Sophia Duleep Singh

Other names: 

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh

Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh


Elveden, Suffolk
IP24 3TA
United Kingdom
52° 23' 6.7776" N, 0° 41' 13.2648" E
Hampton Court Green, Surrey
United Kingdom
51° 23' 28.986" N, 0° 20' 41.784" W
Date of birth: 
08 Aug 1876
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
22 Aug 1948
Location of death: 
Buckinghamshire, England

Elveden Hall, Norfolk (childhood home)

Faraday House, Hampton Court (home during adulthood)

Richmond (location for Suffrage meetings)

'Rathenrae', Penn, Buckinghamshire (home where she died)

Golders Green (where she was cremated)


Sophia Duleep Singh was the fifth child of six children of the Maharaja Duleep Singh. Her father became the Maharaja of Punjab in 1843 when he was aged just five years old, but the Punjab was subsequently annexed in 1849. The Maharaja, of Sikh background, converted to Christianity and eventually settled in England, becoming a naturalized British citizen and receiving a British pension. Sophia's mother, Bamba Müller, came from German and Ethiopian ancestry. The family settled in Elveden Hall in Norfolk where Sophia was born in 1876. In 1896, Queen Victoria gave Sophia 'Faraday House' in Hampton Court as a 'grace and favour' home, and it is here that she lived for most of her adult life. Sophia was a keen cyclist and fond of her three dogs - she showed her pets at Ladies Kennel Association shows.

Sophia was highly involved in the patronage of Indians in Britain, such as in the establishment of the Lascars' Club in the East End of London. Her main focus of activity, however, was in the women's suffrage movement. She had joined the Women's Social and Political Union at the home of Una Dugdale and became an active campaigner at the Richmond, Surrey, branch of the WSPU. On 18 November 1910, she took part in the first deputation to the House of Commons, 'Black Friday', with Emmeline Pankhurst, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and others. Sophia joined the Tax Resistance League (WTRL). She refused to pay taxes on the principle that women should not have to pay taxes when they did not have the vote to determine the use of those taxes. This stance led to various fines where jewellery was impounded but then bought back in auction by members of the WTRL. These actions created a high profile stand for the women's movement.

Sophia was also involved in bringing attention to the contribution of Indian soldiers in the First World War. Sophia visited wounded Indian soldiers in Brighton. She organized Flag Days to raise money for wounded soldiers - the first of which was on 19 October 1916 at Haymarket - where British and Indian women sold Indian flags decorated with elephants, stars or other objects. Sophia also entertained Indian soldiers who were part of a peace contingent at her home in Hampton Court in September 1919. Sophia joined the Suffragette Fellowship after World War One and remained a fellow until her death. During the Second World War, Sophia evacuated London and her home in Hampton Court to live in the village of Penn in Buckinghamshire, in a bungalow named 'Rathenrae'.


E. J. Beck, K. Chowdry (founder of Lascar Club), Charlotte DespardMillicent Garrett Fawcett, Mithan Lam, Emmeline Pankhurst, John Pollen, Mrs N. C. Sen, Maharaja Duleep Singh (Father), Frederick Duleep Singh (brother), Catherine Duleep Singh (sister), Victor Duleep Singh (brother), Herabai Tata, Queen Victoria, Ada Wright.

British Dominions Woman Suffrage Union, Women's Social and Political Union, Women's Tax Resistance League.


Asiatic Review

Indian Magazine and Review

The Sketch (1896)

The Suffragette

The Times

Votes for Women

Secondary works: 

Alexander, Michael and Anand, Sushila, Queen Victoria's Maharajah: Duleep Singh 1838-1893 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980)

Bance, Peter, The Duleep Singhs: The Photograph Album of Queen Victoria’s Maharajah (Stroud: Sutton Publishing Ltd, 2004)

Crawford, Elizabeth, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (London: UCL Press, 1999)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain. 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Visram, Rozina, 'Duleep Singh, Princess Sophia Alexandra (1876–1948)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []


Letter from Princess Sophia Duleep Singh to Nancy Grant, from Faraday House, 29 April 1911. Autograph Collection, 9/01 Women's Suffrage, Women's Library, London Metropolitan University


Sophia is responding to an invitation to a Suffrage meeting in Richmond at which Nancy Grant has requested that she speak a few words to support their resolution.


I will come on the 9th to the meeting with pleasure. I hope you have found someone else to support the resolution, if not I will do so, but very much prefer not to, + I shall only say about 5 words!


This letter reveals not only Sophia's intimate involvement with the Richmond Women's Suffrage Movement, but also her fear of public speaking, which is evident in other letters. Despite her fears, Sophia did take up an extremely high profile stand for female suffrage in Britain.

Archive source: 

Papers of Maharaja Duleep Singh and children, Mss Eur E377, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Correspondence in Sandhwalia Family Papers (private)

Letter from a Sikh soldier describing her visit at Milford-on-sea, Mss Eur F143/91, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Suffragette Fellowship Collection, Museum of London, London 

Letters to Miss Newsome and Nancy Grant, Autograph Collection, Women's Library, London Metropolitan University, London