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.
©2015 Anita Anand (P)2014 Audible Inc.
This is a fascinating book, filled with historical detail and yet not dull.
The history of India, and the story of this little known woman who lived such an interesting life.
No but I would like to...
A wonderful book, beautifully read, so interesting and informative! Thank you!
Well-researched and personal. Provides an affectionate insight into a fascinating family without putting them on a pedestal. They are shown, warts and all, against the backdrop of destructive British colonialism and caught in a web of painful politics and injustice. It is impossible not to be angered by this history and while neither Sophia nor her siblings are perfect, they are incredibly inspiring, without being cliché.
I am a linguist fascinated by anything and everything, especially things that are a bit German or Indian or have something to do with a cat!
This is an incredible story. This is a book about a kingdom annexed by the British, a disposed King who looses his sense of self, Princesses and Princes who are spied on by the British, even though they are themselves British, and a Princess who rebels in the name of equality. There are also Indian Nationalists and Suffragettes, and some of their politics too. Anita Anand's work gives a really strong sense that these are real people with her clever use of research. I actually found myself relating a lot to the young Sophia, with her love of fashion, travel and dogs.
I really enjoyed the personal recollections of Princess Sophia herself. During her first visit to India she kept a diary and the author recounts the Princess's experiences beautifully using Sophia's own words. I also appreciated that the book is in three parts, as I had no prior knowledge of the Duleep Singh family. The first part gives a brief history of the Sikh Kingdom, and of Ranjit Singh, and his son Duleep (who was Sophia's father). I found this background history very useful as opposed to just going straight to Sophia herself. I also enjoyed hearing about the lives of Sophia's brothers and sisters.
There are quite a few and I wouldn't want to spoilt anything by giving too much away. I did laugh when the young house maids hid Sophia's pet tortoise so they could have some time off!
I wonder what Sophia and her family would have thought if they knew just how involved the British government had been in all their lives, the subtle impact is quite chilling. After reading this book I feel strongly that Sophia and her family should never be forgotten (something I fear the government would have liked all to well).
Local Government Officer, listens to audiobooks whilst commuting, loves Biographies of quintessentially English eccentrics.
Slow starting and starchy. I nearly gave up on the book and then became gripped by the fascinating and uncomfortable explanation of the British stripping India of it's wealth and to make matters worse, the appalling treatment of Indias heirs. Full of interesting information. Slows down through the sufferegette section. On balance, a good read.
This audiobook is one of the best audiobook I have read so far.
Anita Anand explained the historical events, of how Maharajah Duleep Singh was brought to Britain, his relationship with Queen Victoria, and his realisation of how he had been duped, with great detail. I particularly liked learning about the background details of the sufferegette movement.
I have not liatened to any other performances by Tania Todrigues.
Sophia, princess without a kingdom.
I found this story very gripping and couldn't wait to get back to it. The subject, Sophia was like an exotic bird confined in a glass cage , finding difficulty making sense of the outside world.
"Sophia the Suffraget"
This was a fascinating story about an Indian Princess who was also a Suffraget. However I did find the story slow until it reached the section about her political activism - about half way through. The story felt rather pedantic and I would have preferred a more generous interpretation of the historical facts. However, worth reading and a good book to return to as I believe that knowing more about this woman would have made me more attentive to details of her earlier life .
"Filled in some gaps: Indian independence/British s"
After a visit to India last year I've been reading about people, cultures. This book provides a fascinating look at just one woman, her family, her culture and her fascinating connection to British aristocracy. Especially interested in both the history of her father's 'abdication' and its aftermath as well as such figures as Annie Besant, who established a Theosophical Society community in Ojai, California, which exists today on Krotona Hill associated with Krishnamurti Fndn. Alan Hooker of Ranch House Restaurant fame was an early disciple.
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