Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was the youngest daughter of Duleep Singh, the deposed maharajah of the Punjab. Anita Anand has chosen to write this book as Sophia’s biography, but the rich material that she has researched is really the story of her father and his family during a century of dispossession.
Duleep was the youngest son of the warlord Ranjit Singh, the ‘Lion of the Punjab’. Ranjit conquered the Punjab from the Moguls, who had ruled there since the 16th century, and established a Sikh kingdom. On his death in 1839 the Punjab dissolved into bloody civil war, and in 1843 his only surviving son, the five-year-old Duleep (four other heirs had been murdered), became maharajah, with his tough mother acting as regent (she was the daughter of Ranjit’s kennel man; love of dogs was a persistent family trait). This unstable regime was a fruit ripe for picking by the expansionist East India Company, and in 1849 the ten-year-old Duleep was deposed and forced out.