Sophia Duleep Singh… Princess and Suffragette
Dear Princess Sophia Duleep Singh:
If only you had been included in the Suffragettes film. After all, you led the 1910 ‘Black Friday’ riot together with Emmeline Pankhurst, and were elected to replace her as President of the Suffragette Fellowship following her death in 1928. You were a well-known and hugely influential figure in the campaign for women’s suffrage. As an actual princess, you combined royalty with revolutionary spirit as you cried “votes for women!” and sold copies of The Suffragette out of an old satchel while wrapped up in furs outside your home of Hampton Court Palace, gifted to you by your godmother Queen Victoria.
You deserve your own film, really. Women’s suffrage owes you a lot.
Much Love, Mookychick xxx
Best known for:
Being Queen Victoria’s god-daughter and refusing to pay taxes on a number of things including her carriage, servants and the dogs she bred, being a firm believer in “no taxation without representation” and being a leading member of the Women’s Tax Resistance League.
Least known for:
Unfortunately, not nearly enough people know what an influential suffragette she was. And she was.
“Taxation without representation is a tyranny… I am unable to pay money to the state, as I am not allowed to exercise any control over its expenditure.” Princess Sophia’s reply in court, on being charged with refusal to pay licence fees and rates.
“Can anything be done to stop her?” Sir William Connington, speaking about Princess Sophia Duleep Singh on espying a photo of her in The Suffragette. Short answer, no.
A brief history of Sophia Duleep Singh:
Princess Sophia was the child of exiled Maharaja Duleep Singh and Maharani Bamba Muller. She was god-daughter to Queen Victoria (who was very fond of her, and gave her a house in Hampton Court). Supported by the goodwill of Queen Victoria, Princess Sophia was introduced to high society as a debutante, along with her sisters Princess Bamba and Princess Catherine.
After her father’s death, Princess Sophia made a secret visit to India in 1907, where she came into eye-opening contact with poverty, inequality and the concept of Indian independence. The experience had a major and lasting effect on her, as she went on to become a militant activist for women’s rights in 1909. She believed in forceful protest as well as vocally supporting the movement – in fact, she once tried to fall in front of Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith’s car, holding a poster which read “Give women the vote!”
Princess Sophia combined her valuable work for women’s suffrage with an equal passion for Indian independence. She successfully arranged a flag-day for Indian troops in 1918, and on her second visit to India in 1919, which boosted activism for women’s suffrage there, she was mobbed by friendly crowds who had come to see her.
It was when Princess Sophia was helming the Committee of the Suffragette Fellowship as its president that royal consent was given to the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 (which enabled women over 21 to vote in an equal manner to men).
Princess Sophia could have happily lived in privilege all her life, but sought instead to forcefully challenge inequality both in England and India. Her lifetime achievements are extraordinary. We owe her an awful lot. She seems like a wonderfully impassioned person who knew how to fun, too. When we’re not picturing her marching and protesting, we fondly imagine her dressed in Edwardian finery while swooping around London on her beloved “Columbia Model 41 Ladies’ Safety Bicycle”…