Indira Devi

Locations

512a Nell Gwynn House
Sloane Avenue, Kensington
London, SW3 3AU
United Kingdom
51° 29' 32.2476" N, 0° 9' 56.736" W
Hepatica Cottage Ivinghoe Aston, LU7 9DQ
United Kingdom
51° 51' 14.0472" N, 0° 37' 5.5308" W
Other names: 

Maharajkumari Indira Devi of Kapurthala, The Radio Princess, Indira of Kapurthala

1
Date of birth: 
26 Feb 1912
City of birth: 
Kapurthala
Country of birth: 
India
Date of death: 
01 Sep 1979
Location of death: 
Ibiza
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1935
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1935-68

2
About: 

Maharajkumari Indira Devi was born on 26 February 1912 to Maharaja Paramjit Singh and Maharani Brinda of Kapurthala. She left India for Britain in 1935 at the age of twenty-three. Only her sisters Princesses Sushila and Ourmilla knew of her intentions. In England she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London with a view to becoming a movie star. While she did not fulfil this ambition, she managed to work briefly with Alexander Korda at London Films, who wanted to launch her as his next big star after Merle Oberon. However the difficulties of the film industry in the late 1930s meant she did not get her big break in the movie business.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, Indira Devi successfully passed the St John Ambulance examination and drove motor ambulances during air raids. She also worked for a while as a postal censor. She joined the BBC in 1942 and became known as the ‘Radio Princess’. She hosted a half-hour radio programme in Hindustani for Indian forces stationed in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. She broadcast the programme 'The Debate continues', a weekly report to India on the proceedings in the House of Commons, where she was the only woman in the Press Gallery. She broadcast many talks series for the Indian Section of the Eastern Service Division. She also broadcast on the Home Service. She was offered a permanent contract with the Overseas Service Division in 1943. She continued to work for the BBC until 1968. Princess Indira died in Ibiza, Spain in September 1979.

3
Published works: 

The Revenge of the Gods: A Story of Ancient Egypt (London: The Eastern Press, 1928)

Secondary works: 

Bance, Peter, The Sikhs in Britain: 150 Years of Photographs (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2007)

Orwell, George (ed.), Talking to India (London: Allen and Unwin, 1943)

4
Archive source: 

BBC Written Archives Centre, Caversham Park, Reading