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Gift of the Mahatma

It was over 50 years ago that a handwoven cotton tablecloth from India reached the English shores to become one of Queen Elizabeth's proud possessions.

The piece, made of yarn, was spun by no less a person than Mahatma Gandhi. It was his marriage gift to her.

Lord Mountbatten, the then viceroy of India, and his wife Lady Edwina personally delivered the gift to the young princess Elizabeth.

At one of their several meetings during the eventful days of the freedom movement, Mountbatten had informed Gandhi about the marriage, saying Philip, the young man to whom the princess was betrothed, was like a son to him. He requested the Mahatma to write a few words of blessings to the couple.

On November 9, 1947, Gandhi sent his gift to Mountbatten along with a letter saying, ''This little thing is made of double yarn of my spinning. The knitting was done by a Punjabi girl. Please give the bride and the bridegroom this with my blessings.''

Today, the tablecloth is among the queen's marriage gifts exhibited at St James palace.

In the Collected Works of Gandhi, the Mahatma mentions that Mountbatten, on his return after the royal marriage, informed him (Gandhi) that the princess was touched by his kind gesture and said she would preserve it as a precious souvenir.


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