Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary

Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary

Anita Anand

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: 1632860813

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In 1876 Sophia Duleep Singh was born into Indian royalty. Her father, Maharajah Duleep Singh, was heir to the Kingdom of the Sikhs, one of the greatest empires of the Indian subcontinent, a realm that stretched from the lush Kashmir Valley to the craggy foothills of the Khyber Pass and included the mighty cities of Lahore and Peshawar. It was a territory irresistible to the British, who plundered everything, including the fabled Koh-I-Noor diamond.

Exiled to England, the dispossessed Maharajah transformed his estate at Elveden in Suffolk into a Moghul palace, its grounds stocked with leopards, monkeys and exotic birds. Sophia, god-daughter of Queen Victoria, was raised a genteel aristocratic Englishwoman: presented at court, afforded grace and favor lodgings at Hampton Court Palace and photographed wearing the latest fashions for the society pages. But when, in secret defiance of the British government, she travelled to India, she returned a revolutionary.

Sophia transcended her heritage to devote herself to battling injustice and inequality, a far cry from the life to which she was born. Her causes were the struggle for Indian Independence, the fate of the lascars, the welfare of Indian soldiers in the First World War--and, above all, the fight for female suffrage. She was bold and fearless, attacking politicians, putting herself in the front line and swapping her silks for a nurse’s uniform to tend wounded soldiers evacuated from the battlefields. Meticulously researched and passionately written, this enthralling story of the rise of women and the fall of empire introduces an extraordinary individual and her part in the defining moments of recent British and Indian history.

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his life: My name is George Nathaniel Curzon, I am a most superior person. My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek, I dine at Blenheim once a week.6 In an indignant blaze, Kitchener set about undermining his Viceroy with ruthless efficiency. By August 1905 the two were in furious deadlock over who should be in charge of military supplies. The standoff between the two silverbacks spilled over the frontiers of the Raj. The Secretary of State for India found himself having to arbitrate between

godmother and principal benefactor. Sophia’s father, Maharajah Duleep Singh. His youthful beauty captivated Queen Victoria. Sophia’s mother, Maharani Bamba, whose name means ‘pink’. From childhood she blushed at any attention. The Maharajah’s coat of arms, designed by Prince Albert. The motto translates: ‘to do good rather than be conspicuous’. Sophia would use the starred coronet above as her own crest. The Royal hunting party, including ‘Bertie’, the Prince of Wales (seated, sixth from

left). He was a regular visitor, as were other members of the English aristocracy. This photograph was taken at Elveden in 1876, just weeks after Sophia was born. The Maharajah’s (seated, fourth from right) increasingly extravagant lifestyle was already driving him to bankruptcy. The drawing room at Elveden Hall. The Maharajah Duleep Singh wanted his Suffolk home to look like a Moghul palace. The Maharajah’s profligacy led to squabbles with the British government over money, and increasingly he

to a painful halt, the Globe reporter was left to make his final observations alone: They visited in San Francisco the medical department of the University of California and were much pleased with what they saw. They are travelling a la Americaine – almost – with a French maid only, these princesses of the oldest and most aristocratic race known today. With a marked English accent and a decided Spanish appearance it would be indeed difficult to determine their nationality without the Hindoo

her dogs, as she was transferred to a seafront hotel for the night. The puppy provided a sad but welcome distraction. It had taken a turn for the worse sometime during the night and was clearly very ill. The next leg of Sophia’s journey would be long and arduous, taking her from Ceylon to the southern tip of India, from where she would have to make her way north to Bamba in Lahore. With heavy heart, Sophia found a local vet who agreed to take the puppy and look after him while she travelled.

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