Read by Jana
Written by Bertie
Sponsored by Wondery and their wonderful podcast, Little Stories Everywhere
The Dutch Hotel’s Jubilee Elephant
Hello, this is Jana, and I'm here with a very special episode. This week we are celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
We have listeners all over the world, and wherever you are, you may have heard that Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne of our little country for 70 years. And of course she’s Queen of The Commonwealth of 54 member states.
And to all our future listeners, I ought to mention that we are recording this episode at the start of June, 2022.
This story is in our series The Dutch Hotel - about a family who take over a haunted hotel. But don’t worry, it isn’t too creepy. The ghosts are friendly and they know quite a bit of history. After the story, we’ll give you some news from this week’s wonderful sponsor, Wondery and their podcast, Little Stories Everywhere and then our writer Bertie will be here to explain the true history that our story is based on.
So, get ready to join The Jubilee Party at the Dutch Hotel.
The Dutch Hotel in London was packed for the Queen’s Jubilee weekend. Plenty of important people, including princes and princesses, some of whom were genuine royalty came to London for the festivities.
Prince Rudolf of Russia had booked an entire floor of the Dutch Hotel for himself, his family and all his servants. At the last moment, there was a hiccup with his visa due to unfortunate world events, and he had to cancel. The entire hotel went into a panic until his cousin, Prince Leon of Saxe Coburg, booked the floor in his place. The two men looked exactly alike, just as if they were twins, so nobody could tell the difference anyway.
The kitchen was busy cooking Russian pancakes, called Bliny, dishing up black caviar, and frying up Reindeer steaks. Prince Leon, who was supposed to be German, had very Russian tastes. Alan, who was the manager of the hotel, accidently called him Prince Rudolf and his eyes twinkled but he didn’t seem to mind.
The Prince wanted to ride around London in a fancy car, preferably a Rolls Royce. Now if you have been listening to the Dutch Hotel from the beginning, you will know that Alan used to be a Chauffeur. He took a personal interest in cars, and so he went out into the mews behind the hotel where they kept the vehicles, including the Rolls which he used to drive. His children, Yogi and Nafsi came with him because they both liked cars too. They were looking for the new Chauffeur. But oddly, today, they found a man leading a horse by its bridle. He was wearing a top hat and tails. Alan assumed this was some arrangement for the Jubilee that he hadn’t heard about. The kids immediately had a different idea.
“Good morning,” Alan, called out, “Have you seen Norman?”
“I’m sorry sir, we don’t have a Norman here,” said the man with the horse.
“He’s the Hotel’s Chauffeur,” said Dad. “He also looks after the guest’s cars and valet parking. I’m the manager of the hotel. My name’s Alan. If you don’t mind me asking, who are you?”
“Why, I’m the head groom, sir. I look after the horses for the hotel.”
Alan was confused, and didn’t quite know what to say, but Yogi nudged him and whispered: “Dad, don’t you see? He’s a ghost.”
He said this because, at the Dutch Hotel, the staff from years gone by, sometimes appeared in the present. But the man seemed so alive that Alan was not ready to believe that he was a ghost. Nafsi was stroking the horse’s neck.
“He feels very real to me,” she said.
Alan thought that the mews smelt as though the horses were real too. And then he noticed another horse in his stall.
“Oh,” said Alan, “You mean to say, you aren’t here to help out with the Jubilee?
“No Sir, what Jubilee?” said the man with the horse.
“Don’t you know what a Jubilee is?” asked Yogi. “It’s when a Queen, or a king, has been on the throne for a long, long time.”
“Well young Sir, I do know what a Jubilee is. We celebrated two Jubilees here at the hotel, the golden, in 87, and the diamond, in 97.”
“I don’t recall Queen Elizabeth having a Jubilee in 1987.”
The groomsman replied:
“I’m talking about Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1887 and 1897.”
“Wow, what was that like? Tell us, what happened?” called out Nafsi.
“Oh yes, do tell us. We’re very interested in the Hotel’s rich history.”
“Rich indeed,” said the groomsman. 1887 was the most interesting. Why we had a Maharaja and his Maharani living on a whole floor with their family and servants.
“What’s a Ma-ha-raja?” asked Yogi.
“Well, he’s an Indian Prince and a Maharani is an Indian Princess.”
“Oh I see,” said Nafsi, “That makes sense. We’ve got Prince Leon staying, only he’s actually Prince Rudolf pretending to be Prince Leon, and in any case, he’s not a real prince because Russia decided to do without a Royal family a long time ago.”
“Well the Maharaja and the Maharani were a real prince and princess alright. We’ve never had such a splendid couple! He wore a white turban with a diamond as big as my fist right in the middle of it. And she was a real beauty, and they say she was a modern woman because she wasn’t in purda.”
“Purda?” asked Nafsi.
“Purda, young lady is when a woman has to go about with her whole face covered. She was a modern princess. She wore pearls and diamonds and a silk scarf over her hair. They say that back home in India, she founded a girl’s school, because she believed in women having an education. Anyway, they brought their whole family with them, and their servants, and their young elephant.”
“Their elephant! Wow, that's so cool!”
“He was quite a fellow, that elephant, even though he was just a young’un, only half grown you see. The Maharaja and the Maharani adored him like their own child. They took him for walks every day in Hyde Park. They drew some looks, I can say. And when they were off dining at Windsor Castle or Balmoral with Queen Victoria, I had to look after the bloomin’ Hathi.”
Hathi (हाथी) is the Indian name for elephant.
“I took him for walks in the park, where he drank water from the fountains, and squirted passers by from his trunk, and then every evening I had to give him a pint of sherry. Those were my orders. At least he slept like a baby.”
“That’s amazing. Dad, can we get an elephant, Please?” asked Nafsi.
“I’ll have to think about that one,” said Alan, smiling. “Thank you for the interesting history. I’ll come back later and see if Norman is back with the Rolls, not to mention our guests' cars.”
And so Alan and the kids got back to celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. They heard the booming of the 42 Gun Salute in Hyde Park. Mum and the kids went to join the crowds and see the Queen ride past in her golden carriage. Then they went back to turn on the TV and see the Red Arrows, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, fly over the Thames.
The Jubilee celebrations went on all weekend. On Sunday people were due to hold street parties in the mewses, with bunting, cakes and sandwiches.
It was half past five on Sunday morning. Alan in his sleep heard the kids calling out,
“Dad, Dad, there’s an elephant in the mews!” He thought he must be dreaming, but then he realised that he wasn’t. Nafsi was shaking his shoulder saying, “Wake up Dad! Wake up, there’s an elephant.”
Now Alan was awake he got up and grabbed his dressing gown. The kids lead him towards a window at the back of the hotel that overlooked the mews. Before he got there, he heard a terrible commotion of banging, trumpeting, and shouts. “Hathi, hathi, get back in your stall!” He looked out of the window and saw the groom they had met chasing an elephant that was running full tilt down the mews.
Dad and the kids, still dressed in their pyjamas, ran downstairs. They were in little doubt that the elephant was heading for Hyde Park, but first he had to cross Bayswater Road, which even at this early hour had plenty of traffic. They were a long way behind but they saw him almost collide with a coach called The Oxford Tube. Fortunately, the driver slammed on the brakes. He must have thought he was dreaming. They finally caught up with the elephant when he stopped to dip his trunk into the fountains of Kensington Gardens. The groom approached him saying, “Hathi, hathi, be a good boy and come home.” The elephant was not wearing any kind of halter and it was difficult to see how they would lead him. In any case, he ran off over the grass and up the hill. He was charging towards a statue of a man on a horse, and Dad thought he might knock him over, but he swerved just in time. Next he was heading towards Kensington but in his path an early morning jogger was running towards him. She was a woman wearing a baseball cap. Instead of diving out of the way though, she stood in the path of the charging young elephant holding up her hand to tell it to stop.
“Oh, no,” thought Alan, “that woman’s in for it. That elephant’s going to run her over! How will we ever explain that? Nobody will believe it was a ghost.”
But instead of stomping over the woman, the elephant slowed down and came to a halt in front of her. She stroked his neck and spoke softly to him. When the groom, followed by the kids, and last but not least, Alan, caught up, it seemed like the elephant and the woman were best friends. The elephant knelt down and she kissed his trunk.
“You certainly have a way with animals,” said Alan,still panting.
The woman looked up with a flash of her startlingly blue eyes and smiled with pearly white teeth. Alan was immediately mesmerised and lost for words, as he recognised the lady. The kids were too young to know who she was because she had passed away in 1997. The woman standing before the elephant was Diana, Princess of Wales.
And that was the Dutch Hotel’s Jubilee Elephant, written by Bertie, and read by me, Jana for Storynory.com. In a moment, Bertie’s going to be here to tell you about some of the history behind the story. But first, it’s time for me to tell you about this week’s wonderful sponsor, Wondery, and their podcast, Little Stories Everywhere.
Over to you Bertie.
Thank you Jana. There were Maharajas in various parts of India during the time when it was controlled by the British. The British stood back and let Indian rulers have quite a lot of sway over the local population. They respected the Maharajas as royalty, and invited them to Britain for special occasions. In the year 1886 Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India. It was a title she really valued and took seriously. So when she celebrated 50 years on the throne the following year, she wanted to highlight her connection with India. The cavalry who guarded her open coach through London as she waved to the crowds were Indian. Each member of the escort was later presented with a Jubilee medal by the Queen in a ceremony at Windsor Castle. She also invited several Indian Maharajas to dine with her.
The Maharaja of Cooch Behar and his Maharina were seen as very advanced for their times on social issues. The Maharina dressed more freely than many of the Indian aristocracy, and was keen on promoting Girl’s education.
The Maharaja Sayaji Rao had an elephant who carried a solid jewel-encrusted gold throne. It needed twenty-four men to lift the howdah or throne onto the elephant’s back. At the end of the day, the elephant was given a pint of sherry. I don’t think he brought the elephant to England though. I made that part up.
There’s a wonderful film starring Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria. It tells the true story of Abdul Karim, a young clerk from India, who travelled to England to present Queen Victoria with a mohur or gold coin on her Golden Jubilee. Victoria and Abdul became unlikely friends, and he taught her to speak Urdu, the language of Northern India or modern Pakistan. She loved and respected India, even though she was too old to visit it by then.
Thank you Bertie for telling us the true story behind this episode of the fictional Dutch Hotel. By the way, Raja is King in Hindi, and Rani is Queen.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!
From me Jana at Storynory.com, bye for now!