Windsor, a town on the River Thames about 20 miles west of London rich with culture and history is home to Windsor Castle built by William The Conqueror in 11 century. Windsor Castle is one of the homes of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. The Castle is believed to be the longest-occupied castle in the world with over 900 years of royal history.
What follows is a glimpse at some of the historical Muslim connections to Windsor Castle.
Portrait at Chiswick House
The ambassador at Hyde Park. Note the Mosque shaped building in between the horse’s front legs
1682 Mohamed Ben Hadou
The earliest known Muslim history in Windsor dates back to 1682 during the time of Charles II when the Moroccan ambassador Mohamed Ben Hadou visited England for about 6 months. He appears to have stayed in Windsor at least twice whilst on route to Oxford University and on his return to London. Ben Hadou was a son of an English woman, and he himself is believed to have married his English servant. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society and was a keen huntsman.
1799 Tipu Sultan
After the East India Company’s 4th battle with Tipu Sultan the last ruler of Mysore, soldiers of the East India Company looted Sultan’s treasures, brought them to Britain and gifted them to George III. Some treasures may still be seen on display in the State Apartments of the Castle. The collection on display varies at different times.
1867 Ottoman Sultan Abdul Aziz
During a state visit by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Aziz to Britain he was entertained at Windsor Castle by Queen Victoria. Over a luncheon the Queen noted the Ottoman Sultan’s deep eyes! Wherever he travelled Ottoman flags and the British flags were draped alongside each other. He was awarded the Order of Garter medal by Queen Victoria and his name was added to the list of Garter recipients on the panels in the Castle. One can view the Sultan’s Coat of Arms on the ceiling above his listing at the Queen’s Guard Chamber.
The Illustrated London News 10th July 1867
English heritage/Wikipedia Abdul Karim teaching Queen Victoria
1887 Munshi Abdul Karim
As part the preparations of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations she requested from Indian attendants to be sent to see to the needs of the Muslims who would be attending. Abdul Karim became Queen Victoria’s personal teacher in Hindustani and Urdu. She would have Urdu lessons every day and became a fluent speaker and writer.
Abdul Karim did bring his wife over from India and she would walk on the grounds of Windsor Castle fully veiled arm in arm with Queen Victoria. The friendship between Abdul Karim and Queen Victoria was a close one and known by the Royal servants so much so that he was the last person to see Queen’s Victoria’s face before the casket was closed.
Whilst at Windsor from 1897 he stayed at Frogmore Cottage, the current home belonging to Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan Markle.
A film called Victoria & Abdul, starring Ali Fazal as Abdul Karim and Judi Dench as Queen Victoria was produced in 2017 exploring relationship between Abdul Karim and Queen Victoria. Please press the video of Victoria & Abdul – Official Trailer.
The King Hejaz (Saudi Arabia) gave Queen Mary, consort of King George V, pieces of the Kabah’s curtain called Kiswah, embroidered with the chapter of the Quran, Surah Ikhlas (Sincerity). Currently this is on display in the Castle.
2006 Ramadan prayer room
Nagina Chaudhry, 19 year old working in the Visitors centre, received a Ramadan prayer room. She said to the Daily Mail: “It feels amazing to be the first Muslim to read namaz (prayers) at Windsor Castle. The Queen is the head of the Church of England so it great to know she respects other people’s faith”.
Muslims have been visiting and staying at Windsor Castle for more than 300 years so for Chaudhry to believe she’s the first Muslim to pray there shows that the Muslim history of the Castle is not widely known to their own staff.
2020 Muslim wardens
4 Muslim females who all wear hijabs are known to be working as wardens at Windsor Castle.
Written by Abdul Maalik, Tailor of Muslim History Tours, who is Britain’s first professionally qualified Muslim tour guide and who brings tourists from around the world to Windsor Castle.