I came across Sophia by Anita Anand whilst researching for a university paper on ‘New Women’. After reading this book, and finding out more about her, I fell a little bit in love for this wonderful woman.
Sophia was the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, and after he was dethroned he and his family were exiled to Britain. Here Sophia became a favourite of Queen Victoria, who became her God mother and gave her lavish toys and clothes, even championing her becoming a debutant.
Whilst Sophia’s regal background is interesting, Sophia was much more than a princess. Sophia raised money to build a centre for Lascars in Victoria Dock, became a social activist through the suffrage movement, and tended to wounded soldiers during the war. Sophia even accepted her sister Catherine, who fell in love with their governess Lina and moved to Germany.
Sophia’s involvement with the WSPU demonstrates her rejection of traditional values, she even sold suffragette papers outside Hampton Court, where she had a grace and favour apartment.
Anand really brought Sophia alive through her detailed writing, creating a rich, three-dimensional woman. This book shines a light onto an impressive, and very important, figure. Unlike some books on historical figures Anand is engaging, not dry or lecturing, instead she truly captures the feeling of the events and the life of Sophia.
Sophia herself had no children, but she doted on her housekeeper’s daughter, and repeatedly made the little girl promise to vote, imploring her ‘you are never, ever not to vote. You must promise me. When you are allowed to vote you are never, ever to fail to do so. You don’t realise how far we’ve come’.
An exquisite book, and a captivating woman. A must read for anyone interested in history, female suffrage and the unique women of the 20th Century.