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Sophia Duleep Singh

India, Empire and the Suffragette Princess

India, Empire and the Suffragette Princess

Format: Video

Videos and classroom activities that explore India, the British Empire and the Suffragettes through the incredible life of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh.

Discover:

  • How the British Empire took control of India
  • What was the impact of the British Empire in India
  • How an Indian Princess campaigned for women's rights.

These resources are ideal for Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4.

Above image © Museum of London

Resource Information

Key Stage

  • KS3 (age 11-14)
  • KS4 (age 15-16)

Subjects

  • History
  • PSHE

Topic

  • 20th & 21st Century

Type

  • For the classroom

Palace

  • Hampton Court Palace

Educational resources

  • Duleep Singh family tree

  • Queen Victoria family tree

  • British Empire timeline

  • Historic sources (quotes from newspapers and diary extracts from 1900's)

Download PDF file

Did you know?

Sophia was an Indian Princess and the goddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Part One | Maharaja Duleep Singh and the British Empire

Maharaja Duleep Singh and the British Empire

Meet the 10 year old Maharaja (Indian King) who was forced to surrender his kingdom and the Koh-i-Noor diamond to the British Government.

Note taking questions

  1. What strikes you most about Sophia from the introduction?

  2. Her father was the Maharajah of the Punjab in India. What is a maharajah?

  3. What happened to her father’s kingdom?

  4. What was unusual about her home at Elveden?

  5. What plan did her father become obsessed with?

Discussion questions

  1. Why do you think Duleep Singh signed all his power and possessions away to the British?

  2. Based on what you know so far, how do you feel about Queen Victoria’s treatment of Duleep Singh?

  3. Sophia is now 17, she is the Indian goddaughter of the Queen, but her father has died, disgraced. Predict what might happen to her next?

Note taking question answers

  1. Answers might include the fact that Sophia has so many different facets e.g. Indian princess, suffragette, godaughter to Queen Victoria, as well as a feisty & determined personality. 

  2. A maharajah is an Indian king/ruler.

  3. Sophia’s father’s kingdom was taken by the British, along with its assets like the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

  4. Sophia’s father tried to turn their home in Elveden into and Indian palace with exotic animals (including leopards and parrots) and by redesigning the interior in a Indian/Moghul style.

  5. Sophia’s father became obsessed with re-taking his kingdom in the Punjab, India.

Discussion question answers

  1. Duleep Singh was only five years old when he signed away his power and possessions, which meant he was vulnerable and easily persuaded. The British were very powerful and it would have been difficult for him to resist. Additionally, his mum was taken away from him so there was no one to guide him.

  2. The British wanted to take full control of India and some people may feel conflicted about Queen Victoria. On one hand she gave Duleep a home, paid his bills and made Sophia her goddaughter. However, on the other hand he was exploited as child to give his kingdom away, and later in life his family was arrested when they tried to go to India.

  3. Students can use the clues given in the introduction to predict what happens to Sophia.

Part Two | Party Princess, Empire and India

Party Princess, Empire and India

Sophia was Duleep Singh's daughter and goddaughter to Queen Victoria. She enjoyed lavish parties and a fashionable life in England, until a visit to India changed her focus.

Note taking questions

1. Who gave Sophia a new home at Hampton Court Palace?

2. What did Sophia do that was shocking to Edwardian society?

3. In 1903, who was crowned King?

4. What shocked Sophia on her trip to India?

Discussion questions

1. Describe Sophia’s character. Does she remind you of anyone in the media today?

2. Why do you think the Suffragette campaign appealed to Sophia?

3. Think about Sophia’s background. Why might she be a useful person to the Suffragettes?

Note taking question answers

1. Queen Victoria gave Sophia a new home at Hampton Court Palace.

2. Sophia shocked Edwardian society by riding a bicycle.

3. Edward VII was crowned King in 1903.

4. During her trip to India, Sophia was shocked by poverty and injustice. She was also shocked by Indian people (nationalists) protesting against British rule.

Discussion question answers

1. Answers might include comparisons to people who are determined and fighting for an important cause, such as Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Ellen Jones, Bella Lack or Aubrey Gordon.

2. The Suffragette campaign might have appealed to Sophia for many reasons:

  • the campaign was about injustice against women
  • Sophia was impressed by their leader, Emmeline Pankhurst
  • Sophia could focus all her anger and frustration on doing something positive
  • Sophia was bored, had time on her hands and needed an occupation.

3. Sophia would have been useful to the Suffragettes because she was an Indian princess and the late Queen Victoria’s goddaughter. As someone in the public eye, Sophia would attract lots of publicity and draw attention to the Suffragettes. Sophia was also determined and passionate so this might have made her a compelling public speaker.

Part Three | Suffragette Princess

Suffragette Princess

Sophia was a long term supporter of the Women's Suffrage movement. She showed incredible bravery during the brutal events of Black Friday.

Note taking questions

1. What were the Suffragettes fighting for?

2. List three peaceful methods Sophia used to campaign for the vote?

3. How does Sophia show her bravery on 18 Nov 1910?

Discussion questions

1. Why do you think the police officer didn't attack or arrest Sophia after she slammed into him on Black Friday?

2. How has Sophia changed since her days as a ‘party princess’? What words would you use to describe her now?

Note taking question answers

1. The Suffragettes were fighting for women’s right to vote.

2. Sophia protested peacefully by selling jam, chutney and copies of the ‘Votes for Women’ newspaper. She also helped with recruiting suffragettes, driving press carts and refusing to pay her taxes, as a sign of protest.

3. Sophia showed her bravery on 18 November 1910 during a protest that became violent. She charged into the riot putting herself in danger and hurled herself into a policeman who was attacking another woman. She followed him to get his police number so she could report him.

Discussion question answers

1. The policeman might not have attacked or arrested Sophia because he recognised her. He also may have been worried that Sophia might report him.

2. Sophia had changed in many ways since her days as a ‘party princess’. She had become more serious, determined, driven and passionate about getting the vote. She was willing to take bigger risks than riding a bicycle.

Part Four | Indian Soldiers and Sophia’s legacy

Indian soldiers and Sophia’s legacy

During World War One, Sophia helped support Indian soldiers. In 1948, she died in her sleep. How should we remember her?

Note taking questions

1. What major event began in 1914 that forced the Suffragettes to pause their campaign?

2. List two ways Sophia helped Indian soldiers?

3. How old was Sophia when she died?

4. What three words would you use to describe Sophia?

Discussion questions

1. Why should Sophia be remembered today?

2. Sophia lived to see some women get the vote in 1918 and all women get the vote in 1928. How do you think she would have felt?

3. Can you compare her to anyone today who is determined to bring about positive change or challenge injustice?

Note taking question answers

1. The Great War/First World War began in 1914 and forced the Suffragettes to pause their campaign.

2. Sophia helped Indian soldiers by fundraising and nursing.

3. Sophia was 71 when she died.

4. Words to describe Sophia might include brave, ambitious, determined, powerful and influential.

Discussion question answers

1. Sophia could be remembered for lots of reasons including:

  • her bravery
  • her determination
  • for being a Suffragette
  • for trying to help Indian soldiers during the war
  • for fighting for what she believed in.

2. Sophia may have felt a mixture of emotions when women got the right to vote in 1928. These might have included: proud, happy, relieved or even frustrated that it took so long.

Curriculum links

  • Ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain, 1745-1901 - party politics, extension of the franchise and social reform - the development of the British Empire with a depth study (for example, of India) 

  • Challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day - women’s suffrage.

AQA Thematic Study:

Britain: Power and the People: c.1170-the present day

  • Women’s rights: the campaign for women’s suffrage, reasons, methods and responses; role of individuals, including the Pankhurst; the reasons for the extension of the franchise and its impact.

Britain: Migration, empires and the people: c.790-the present day

  • Expansion in India: causes and impact of British control; East India Company; the social, political, cultural and economic impact of empire on Britain and India.
  • Migrants to, from and within Britain: migration to and within the Empire.

OCR Thematic Study:

Migration to Britain c.1000 to c.2010

  • The foundation of the East India Company and arrivals from the Indian subcontinent – Lascar and other Asian merchant seamen, child servants and ayahs, including how they arrived and their lives in England.

Power: Monarchy and Democracy in Britain c.1000 to 2014

  • The struggle for the vote for women and the reasons why it was won for some women in 1918.

Pearson Edexcel Thematic Study:

Migrants in Britain, c800–present

  • The changing context of British society: the World Wars; the end of the British Empire, decolonisation.
  • The experience of migrants in Britain: their relations with the authorities and the existing population, including anti-immigration and equal rights movements.
  • The impact of migrants in Britain, including culture, politics.

WJEC Thematic Study:

Changes in Patterns of Migration, c.1500 to the present day

  • Reasons for immigration – the legacy of Empire.
An actress performs to a school audience during Fire! outreach performance show produced by Historic Royal Palaces.

Free outreach sessions about Sophia Duleep Singh

Free performances delivered in your school.

Explore the life of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh in our interactive show.

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Key Stage

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Topic

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Topic

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Key Stage

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Subject

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Topic

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