"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." Charles Dickens, from A Tale of Two Cities.
I have always been curious to find out what Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana of Nepal might have seen and heard during his storied visit to London and Paris in 1850 A.D. The European powers, especially Great Britain, were at the zenith of their expansionist adventures overseas. The sun never set over the British Empire under Queen Victoria. France had overcome the debacle of Napoleon Bonaparte's misadventures in Europe and was content in expanding its foreign holdings and sending her colonists to Algeria.
|Paddle Steamer Indus (L) and Ripon (R)|
Almost immediately Jung Bahadur met his first challenge: British Customs wanted to check all the personal effects of Jung and his brothers. Jung was furious. On whose authority did the British dare to rifle through his personal effects, after all wasn't he the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the monarch of the independent Kingdom of Nepal invited by the British Queen? The authorities soon relented and gave his entourage a waiver in light of the diplomatic faux pas a stand-off might have generated: Jung had threatened to turn around and head for France!
|Richmond Terrace circa 1850 A.D.|
|Jung and his brothers|
Buckingham Palace had just been completed and Queen Victoria was the first monarch to live there. Jung was discomfited by the news that the queen had just delivered a son and she was going to spend a few more weeks resting before giving an audience to the Nepalese prime minister. Jung was impatient to meet the famous monarch who reigned over half the world.
|Queen Victoria and Prince Arthur in a painting|
Napoleon Bonaparte was the man most admired by Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana. If the British back-stabbed him, he could always seek support of the French as he knew that there was no love lost between the two empire builders. That is the reason why from the inception of his grand voyage he had kept France in his itinerary. France had lost its hero, Jung reflected, just as Nepal had lost another - Bhimsen Thapa his maternal grand-uncle. Now he was being hosted by the hero's own nephew Louis Bonaparte, the president of France. The proximity to Bonaparte thrilled Jung to the core of his being.
|Louis Napoleon as President|
|Emperor Napoleon III|
|Jung Bahadur being welcomed by the French President|