Two YEARS AGO William Dalrymple's White Mughals restored romance to Britain's Indian entanglement with a complex tale of an English gentleman and a Muslim lady drawn together by passion but forced by cultural differences to go their separate ways. Now Lucy Moore comes along to remind us that India, with all its paradoxes and dissonances, has fostered many such romances throughout its history.
Maharanis tells of three generations of women born into luxury and privilege as the daughters of maharajas. But just as their fathers had been shorn of their ruling powers by British paramountcy, so the custom of centuries required these princesses to live in the shadows, behind the curtain of purdah - their marriages merely a form of alliance-building in which their wishes and feelings played no part. Inevitably a moment came when the first princess turned on her bewildered parents, stamped her foot and said. 'Enough. I'm marrying the man I love' - and got away with it.
This moment of seismic shift occurred at the great Imperial Durbar of 1910-11, when the authorities staged what was to be the British Empire's last great spectacular - an absurdly grand occasion which is wonderfully reconstructed and then deconstructed by Lucy Moore in her opening chapter. Laid out in order