The Empress

The Empress begins in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee when Rani Das and Abdul Karim step ashore onto London’s Tilbury Docks after a long voyage from India.

One has to battle a society who deems her a second class citizen, the other forges an entanglement with the ageing Queen who finds herself enchanted by stories of an India she rules but has never seen.

The play blends the true story of Queen Victoria’s relationship with her servant and ‘Munshi’ (teacher) Abdul Karim, with the experiences of Indian ayahs who came to Britain during the 19th century.

My play The Empress follows characters from all these walks of life, interweaving their stories and looking at the personal and the political relationships of India and Britain in the heyday of British colonial rule” – Tanika Gupta (The Arts Desk)

In 2019 The Empress was added to the GCSE English Literature curriculum by Pearson Edexcel.


The Empress was directed by Emma Rice, Artistic Director of Kneehigh Theatre. It was performed at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon from the 11th of April to the 4th of May 2013.


“This fascinating new theatre production has got ‘make this into a movie’ written all over it.” The Telegraph

“Tanika Gupta’s new RSC play The Empress could be a sequel to the Oscar-winning film Mrs Brown” The Birmingham Mail

With a strong ensemble and the most beautiful use of voice and instrument, The Empress is a delightful and insightful evening – WhatsOnStage

The Empress – The Royal Shakespeare Company

The Empress Trailer

An interview with Tanika Gupta