Sophia Duleep Singh: Suffragette Indian princess commemorated with blue plaque

English Heritage ceremony takes place outside former home in Hampton Court, south-west London

The blue plaque commemorating Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, daughter of the last ruler of the Sikh empire and suffragette, at Faraday House, Hampton Court, south-west London. PA
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A blue plaque honouring a suffragette Indian princess was unveiled at her former London home on Friday.

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, daughter of the last ruler of the Sikh empire, goddaughter to Queen Victoria and a campaigner for female enfranchisement, was commemorated by English Heritage at Faraday House, Hampton Court, in south-west London.

In the Women’s Social and Political Union, the women-only political movement and militant group led by Emmeline Pankhurst, she used her status and wealth as a member of the Punjabi royal family to support the cause for gender equality.

Film director Gurinder Chadha, actress Meera Syal, Prof Helen Pankhurst – the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst – Sikh historian and writer Peter Bance and Lord Singh of Wimbledon were among the guests who attended Friday's ceremony.

Anita Anand, author of Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, said Ms Singh was owed “a debt of gratitude”, because her courage eventually gave women the right to vote in Britain.

“She was one of those bloody-minded women who never do what they are supposed to do,” said Ms Anand.

“Women’s history falls through the cracks and women of colour plummet through them.”

Ms Singh lived in Faraday House, in a grace and favour apartment granted by Queen Victoria in 1896, with her sisters Bamba and Catherine.

Her early childhood in Suffolk, east England, had been turbulent, with her father, Maharaja Duleep Singh abandoning his young family to live in Paris, and her mother Bamba Muller suffering with alcoholism.

In their parents’ absence the sisters grew up in Folkestone and Brighton, on the south coast of England, with their guardian Arthur Craigie Oliphant and his family, before moving to Faraday House as adults.

Ms Singh would sell copies of The Suffragette newspaper at her pitch outside Hampton Court Palace, and threw a suffragette poster with the slogan “Give women the vote!” at prime minister Herbert Asquith’s car at the state opening of Parliament in 1911.

As a member of the Women’s Tax Reform League, a movement which refused to pay various taxes, insurances and licence fees under the motto “No Vote, No Tax”, Ms Singh was summoned to court several times and fined for abstaining from personal licences on jewellery, dogs and a carriage.

Ms Singh attended “Black Friday” on November 18, 1910, when more than 300 suffragettes marched from Caxton Hall, in Westminster, central London, to Parliament Square and demanded to see Mr Asquith, the prime minister.

The demonstration descended into violence when Mr Asquith refused to see the suffragettes, and police assaulted the women who refused to leave.

Ms Singh resisted the police during the fighting, even rescuing one woman from an officer.

Beyond her campaigning for women’s enfranchisement, she also supported the Indian Women’s Education Association in London.

She volunteered during both world wars, nursing Indian soldiers in the First World War and housing evacuees during the Second World War.

Updated: May 26, 2023, 5:58 PM