Sophia offers an important view of the kind of history that is rarely produced; the contribution of a woman of colour (from the “colonies”) to the movement for equal representation in Britain; the space and position occupied by the families, the women, marginalized by the policy of annexation. What makes Anand’s work not only interesting, but significant, is that it offers this view in a manner that is accessible to a casual reader of history.
Sophia, by Anita Anand (Bloomsbury). Born in 1876, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was the daughter of the last maharaja of the Punjab, who had been deposed, exiled to Britain, and given an enormous allowance to dissuade him from returning to foment insurrection. Sophia had a lavish upbringing; she was a goddaughter of Queen Victoria. As an elegant, lively young woman, she was a trendsetter in everything from clothes to dog training. But by her early thirties she had joined the suffragettes, and she became a key figure in the movement. Providing a rare glimpse into imperialism’s intimate effects, this biography explores the forces that radicalized her, including an early trip to India and the British aristocracy’s refusal to countenance mixed-race unions, which prevented her from marrying. More
by Maria Misra
The television series Downton Abbey is much mocked for its anachronistic depiction of improbably progressive aristocratic life early last century. Lord Downton’s stuffy drawing room has hosted Irish Fenians, radical suffragettes, socialist parlour maids and a host of intriguing “oriental gentlemen”. But reading BBC journalist Anita Anand’s absorbing biography of Sophia Duleep Singh suggests that Downton’s creator — Julian Fellowes — has shown great restraint. For in Duleep Singh we have a figure far more improbable than any conjured up for Downton: a real-life Sikh princess; an anti-vivisectionist; a radical feminist; a friend of “extremist” nationalists — and a goddaughter of Queen Victoria.
By John Kampfner
The BBC broadcaster Anita Anand tells the beguiling story of Sophia Duleep Singh, from exile in the Suffolk country estate of Elveden to the suffragette battleground of Westminster, via various trips to her ancestors’ home. Anand vividly paints the picture of society girl turned revolutionary and her father, who spends most of his years fulminating against the British and wanly plotting against them.
Baroness Shreela Flather and Anita Anand discuss their friendship
The Telegraph – My Perfect Weekend – Profile of Anita Anand – Angela Levin more
London Evening Standard – Profile of Anita Anand – Rosamund Urwin more
Anita Anand interview – Caroline Sanderson more
BBC history magazine : What to expect from 2015 – more
The National : Fascinating story of granddaughter of Ranjit Singh – Steve Donoghue
“Anita Anand’s sparkling, wonderful new biography… It’s an extremely picturesque and fascinating story, one that Anand beautifully saves from the footnotes of history. Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary brings its strong-willed subject marvellously to life as she seeks out a purpose in the wake of the Empire.” more
Books to get excited about in 2015 – more