By: Pramod Thomas
Sophia Duleep Singh, the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh – the last ruler of the Sikh empire – and the goddaughter of Queen Victoria, is to be honoured with a commemorative Blue Plaque in London.
Princess Sophia was among the leading suffragettes who fought for women’s right to vote in 1900s Britain.
The Blue Plaque scheme, run by the English Heritage charity, honours the historic significance of particular buildings associated with historical figures and its 2023 cohort includes the 19th-century home of the British Indian Princess.
“Daughter of the deposed Maharajah Duleep Singh, who already has a plaque in Holland Park (London), and goddaughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was an active suffragette and made full use of her royal title to generate support for female enfranchisement,” notes English Heritage in its Blue Plaque announcement this week.
“She was a dedicated member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and the Women’s Tax Resistance League (WTRL). The plaque will mark the large house near Hampton Court Palace which was granted to Sophia and her sisters as a grace and favour apartment by Queen Victoria in 1896,” it notes.
British Indian writer Anita Anand, the author of ‘Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary’, expressed her excitement at the historical heroine being recognised with a Blue Plaque.
“Princess Sophia Duleep Singh will finally get the recognition she deserves,” said Anand.
It is among six new plaques unveiled for the year, including fellow suffragette Emily Wilding Davison’s home in Kensington in London and violinist and composer Yehudi Menuhin’s six-storey house in Belgravia, where he lived for the last 16 years of his life.
Others include anti-racism activist Claudia Jones, London’s first female Mayor Ada Salter and Pre-Raphaelite model Marie Spartali Stillman.
“Every year, English Heritage’s blue plaques offer a glimpse of the very best of human achievement,” said William Whyte, architectural historian and Professor of Social and Architectural History at Oxford University, who takes over as the new Chair of the Blue Plaques Panel at English Heritage.
“In my first year as Chair of the panel, I am particularly excited to recognise so many who fought for what they believed in. From Emily Wilding Davison, who famously died for her cause, to Claudia Jones, whose life-long struggle for social justice helped inspire the Notting Hill Carnival, these are people who made a difference and it’s an honour to play a part in making sure that their contributions are remembered,” he said.
Last year, to coincide with the 75th anniversary celebrations of Indian Independence, the south London home where Dadabhai Naoroji lived for around eight years at the end of the 19th century was commemorated with a Blue Plaque.
The prominent member of the Indian freedom struggle and Britain’s first Indian parliamentarian, often referred to as the “grand old man of India”, is reported to have moved to Washington House, 72 Anerley Park, Penge, Bromley, at a time when his thoughts were turning increasingly towards full independence for India in 1897.
That red-brick home now has a plaque which reads: “Dadabhai Naoroji 1825-1917 Indian Nationalist and MP lived here”. He is among several Indian freedom struggle leaders commemorated with plaques, including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.