Prominent suffragette campaigner Princess Sophia Duleep Singh commemorated by English Heritage
Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, suffragette, daughter of the last Maharajah of the Punjab, and goddaughter to Queen Victoria, has been commemorated with a blue plaque by English Heritage, the charity announced on 26 May. The plaque will mark Faraday House, which was granted to Princess Sophia and her sisters as a grace and favour apartment in Hampton Court by Queen Victoria.
Anna Eavis, Curatorial Director at English Heritage, said: “Princess Sophia was a fascinating and important figure, but her story was not at all well known in the decades following her death. I’m delighted that interest in her has grown in recent years. English Heritage hopes that our blue plaque will help ensure that she’s firmly established in the pantheon of great campaigners for women’s suffrage.”
Anita Anand, Journalist, writer and biographer of Sophia Duleep Singh, said: “As a political journalist, I thought I knew the story of the suffragettes, and then I found this extraordinary woman and she blew me away. As the last princess of the Sikh Empire, goddaughter of Queen Victoria, society darling and fashion icon, a life of comfort and celebrity was hers for the taking, but she chose a harder path. Using her international fame and influence, putting herself in physical danger, she fought for the rights of women to vote. Campaigning with unrelenting ferocity, loyalty and selflessness, she moved the dial. I am delighted to see her commemorated by English Heritage here today.”
Named after another former resident, the eminent physicist Michael Faraday (1791–1867), Faraday House was Princess Sophia’s main residence for over four decades. Furnished to her luxurious taste, the house – or ‘Apartment 41’, to give it its grace-and-favour title – was Princess Sophia’s base during the many years she campaigned for women’s suffrage.
Drovna Oxley, goddaughter to Princess Sophia, said: “I remember my godmother Princess Sophia telling me about the suffragettes and how women weren’t always allowed to vote as we walked through the gardens at Hampton Court together. And then, as a child, I made a solemn vow to her that I would always exercise my right to vote, and I always have.”
Uniquely spanning the two very different worlds of the British court and the movement for women’s suffrage, Princess Sophia made full use of her royal title and public persona. She dared the authorities to punish her as she shrewdly chose which political protests to attend, ones they could not ignore, and her tenancy at Faraday House was not without controversy. A much-publicised photograph of her selling The Suffragette paper outside Hampton Court Palace led to her eviction from the property being discussed in court and government circles, though the idea was eventually dismissed, as it would have brought George V into the suffrage debates. The house was also raided by bailiffs seeking redress for her non-payment of taxes after she joined the Women’s Tax Resistance League (WTRL) in 1911.
Other campaigners for women’s rights commemorated by the London Blue Plaques Scheme include Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst, Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett and Caroline Norton. English Heritage has also recently marked the headquarters for The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).
The English Heritage London Blue Plaques scheme is generously supported by members of the public.