A Calcutta college degree that Elizabeth refused | Kolkata News


KOLKATA: November 1947. It had been just three months since the Dominion of India was born. The monarch still was George VI. In England, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary – the future queen – tied the knot with Duke of Edinburgh Philip Mountbatten.
Around 8,000km away, in Calcutta, the principal of a “medical college” decided to confer honorary degrees of doctor of science on the princess and the duke on the occasion of their “marriage ceremony”.
Not only that, the Chicago Medical College of Homoeopathy on RG Kar Road sent the certificates straight to Buckingham Palace, without any prior notification.
The Palace, however, was far from amused. More than a month later, Princess Elizabeth’s private secretary J R Colville wrote to Captain R Brockman, private secretary to Governor General Lord Mountbatten, apprising him of the issue. “I enclose the letters which refer to this surprising action on the part of the College. No request for acceptances had been addressed to Their Royal Highnesses, and these documents were the first information on the subject that was received,” he wrote. The Princess and her husband “were unable to accept Honorary Degrees except in very rare cases and they must therefore regretfully decline this proposal,” the letter preserved in the National Archives of India reads.
The deputy private secretary to the governor general (DPSGG), in his note, advised: “I think it would probably be better if H.E. the Governor of West Bengal was asked to handle this matter.”
On 6 February, 1948, in a letter to the private secretary to the Bengal governor, Brockman wrote: “I should be grateful if you kindly explain to the President of the Chicago Medical College of Homoeopathy that Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh must regretfully decline the degrees which had been conferred upon them by this College.”
The governor of Bengal at that time was C Rajagopalachari. His private secretary S Krishnamurti wrote back: “The Chicago Medical College of Homoeopathy is, so far as can be gathered, an institution of no consequence. I have returned the certificates to the Principal…”
The record books are silent about the reaction of Ananda Mohan Sur, principal and chairman of a “medical college” “Registered by His Majesty’s Imperial Govt of India”, which had its “registered office” at 22 RG Kar Road, Shambazar, Calcutta.



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