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Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  1,052 ratings  ·  173 reviews
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 th ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published January 13th 2015 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  1,052 ratings  ·  173 reviews

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Wow, I really loved this book. All the way through, except for the very beginning, which now in retrospect I think was good. I was going to give the book four stars. By the end, I realized I had come to know Sophia so very well and I liked her so very much that I simply had to give the book five stars. I was happy that the author focused on Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh (1876 – 1948), even though any of the siblings could have been the focus of a book.

I will have to backtrack. I like So
K.J. Charles
Bio of Indian suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. This is an absolutely amazing story. Sophia was the daughter of Duleep Singh, the last maharaja of the Sikh empire who was forced to sign over his power to the British Raj as a boy. She was brought up in England, god-daughter of Queen, yet still treated like a second class citizen, and she found her purpose in fighting alongside the suffragettes. She tried her hardest to get arrested, used her power for publicity, and then when war broke ou ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Biography of Sophia Duleep Singh, granddaughter of Ranjit Singh the legendary Maharajah of the Sikh Empire, her father Duleep (Ranjit’s youngest son and the last Maharajah) was effectively the puppet ruler of the Kingdom under British governance before being deposed (having signed over the Empire and the Koh-i-Noor diamond to Queen Victoria), Anglicised and then exiled to England where he became a favourite of Queen Victoria and where Sophia was born (with Victoria as her godmother). She later b ...more
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A fascinating account of the life of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. And what a life it was... In fact, we get a whole lot more than Sophia's life as the book begins with her family background. Her grandfather was the Lion of the Punjab; her father had his heritage and wealth stolen from him by the British when just a child and was brought to England to become a favorite plaything of Queen Victoria. He grew up to be a womanizing spendthrift, surprise surprise, and his children were regarded with t ...more
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pcreads
I can't stop won't stop talking about this. A truly remarkable life, one that passed into so many significant parts of the 19th and 20th centuries. I know precious little about Indian history, but Sophia has inspired me to learn more.

Hollywood, listen up. This needs to be made into a biopic ON THE DOUBLE. Not only is it an utterly compelling story, but everyone knows you have a white people problem and a man problem (as in, too much of both). Tell Sophia Singh's story. It needs to be heard.
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it

Ranjit Singh was the last ruling emperor of the Punjab.


After his death, the British used the confusion surrounding his heirs' succession to move into the area. Most of the adult heirs died suspiciously. When it was over, the ruler of this prosperous area was an 1o year old boy, Duleep. His mother was very politically astute so the British had her exiled from the country and then forced the child-king to sign over his lands and the symbol of his rule, the Kor-i-Noor diamond.

Maharaja Duleep Singh, c 1860s

Duleep Singh
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Those suffragettes were frickin awesome.
Sophia was especially awesome. I like that she got involved in activism in her 30's. I like how she used her class privilege/ princess status to get more attention for women's rights.
Also, the British did f-ed up things in Punjab. Not a surprise.
Also also, did you know concentration camps were invented in South Africa by a British commander to use primarily against the Boers? And that Gandhi learned about hunger strikes from suffragettes in British prisons
Susan O
Initially, I didn't like this book as well as I expected to, considering the reviews I read. However, by the end of the book it was a definite 4 stars. As an Indian princess who lived most of her life in exile in England, Sophia's history necessarily begins in the Punjab in India. The beginning third of the book which gives us this background is the weakest part of the book. The final third, which describes the history of India during her lifetime and when she is finally able to return, is in my ...more
This was really fascinating! It's really not just a biography of Sophia, but also of her entire family and their tragic history with the British crown. It definitely made me realize that I know much less about the suffragette movement in the UK than I thought (Mary Poppins is not representative), and I think I'm going to be picking up some more material in that vein.

Also, because it's true, I have to say this: Queen Victoria was an asshole.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I hadn’t heard of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh until a friend gave me this book as a present. She turned out to be an absolutely fascinating historical figure. Her life intersected with the struggles for women’s suffrage and for Indian independence, neither of which I knew very much about. Indeed she linked the two by urging campaigners for Indian independence to give Indian women the vote. Sophia’s position in Victorian and 20th century Britain was highly unusual. Her father was the last Mahara ...more
Ciaran Monaghan
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it
A long and meticulously detailed history with subject matter that is much more wide-ranging than the title might suggest. Sophia Duleep Singh is simply the central character allowing Anand to document various moments in history ranging from the formation of the Punjab Sikh Empire under Ranjit Singh through to the early years of the Second World War. There are certain sections that I really enjoyed and that are really memorably written, particularly the description of the work of the Suffragettes ...more
Carolyn Harris
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating biography of a historical figure who, along with her family, deserves to be better known. Sophia Duleep Singh was the daughter of the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire and raised in Britain, with Queen Victoria as her godmother. Her father presented the Koh-I-Noor diamond to the Queen.
Sophia became a prominent British socialite, helping to set trends for cycling, dog breeding and field hockey as pursuits for fashionable young women. After visiting India, however, she developed a st
Humera Ali
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book was fascinating, and I loved reading it.

We learned about the Suffrage movement at school, and also some of the prominent figures that spearheaded the movement and pushed for progress for the advancement of women and their rights, specifically the right to vote.

However, I never learned about Sophia Duleep Singh, a princess born into Indian royalty and god-daughter to Queen Victoria.

Sophia's contributions to the Suffrage movement were extensive, part of Emmeline Pankhurst's inner circle
Sara G
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sophia Duleep Singh was the most interesting suffragette I had never heard of before. Sophia is hard to define, but to summarize she was the daughter of the last ruler of the Sikh kingdom and owner of the Koh-I-Noor Diamond, goddaughter of Queen Victoria, raised as an upper-class Englishwoman who never fit in, and finally found her place amidst Indian revolutionaries and English suffragettes. I was sorry for her for most of the book. The English government kept her and her family pretty well sup ...more
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating look at the life of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh though her early childhood, the British sufragette movement, World War I and the aftermath. I learned a lot about the British Empire as it related to India and the sufragette movement that I did not know before. Would highly recommend!
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I never heard of this family until I found this book. She is an interesting woman for her time. Although having to read a lot of the background of India was tedious and a bit confusing. But that also made me want to read more about the it.
Alaina Lightfoot
May 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Whenever I go to vote, I cry. The thought of the women who came before me and fought for what I have now, moves me to tears. Reading the legacy of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh and her place in the fight, brought it all the more close to my heart.

This book is a masterpiece and a master record of one of the most influential figures in history and her family. As someone very interested not only in history and women’s history but India and their history this book could have been made in a lab for me
Tracy Smyth
Oct 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I nearly gave this 4 stars but changed it to 5 towards the end of the book. The story was well written and kept me interested. Highly recommend it
Sep 19, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I came across this book by accident and devoured it. A slice of history - especially women's history, but also Indian history - that I've never known before. The author does an amazing job presenting both Sophia's character, and the history surrounding her, in its whole complexity. ...more
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Fascinating account of the goddaughter of Queen Victoria who was taken from India due to the ruthless British imperialism that ruled the country; someone we may never have learnt about if it wasn’t for Anita Anand , who triumphantly brings her story back into public view. A woman culturally displaced who all her life searched for meaning and a purpose. You also learn a lot about British imperialism and how India was shockingly torn apart and mistreated by the British. There’s also lots of contex ...more
Andrew Corcut
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptional book highlighting parts of British social, political and economic history through the life of Sophia Duleep Singh.

As a keen student of Indian history, I have always been appalled by much British conduct towards India and Indians. The treatment meted out to the descendants of Duleep Singh was particularly obnoxious. Initially Sophia was well received but was never viewed as being "one of us"to be able to marry, or have children here, a country which she viewed as home. As
A wonderfully written story about Sophia Duleep Singh, starting with her grandfather, a legendary early-19-century Sikh maharajah of the Punjab region of India. The story starts there and continues with internal family troubles and the British takeover of the kingdom from Sophia's preteen father, which is relevant considering how those events affect Sophia's upbrining and the way others--both British and from her family's former kingdom--treat her. It's also very well told, as is the rest of the ...more
Michalle Gould
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was excellent - I actually choked up at the end; Sophia had a hard life in many ways - a strange combination of relative privilege in some senses (the goddaughter of the Queen, with an annual income and a home in Hampton Palace) and yet a constant sense of the injustice of her family having lost their hereditary kingdom in the Punjab, a challenging family life, and the experience of being discriminated against and often even spied upon (by the British government). The author made the i ...more
Emma Rose Ribbons
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the best kind of biography - it's inspiring, riveting, interesting (in that it makes you want to pick up MORE books - did you know Gandhi had taken some of his inspiration from the suffragette movement?) and just heartwarming, to be honest. The writing style is top-notch and makes for very compulsive reading, everything from Sophia's family (wow, her father was a larger-than-life figure for sure) to her pets contribute to who Sophia was as a person and it was wonderful to read about her. ...more
Linda Lpp
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never have I read such an inspiring Biography. when I think about all the highs and lows of the Duleep Singh generations I am in awe of their strengths. This magnificent book covers major events in what would be known as Pakistan and India and Britain . Sophia was not one to sit back
She tirelessly took up many social and political issues which challenged the establishment. Reading about her life and that of her ancestors and siblings wove an incredible story, that stays in your mind long after
Suzanne Zeitouni
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Sophia Duleep Singh was a Punjabi princess and Queen Victoria’s goddaughter, trapped in a moment of British and Indian history. Her father, Maharajah Duleep Singh, was 11 when the British seized his vast Sikh empire and 15 when he was sent into exile in England. Figures forgotten in current history, this is a fascinating story of the East India Company’s vast rule over the continent and the lives of the deposed ruler’s family in Victorian England. Caught between two worlds, Sophia is a very engr ...more
Sharon Gardner
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to see Anita Anand talking about this book at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I thought it sounded fascinating and it hasn't disappointed me. I am interested in both Britain's conduct during the Raj, and women's fight for suffrage. This book covers both subjects through the story of Sophia who experienced them first hand. I learned a lot about some of the terrible crimes of the Raj, and of the personal experiences of women at the sharp end of the campaign for the vote. The book i ...more
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-travel
My bookclub is exchanging biographies for Christmas so I pulled a bunch off the shelves at Half Priced Books and then compared their goodreads reviews and this one won!
And it is good. So much happened in her life. I loved the history of Indian royalty before her. Mostly tragedy but some good points as well. I had listened to a podcast about her in 2015 and remembered a lot of her early years but not the details of her suffragette involvement (which is fascinating).
Katharine Johnson
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing story. If it was a novel it might seem a little far-fetched but it’s true, and an absolutely compelling book. It's meticulously researched but told in a novelesque way which makes it a joy to read. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in British royal history and/or the suffragettes ...more
Took a little while for me to get into this book, as the first 10% (approx) is spent setting up historical context, but once the narrative of Sophia's life started I was absolutely fascinated. A wonderful biography of an inspirational woman I cannot believe I knew nothing about till now. ...more
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Anita Anand is a British radio and television presenter, author, and journalist.

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