Top Kerala officials share fond memories of British Queen's Kochi visit

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Queen's Kochi visit | Photo: Mathrubhumi Archives

Kochi: Kerala Chief Secretary V P Joy was Ernakulam district collector when Queen Elizabeth II visited Kochi 25 years ago and the top bureaucrat recalled that she was very enthusiastic to know about two things -- the culture and history of the port city and the life of its people.

She visited Kochi in 1997, when the country was celebrating the 50th year of its independence from Britain, and the senior IAS officer had accompanied her to various places in the city.

During her stay here, she visited the Jewish Street and Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry near here -- the oldest Jewish place of worship in the Commonwealth.

"She asked about and tried to understand the culture and history of the synagogue and Jewish community there and also of Kochi. Many people had come to greet the Queen and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. She was very happy about it," the senior IAS officer told PTI, reminiscing over his fond memories of the visit of the Queen, who breathed her last on Thursday.

The Jewish synagogue was built in 1568 and it was built on the land, adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace, given by the erstwhile king of Cochin. It was destroyed in 1662 by the Portuguese and then reconstructed, two years later, by the Dutch, according to a Kerala government document.

Former state DGP Jacob Thomas, who was the commissioner of the city police then, said the purpose of the Queen's Kochi visit was to inaugurate homes built at Mini Colony here under an urban poverty reduction programme. She had interacted with a few people living in Mini Colony.

She visited the synagogue, St Francis Church and Mini Colony during her stay. The Queen had presented a silver wine cup to the synagogue, according to reports.

Thomas, who had overseen the security arrangements of the visiting dignitaries, said the Queen was very simple and down-to-earth and it had appeared that she wanted to "make us at ease".

It was a very pleasant, and more or less informal sort of visit, the retired police officer said.

"Because there was no ego, no display of power. She was very very pleasant, very courteous, very down-to-earth and very simple...some good memories," Thomas told PTI.

British security officials had started making security arrangements for the Queen three months ahead of her visit, the former DGP said.

The flight carrying the Queen had landed at the Naval airport here and before leaving she had attended "a sort of public function", Thomas recalled.

A few days after her visit, both Joy and Thomas had received rare photographs of the Queen and her husband sent from Buckingham palace, London, saying the "visit was excellent, fond memories". The photographs, sent separately to two officials, were signed by the Queen.

India has declared one day of state mourning on Sunday as a mark of respect to the departed Queen.


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