This book tells the little known and extraordinary true story of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh; a Suffragette princess. Born in India in 1876 she was the daughter of the last Sikh Maharajah. After the British stole her father’s kingdom her family were exiled to England where she spent her childhood. Intriguingly (perhaps suggesting an element of guilt?) Queen Victoria became Sophia’s godmother and took responsibility for the family, ensuring they had a guardian to support them, accommodation and education.
The first part of the book describes Sophia’s experiences and her upbringing – in effect as a young princess in Victorian Britain. Despite this apparent privilege she experienced great difficulties and sadness including illness, the death of her mother and younger brother, loss of her first home and her father’s abandonment of the family.
The second part of the book describes Sophia’s return to India where discontent against British rule was developing. She noticed the poverty of many of the people, and the incongruity of British architecture and statuary juxtaposed against Indian culture. Sophia decides to return to England to do what she can for the fight for independence.
The final part of the book is set in England where Sophia’s determination to make a difference develops. She is firstly drawn to help the Lascars, Indian sailors who have been stranded in England. Using her contacts, she raises money to build them a new home. After this Sophia becomes involved in the Suffragette movement attending meetings of the WSPU (The Women’s Social and Political Union). She was keen to join in and made a significant contribution to the cause working with famous names including Emmeline Pankhurst.
The Royal Rebel foregrounds the complex and significant life of a little known figure, providing a broader view of British and World history and the contribution of individuals of colour to the fight for votes for women and the buildup to Indian independence.
With publisher Barrington Stoke’s trademark cream paper and clear and carefully spaced font the format is highly accessible. Illustrated page borders defining the three parts of the story add to the attractive design.