The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Viceroys of India

Past display archive
23 April - 16 December 2012

Room 23: case display


In the eyes of Lady Curzon, writing in 1898, the office of Viceroy of India was ‘the greatest position in the English world next to the Queen and Prime Minister’. This coveted, yet dangerous, role, with its highly unusual, quasi-royal character, had come into being in the aftermath of the Indian Uprising, when Queen Victoria was declared sovereign of British India in 1858. With this statutory change, her representative in the subcontinent was elevated from the bureaucratic title of Governor-General to the majestic one of Viceroy.

Over the next eighty-nine years, twenty four men were called upon to embody the role of Viceroy. Each brought their individual character to bear on the task of performing royalty in the name of the British monarch, using the regal practices of the Mughals. Focusing on a selection of portraits relating to key moments in the Viceroy era, this display explores the changing characteristics of the role. Looking to mark the involvement of Indian protagonists, it ends with Henri Cartier-Bresson’s jubilant image of the departure of the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, in the presence of India’s new Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Visit From Your Armchair

Self-portrait as My Father from the series Encounter  by Silvia Rosi © Silvia Rosi

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

An online exhibition celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.

Visit now

Hold Still

Hold Still

Explore our community photography project, which presents a personal record of the UK during lockdown.

Explore the exhibition

Margaret Thatcher by Spitting Images Productions Ltd painted plastic, 1985

Sculptures in 360°

See sculptures and fascinating objects from our Collection from all angles.

View the 360s

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

Watch highlights from our special exhibition, which had to close early in March 2020 due to lockdown.

See the video