Translating a Culture

England’s Prince William “Patel”
England’s Prince William “Patel”

The cultural diffusion of English in India paved the way for modern globalization.

by Dinesh Sharma

The link between language, culture, and power is undisputed. This link is at the root of culture and language security. In India, it was colonization that first implemented the English language as one of power on the subcontinent. But surprisingly, the cultural diffusion of English in India began much earlier than we had thought—well before English was officially introduced as the language of education and discourse.

Prince William Patel

The news in June that England’s Prince William’s great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Eliza Kewark, was of Indian origin sent amusing sensations through the Indian news media. According to BritainsDNA, a gene typing company, Ms. Kewark gave birth to Prince William’s great-great-great-great-grandmother, Katharine Scott Forbes, in 1812. “It’s a great thing to unite people across the distances,” said Dr. Jim Wilson, a geneticist at the University of Edinburgh and chief scientist at BritainsDNA.

As Indophile writer Patrick French observed, this shows that the second-in-line to the British throne is 1/256 Indian in origin. Apparently the hunt is on for Prince William’s other ancestors in Surat, Gujarat. According to genetic testing, a rare variation of mitochondrial DNA passed through the mother’s line links Prince William to Ms. Kewark, who was a housekeeper of William’s fifth great-grandfather, Theodore Forbes, a Scottish merchant who worked in Surat for the East India Company. Previously, Ms. Kewark was thought to be of Armenian origins; now it turns out she was half Indian.

British Asians welcomed the news with a pleasant surprise. Keith Vaz, the senior Labour MP of Indian origin, told the Hindustan Times, “At last all Indians have a royal connection. As a long-lost cousin, perhaps Prince William can now kindly bring back the Koh-i-Noor diamond which the rest of his family borrowed many years ago!” Priti Patel, a prominent Tory MP, said of the Royal connection, “We hope this includes a love of curry and Bollywood dancing!  Indians in Britain will look upon him as one of us.”

As the historian William Dalrymple has shown in The White Moguls, prior to the First War of Independence (also known as the Indian Mutiny) in 1857, intermarriages and sexual liaison between English civil servants, soldiers, and merchants and the Indian population during peacetimes were …

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