Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was considered a danger to the state and was heavily monitored
She loved parties, pets, and she was fabulously well known as the goddaughter of Queen Victoria who lived in a royal apartment of grace and favour.
But Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was also a suffragette, thereby labeling the state as a danger.
Surveillance files collected on Duleep Singh will be shown at the British Library for the first time next year as part of its spring show exploring the history of women’s rights struggle.
The library announced details of a display that will include about 180 items, many of which will be shown for the first time, including poems that Sylvia Pankhurst wrote in her second jail spell on rough jail toilet paper.
Curator Polly Russell said it was a huge and timely subject. “We’re trying to tell a really big story and connect this current moment of activism to the history,” she added.
As an active member of the Women’s Tax Resistance League and the Women’s Social and Political Union, Duleep Singh, the daughter of an exiled Indian maharaja, lived in a royal apartment at the Hampton Court Palace.
This made her a trouble and the police watched her closely. The library contains surveillance files for Duleep Singh, some called political and “secret department”from 1902 to 1920.
A note from April 1913 records a phone conversation from a prominent politician to the office of Lord Crewe, the then State Secretary for India, asking if anything could be done to “stop her.”
A civil servant writes that Duleep Singh does not have a financial hold. They write. “It is for the king to say whether her conduct is such as should call for her eviction from the lodging she now enjoys in Hampton Court by his majesty’s favour,”
Russell said that the documents gave “a sense of how unsettled people are … by her, but also by the whole of the suffrage. It was seen as a real problem for the state.”
Sylvia Pankhurst, who served sentences in Holloway Prison in 1913 and 1921, was one of the most famous suffragettes.
The exhibition will show examples of poems of sedition penned by Pankhurst on toilet paper during her second prison spell.
Russell said, “It speaks to this kind of insistence to be heard, even when you are in prison,” Russell added: “It has a slightly The Handmaid’s Tale feel to it.”


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