I’d never really heard of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh before coming across journalist Anita Anand’s biography of her (Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary), but what a fascinating story her life is!…
Anand tells the story of Sophia’s life in a vivid and engaged manner and the book is packed with background information and historical and geographical detail. Its main subject may be a Princess Suffragette but above all this is a moving story of displacement and exile, of identity and history.
In a few months’ time, I shall be casting my vote in the general election. I’ve never missed the opportunity to do so and will be proud to stand in that queue, 97 years after the first British women were allowed to vote following the Representation of the People Act in 1918.
Indeed, the sacrifice of women, some of whom risked their lives to give me that vote, makes the attitude of those who tell me ”not to bother’’ as insulting as it is stupid. But while some suffragettes have passed into legend – think Emily Wilding Davison, or Emmeline Pankhurst – many others have been lost to history.
One such woman is Sophia Duleep Singh…
The tale of how this physically diminutive princess transformed from delicate society debutante to passionate activist is detailed in an engrossing new biography by the journalist Anita Anand, Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary. Sophia’s life was extraordinary—one of those stories that begs for a gifted storyteller like Anand. There is never a dull moment as the book races from the sordid history of her family’s demise to her increased advocacy on the topics of suffrage and India. The book is a reminder that many interesting historical figures are still waiting to have their stories told.
Anita Anand uncovers the remarkable story of Maharaja Duleep Singh’s daughter Sophia who turned a suffragette in England and a revolutionary in India..
I am often asked how I found Sophia but honestly, she found me. I was on maternity leave in 2010 and to keep my brain awake, I read voraciously in the short windows between my son’s naps. One morning, as I turned the pages of a local magazine I was transfixed by a single image my tired mind could not explain. It showed a brown-skinned woman dressed as an Edwardian lady , selling copies of a militant suffragette newspaper outside `her home at Hampton Court Palace’. She looked Indian. My curiosity was further stoked when I discovered that her surname was Singh, my name too by marriage. I tugged on a thread, and an avalanche of a story landed on me. Princess Sophia Duleep Singh would take me on one of the greatest journalistic adventures of my life…
It was like a hunt for a missing person where the clues were buried under dust and the most of the witnesses were dead…
Everyone knows about the guts, glory and grandeur of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Lion of Punjab. People also know about the life of his son Maharaja Duleep Singh, who lived in obscurity after he was exiled to Britain at the age of 15 and died alone in Paris at 55.
However, not much was known about Duleep Singh’s children, especially his sixth child, Sophia, until Anita Anand, a broadcast journalist in London, happened to come across a photograph of a suffragette selling newspapers outside Hampton Court in a local magazine that completely took her by surprise.