The Crown of India

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Crown of India, was a masque, an elaborate theatrical presentation, staged in 1912 to celebrate the visit the preceding December of King George V and Queen Mary to Delhi for their coronation as Emperor and Empress of India. For this masque, the English composer Sir Edward Elgar wrote the music as his Op. 66, with a libretto by Henry Hamilton. The masque consisted of two tableaux: 'The Cities of Ind' and 'Ave Imperator!'.


The masque was first performed at the Coliseum Theatre in London on 11 March 1912. Elgar composed twelve pieces for contralto, bass, chorus and orchestra:

Tableau I: The Cities of Ind

  • 1a Introduction
  • 1b Sacred Measure
  • 2 – Dance of Nautch Girls
  • 2a India greets her Cities
  • 3 – Song (Agra): 'Hail, Immemorial Ind!' (The homage of Ind)
  • 3a Entrance of Calcutta. India: 'Welcome Calcutta!'
  • 3b Entrance of Delhi. Delhi: 'Stop! That place is mine'
  • 4a Introduction
  • 4b March of the Mogul Emperors. India: 'Illustrious Emperors!'
  • 5 – Entrance of John Company.[1] Calcutta: 'Good John Company, reply'
  • 5a Entrance of St. George. India: 'Calcutta, Delhi, give your quarrel pause'
  • 6 – Song (St. George): 'The Rule of England'
  • 7 – Interlude

Tableau II: Ave Imperator!

  • 8a Introduction
  • 8b Warriors' Dance
  • 9 – The Cities of Ind.[2] India: 'Hail Festal Hour from out the Ages drawn'
  • 10 – March: 'The Crown of India'. India: 'Incessu patuit Imperator'
  • 10a The Homage of Ind
  • 11 – The Crowning of Delhi
  • 12 – Ave Imperator!

First performance[edit]

The London Coliseum programme for the first week of the performance[3] shows that The Crown of India masque was the most important of the eleven acts in the show. There were two Tableaux: "The Cities of Ind" and "Ave Imperator!".[4] The programme listed the cast, who personified 'India' herself, England represented by 'St. George', and various Indian cities. There were also attendant performers, in elaborate costumes, personifying other roles. Elgar attended the daily rehearsals for two weeks, then conducted the hour-long show two performances a day for a further two weeks.

-- Great New Elgar Work –
An Imperial Masque, in Two Tableaux, specially
composed by
Written by Mr. Henry Hamilton.
India.................................Miss Nancy Price
St. George........................Mr. Harry Dearth
Agra.................................Miss Marion Beeley[5]
Delhi.................................Miss May Leslie Stuart
Calcutta............................Miss Evelyn Kerry
Benares............................Miss Sybil Etherington
Cities, Mogul Emperors, Princes, Guards, Executioners, Courtiers, Fan Bearers, Ladies
Attendant Syce,[6] Litter Bearers, Heralds, Trumpeters, etc.
NOTE. – During the first two weeks of "THE CROWN OF INDIA"
will himself conduct the Augmented Orchestra in the performance of his work.


Elgar later extracted five of the pieces – 1(a), 2, 5, 8 and 4 – and added an intermezzo for solo violin to create The Crown of India Suite. The first performance was at the Hereford Festival on 11 September 1912, by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer. The Suite gained immediate popularity: during Elgar's lifetime, there were 102 live performances of it on the BBC.[7]

The Crown of India March from the incidental music for the masque is also performed separately.

Complete score[edit]

The complete score for the Crown of India incidental music was only published in a piano-vocal version by Elgar's friend Hugh Blair. The remaining orchestral parts were destroyed in the 1960s. In 2007 the Elgar Society commissioned the composer Anthony Payne to complete the orchestration of the music for The Crown of India. Payne is to "complete the scoring of the piano-vocal version and combining this, where appropriate, with the orchestral suite and march."[8]


  • The CD with the book Oh, My Horses! Elgar and the Great War[9] has many historical recordings including "Hail, Immemorial Ind", a 1975 recording with Carol Leatherby (soprano) and the Kensington Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leslie Head
  • The Anthony Payne orchestration of the complete pageant was recorded by the BBC Philharmonic and Sir Andrew Davis in 2007 (Chandos).

A fine recording exists as part of The Great British Collection. Douglas Bostock conducts The Munich Symphony Orchestra.


  1. ^ 'John Company' was the common personification of the British East India Company
  2. ^ The cities represented were Agra, Delhi, Calcutta, Benares, Lucknow, Bombay, Madras, Haiderabad, Mysore, Gwalior, Allahabad and Lahore
  3. ^ The London Coliseum programme, week commencing Monday, 11 March 1912
  4. ^ Ave Imperator! (Latin): Hail the Emperor!
  5. ^ Miss Marion Beeley, contralto
  6. ^ Syce (Hindi/Urdu): Indian stableman or groom
  7. ^ Jeffrey Richards: Imperialism and Music, Manchester University Press, 2001
  8. ^ Elgar Society: Composer Anthony Payne agrees to complete the orchestration of the music for Elgar’s Crown of India
  9. ^ Foreman, Lewis (ed.),Oh, My Horses! Elgar and the Great War, Elgar Editions, Rickmansworth, 2001 ISBN 0-9537082-3-3


  • Kennedy, Michael (1987). Portrait of Elgar (Third ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-284017-7. 
  • Maine, Basil (1933). Edward Elgar: His Life and Works, vol. 2: Works. London: G. Bell & Sons Ltd. 
  • Moore, Jerrold N. (1984). Edward Elgar: a creative life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-315447-1. 

External links and sources[edit]