\f . \r 
Regal music. The Queen immobile in the centre of the room, as before.
The Queen lifts her arms. This time we witness the whole unedifying
\n\f . \r , \n
Abdul waits anxiously as streams of waiters bring back the plates from
The proteroles have gone. Gentlemen . . .
Alick Yorke makes a nal adjustment to the mohar.
Now. Process. Turn. Bow. Present. And absolutely no
sodding eye contact what-so-ever!
I’m afraid you have to be quick. They take it off you as
soon as she’s done.
\n\f . \r , \n
Scores and scores of waiters rush past Abdul and Mohammed carrying
soup bowls.
One down. Six to go.
Bigge appears with the mohar on a tray.
I have the mohar.
Is that it?!
\r \n 
Sir, the sh course.
shouting instructions
The sh course!
\n\f . \r
The babble of excited chatter. Everyone around the Queen is
animated. The Queen ignores it all and is shovelling quenelles into her
mouth. Cut to her polishing off the boeuf braisé, then tearing apart a
We see Lady Churchill laughing. Lady Phipps, a skinny, terried-
looking Lady inWaiting is eating salad primly. Back to the Queen:
herplate is clean and she is nodding off.
Proteroles, Your Majesty.
A proterole is presented and the Queen immediately comes to life.
Abdul sits on the base of the statue. He looks out at the crowds passing
 . \t
Mrs Karim opens the front door. Suddenly several henchmen appear
pushing her aside as they rush into the house.
\n\f . \f , \t
The henchmen run into the room and start ransaking the place. Mrs
Karim and her mother in full burqa try to prevent them taking things.
\n\f . \f
  . \t\f \r. 
Bertie in the darkness of the Queen’s study. He throws open the
shutters himself, morning light oods in. He sits at the Queen’s desk –
it’s his now.
\n\f . \f
 \t\r\t. \t\f \r. 
Mrs Tuck throws open the curtains as she did at the beginning of the
lm. The crepuscular room is ooded with light. Maids throw off the
Yes. Goodbye, my Queen.
Abdul is crying. The Queen holds on to Abdul’s hand.
\f $\n \n
there is nothing to live for I cling on to life with every
breath. I am scared, Abdul.
Don’t be scared.
Abdul quotes a poem in Hindi. Then translates it:
\f $\n \n
\t \n
Bring her the Munshi.
\n\f . \n  \n \f
Abdul is resolutely standing by.
 . \t\f \r. \f\n\r
Wide shot of the house at night. A light shining from an upstairs room.
\n\f . \r , \n
Abdul is dutifully standing sentry outside the Queen’s room.
 . \t\f \r. \f
with your wife. The vultures are already circling. I don’t even
think I will see this year out. All these stupid ceremonies.
What is the point in them, Abdul? They will kill me.
You will live for many more years, Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
No. Abdul, I am sick and weary. I can hardly see, barely
Dr Reid! Dr Reid! It’s Mr Mohammed!
 . $. 
A devastated Abdul is at Mohammed’s funeral. The Queen is with
Abdul, Mrs Karim, the mother-in-law and Ahmed. Dr Reid and
Ponsonby stand nearby out of duty to Her Majesty. Reid turns to
One down.
Abdul stands by the grave as the others leave.
I am sorry, my friend.
Then Abdul helps lead the Queen away.
\f $\n \n
We need to talk.
 . \n. \f  \t\f \r. 
After the funeral. The Queen and Abdul sit in the open carriage. The
Queen is wrapped up against the cold weather but looks very frail.
Shetakes Abdul’s hand.
\f $\n \n
I think it’s time that you went home, Abdul.
This is my home.
\f $\n \n
I have been short-sighted and selsh. You are a young man,
Abdul. Your whole life ahead of you.
But, Your Majesty –
\f $\n \n
I cannot protect you if I am not here. You must go, Abdul –
\f $\n \n
I understand there is some concern over my desires on
preferment. I understand that feelings have run high and
Iunderstand that you have decided to resign rather than
withstand my decision. If any one of you would like to
tender their resignation it will be accepted without any
unfortunate consequences – but at least have the decency
to do it to my face. If anyone wishes to resign, please step
She stares at them, absolutely formidable. Nervousness. People looking
at one another. Small feints, but no one moves. Abdul is watching from
the doorway.
\f $\n \n
I would like to inform you that I have decided against
awarding any knighthoods at this moment.
Relief all round that she’s come to her senses.
\f $\n \n
Instead, you will be delighted to know I have decided to
make the Munshi a Commander of the Royal Victorian
Order as a special token of my personal esteem for his
services to the Empire. That will be all.
Ponsonby is so overcome he has to sit down. The Queen is shaking.
She walks through the middle of the crowd who part to observe their
customary obsequies. She walks out into the corridor.
\n\f . \n\f\n\f \n. \t\f \r. 
The Queen walks out into the corridor alone. But we see she is
faltering. Abdul sees her and runs the whole length of the corridor and
catches her in his arms. Dr Reid and Mrs Tuck arrive. Reid pushes
\t \n
No, I’ve put up with you for over fty years. You will drop
this forthwith or . . .
\f $\n \n
Or? . . . Or? . . .
\t \n
We will have you certied insane. And removed from ofce
immediately. Here are the papers. Signed by Dr Reid.
The Queen is stunned. She looks at Dr Reid, who appears terried of
the whole situation.
\f $\n \n
I am eighty-one years of age. I have had nine children,
forty-two grandchildren, and almost a billion citizens. I
have rheumatism, a collapsed uterus, am morbidly obese,
deaf in one ear. I have known eleven prime ministers,
pieces of legislation. I have been in ofce for
sixty-two years,
days – thus I am the longest-serving
monarch in world history. I am responsible for ve
households and a staff of more than three thousand. I am
cantankerous, boring, greedy, ill-tempered, at times selsh
Miss Phipps looks like she’s beginning to crack.
\f $\n \n
Did you not hear me?
\n \r\n
Your Majesty, I must inform you that if you refuse – the
Miss Phipps tries to gather herself and stop herself collapsing.
\n \r\n
Your Majesty . . .
\f $\n \n
Out with it, girl, we are very busy.
\n \r\n
You know her quite well, Mrs Tuck.
I’m just a dresser. What about Miss Phipps?
Everyone’s attention is drawn to the skinny, mild-mannered, nervous
Lady in Waiting.
Brilliant. You’re the maid of honour. Exactly the person to
break the news.
Miss Phipps looks terried.
\n\f . \f\n \n. \t\f \r. \f\n\r
Mrs Tuck fusses over Miss Phipps, making her look just so. Ponsonby,
Dr Reid and Lady Churchill are there.
Off you go – and don’t take no for an answer.
The poor woman is terried. She timidly makes her way up the stairs.
She stops and looks back. Lady Churchill gives her a look of stern
admonishment. Phipps nervously carries on. Then stops again. It’s
grandma’s footsteps. Churchill ushers her on again.
\n\f .  \n \r \f\n . \f\n\r
A terried Miss Phipps knocks meekly on the double doors.
\n\f . \f
  . \f\n\r
Miss Phipps walks nervously across the vast room to the little table
\n \r\n
But she’s the Queen.
sovereign. Her position is entirely based on the
. Who manages the
estates? Who is up at the crack of dawn preparing her
breakfast? Toadying to foreign diplomats? Eating those
interminable meals? Listening to the infernal drivel? Lords
and Ladies, the time has come to say no. We must stand
Dr Reid! Be courteous!
I will be courteous to the Munshi.
\f $\n \n
It is true, Your Majesty. You have been hideously duped and
ignominously misused, Your Majesty. The Munshi is a
blackguard and an arch deceiver. I am afraid Abdul and his
\t \n
Mother, we have to see you . . .
The Queen is sitting behind a small desk, Abdul intimately by her
side. Ponsonby and Dr Reid stand nervously before her.
\t \n
looking at Abdul
\f $\n \n
I am in the middle of my Urdu lesson.
\t \n
Mother, we come with very important news of a highly
personal matter.
\f $\n \n
I have nothing to hide from Abdul.
I am afraid, Your Majesty, We have news concerning the
Munshi. Proof, beyond any doubt, that Abdul Karim is a
low-born imposter, Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
But the Munshi is from a noble family and a long line of
The Munshi was a mere clerk in a common gaol.
My own son has sent word from India and has actually
\n\f . \n. \t\f \r. 
Ponsonby and Reid knock on a bedroom door. A voice from inside.
\t \n
Go away!
Your Royal Highness. We come with important news about
\n\f . \t \n
 \t. \t\f \r. 
Bertie is now in bed with a post-coital cigar. Lady Churchill is also in
the bed. Ponsonby and Dr Reid have just explained the news.
\t \n
But we can’t possibly tell her. It would kill her stone dead.
\t \n
Maybe it’s not such a bad idea.
There’s more. It appears the father, far from being an
Indian Eminent, is in fact a prison apothecary.
\t \n
Are you sure?
I received a telegram only this afternoon from Agra. My
son visited the gaol himself. They are absolute nobodies.
Bertie takes a puff while he thinks about this.
\t \n
\f $\n \n
Bertie sheepishly follows. Dr Reid turns to Ponsonby.
I did not do seven years at Edinburgh University to look
atIndian dicks.
 . \t\f \r. 
Dr Reid stomps, unhappily, carrying his doctor’s bag towards Abdul’s
\n\f . \t
\n\f . \t\f \r. \f\n \n. 
Bertie and Ponsonby in a cabal with Dr Reid.
What do you mean, he wouldn’t say anything?
Well . . .
\t \n
You want me to dish the dirty?
Mohammed coughs into his handkerchief.
What would you like me to say?
\t \n
Anything really.
I think she’s ne.
\n\f .  \n \r
Ponsonby and Bertie are in the servants’ corridor. Ponsonby knocks
ona door.
\n\f . \r
Bertie and Ponsonby are in Mohammed’s room. Mohammed has
declined since we last saw him.
Mr Mohammed. We have come here because we are not
unaware of your predicament. That you arrived in the rst
place almost by accident and nd yourself stuck here
\t \n
As far as I’m concerned this is war. We’re going to dig up
every last piece of shit the blaggard’s ever done. I want
someone in India raking through the family coals. Isn’t
your son out there, Ponsonby?
I couldn’t possibly be involved in subterfuge, Your Majesty.
\t \n
Look. I’m going to be the one in charge very soon. You’ll
do as you’re bloody well told. I want no stone unturned.
Weare going to make a dossier. Have it all down in black
and white; and put an end to this for good.
Bertie leaves. Ponsonby looks at Dr Reid.
\f $\n \n
But it must never happen again.
Oh Your Gracious Majesty. How can I ever thank you?
\f $\n \n
\f $\n \n
The Queen eyes them suspiciously – she knows she’s been had. They
try to keep straight faces.
\n\f .  \n. \r 
The Queen turns and struggles up the stairs. Reid’s face breaks into
\n\f . \f
 \t\r\t. \t\f \r. \f\n\r
The Queen on her dressing stool, unnerved. She looks up at the photo
of Abdul on her wall: Abdul standing proudly as she sits at her desk.
She thinks.
\f $\n \n
Mrs Tuck!
\n\f . \t
  . \f\n\r
Pouring rain. It is Mrs Tuck under an umbrella. Abdul is amazed.
 . \f  \n. \f\n\r
Victoria is in her pony and trap. Abdul is standing by the trap under
an umbrella held by Mrs Tuck.
\f $\n \n
Abdul, you have been an utter fool and I am absolutely
furious with you. It is unconscionable that as my Munshi
you should have lied to me in any way. But also it would be
\n\f .  \r \f \r \n. \f\n\r
Bertie, Lady Churchill and Dr Reid have gathered and are spying on
the conversation. Unable to repress his delight:
\n\f . \t\f \r.   \n
Abdul is knocked for six.
\f $\n \n
You have hurt my feelings very much indeed, Abdul. Don’t
you see what a position I have been put in? Thank you for
everything you’ve done for me.
She starts to leave. She turns and faces Abdul. We can see Mohammed
looking on behind her.
I will miss you a very great deal.
She turns and walks down the corridor.
Queen Victoria marches along the corridor passing Bertie, Dr Reid
and Lady Churchill, who dutifully follow her, smirking like cats that
have got the cream.
Abdul is standing devastated. We see Mohammed has been watching.
So we’re going home.
He starts to cough.
\n\f .   \n. \f\n\r
Victoria walks along the corridor followed by the smirking Bertie, Dr
Suddenly Abdul arrives with a ourish in his smartest Munshi garb.
The Queen glares at him. Everyone else is staring. He realises
But given current sensitivities in the sub-continent, Your
Majesty. The Prime Minister was concerned it might be
\f $\n \n
I should have thought it was a jolly good message.
But he’s a Muslim, Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
Precisely. We owe them so much, do we not? For their role
in the Mutiny, for example.
The hubbub drops to a deathly silence.
The Mutiny, Your Majesty?
\f $\n \n
Yes. For all the help they gave us with the Hindus.
But the Mutiny was a Muslim-led revolt, Your Majesty.
\f $\n \n
Are you sure?
Of course. The Muslim soldiers revolted when it was
rumoured their ries were greased with pork fat.
\f $\n \n
The Grand Mufti, himself, put out a fatwa against you
personally. And Muslim soldiers killed over two thousand
British personnel.
\t \n
Who have you been talking to, Mother?
He withdraws. Ponsonby pops a pill. The Queen is agog with delighted
anticipation. The curtains open to reveal painted ats. A scene from
Ancient Persia. Lady Churchill, Miss Phipps and Mrs Tuck come on
dressed in Persian costumes. They pose as a harem of supplicants. Enter
Abdul, dressed as the Sultan of Persia with Ahmed as his servant.
Mohammed is at the back sick with fever.
I am the Sultan of Persia, King of all Kings. You are now
under my power.
Your Highness. We bestow all the riches of the Orient upon
The ladies proffer paste jewels. Abdul tries his best to look triumphantly
regal. They all look out uneasily at the audience trying to maintain a
matey rictus as the orchestra swells and they hold the tableau. Ahmed
is in the way – Abdul surreptitiously cuffs him to clear his sightline.
We notice Mohammed swaying, clearly ill, and just as the curtain
descends as everyone else is xed in the tableau, Mohammed sneezes.
Lord Salisbury is open-mouthed. Ponsonby holds his forehead in
despair. The Queen is unabashed with her approval.
\f $\n \n
Bravo! Bravo the Munshi!
\t \n
Now she thinks he’s Henry Irving.
But I haven’t done anything.
A general gasp. Abdul peers inside.
It’s ‘off’.
A look of horror on everyone’s face.
\f $\n \n
Ponsonby. This mango is off.
Ponsonby’s chagrin.
\n\f . \n
\n\f , \t\f \r. \f\n\r
Lady Churchill, Miss Phipps, and various other ladies from the

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