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Sophia Duleep Singh – The Indian Suffragette

Sophia Duleep Singh – The Indian Suffragette

Sophia Duleep Singh was the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh and the Granddaughter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Born in 1876 in England Sophia was raised in a middle class environment and enjoyed the wealth of her father and lived in Elveden Hall. She was the god daughter of Queen Victoria and one of seven children that her mother Maharani Bambi gave birth to. When her father deceased her family were forced to leave their luxury estate and move to London due to family debts. In 1894 her god mother (Queen Victoria) came to the rescue and provided them a home at the edge of Hampton Court. This transformed Sophia’s life from a shy rural person to a media frenzy socialite. She would experience high society for the first time and enjoy attending exclusive parties and lavish occasions. She became a household name as the media constantly wrote about the princess of Punjab residing in London.

Sophia decided to travel back to India (Punjab) to discover her history & heritage and to gain an understanding about her past. The British were concerned that she may cause a Sikh uprising, but then allowed her to travel to India. Upon arriving in the Punjab she realised how unhappy people were under British occupancy and how immense her grandfather was as a leader and champion for the people. It was at this moment that she realised what her blood line meant and the influence of her grandfather would have on her. Her grandfather’s practice of equality ignited her inner Sikh warrior power and this became the turning point of her life.

Arriving back to London, Sophia decided to give up on her passive past and embraced her ancestry heritage as the Sikh princess, the granddaughter of the mighty Shere of Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

After female oppression suffered by her sisters, she decided to take a political stance for the fight for equality. Sophia was drawn to the WSPU (Women for Social & Political Union) led by Emily Pankhurst. One afternoon in an unusual political move 12 of the most prominent suffragettes marched to House of Parliament only to be met by hundreds of policemen who brutally and physically stopped the march. This had a profound effect on Sophia realising that her rights as a UK citizen were limited due to her gender. This outraged her and she decided to write to the Home secretary Winston Churchill. Churchill was outraged, embarrassed, and annoyed that someone of her standing in society would write to him about women’s rights. Due to the lack of response from Churchill, Sophia decided to take evasive action. Her next move was to target the prime minister by jumping in front of his car on his way to the state opening of parliament. This led to the arrest of Sophia. The government did not want another scandal on their hands so they were forced to release the granddaughter of the queen without any charges. Her life was dedicated to the rights of women and equality. She never stopped her campaign against the government until women were given the right to vote and be equal in society. On the 22nd August 1948 Sofia died and it was her final wish to be cremated like a Sikh and her ashes spread in her former grandfather’s Kingdom the Punjab. This wish was never implemented and she was buried next to her father in Thetford.

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