The Royal Rebel: The Life of Suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh; Bali Rai, illustrated by Rachael Dean
When I think of the suffragette movement one name springs to mind, Emmeline Pankhurst. Now, whilst this is by no means a bad thing, I am fully aware that the movement was much bigger than just one woman and this latest historical biographical narrative from Barrington Stoke explores the life of a lady who was at heart of the campaign for women having the right to vote.
The daughter of the last Maharaj of the Sikh empire in India, Sophia Duleep Singh was born royal. Growing up in England, she appeared to have everything she could ever want. Surrounded by her family, exotic animals and servants her life seemed grand but all was not well. Colonial British rule was changing India and its people, and far away from his homeland the Maharaj and his family were beginning to feel the consequences of their earlier actions.
Feeling like an outsider and struggling to feel at home in England, an eye-opening trip to India would see Sophia return with fire in her belly and a desire to fight for change in whatever way she could. The royal was ready to turn rebel…
Princess by name, royal rebel by nature. Wow, this is such a remarkable story and one that needs to be shared with readers of all ages. Sophia's story is one of a determined woman who, driven by injustice and wronging, challenged authority to improve the lives of others. What makes her story so special and significant is that her actions and experiences are rarely associated with someone of her status and it is an interesting insight into how the impact of colonial British rule on India affected the life of one woman and her family.
Sophia led such an interesting life and in a relatively short read, Bali Rai fits in a lot of historical detail. Told in three sections that chronicle the various and significant moments in Sophia’s life, Rai transports readers from her privileged upbringing amongst the aristocrats of England, to the streets of Lahore, India, and back to England and fighting on the frontline for women’s rights.
It was fascinating to learn how this royal princess who seemed to have everything, including the Queen of England as her godmother, found herself struggling to fit in and finding a place to call home. Despite being a princess, Sophia’s life is so utterly relatable as Rai portrays a young girl who experienced much family heart-break, a young woman trying to understand her place within society and the world, and ultimately a woman fighting for what she believed in - helping others and making a difference. Her story is one of bravery and courage and doing what you believe in. Even though she had a royal title, she did not shy away from being part of the fight and she achieved much in her life.
This book would be perfect for children who are learning about the suffragette movement and the history of the British empire and I strongly recommend googling Sophia Duleep Singh to find out more - I spent an enjoyable couple of hours learning more about her life and I thank Bali Rai for bringing her to my attention. Insightful, important, empowering and to steal a line from the book, ‘who doesn’t like a story about a revolutionary princess.’
True to Barrington Stoke form, the book is produced using dyslexic friendly font and colours ensuring a read that is accessible to every reader. Rachael Dean provides the black and white vignettes as well as the striking cover artwork. Huge thanks to the peeps at Barrington Stoke for this fascinating historical book.
Recommended for 9+.