Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters

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Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters: An Eccentric Englishwoman and Her Lost Kingdom Cover Image
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A compelling biography of the last and possibly wackiest British rulers of Sarawak, a kingdom on the island of Borneo. Sylvia’s story is EXTREMELY juicy, let me tell you. Scandal! Intrigue! Appalling colonialism! Totally fascinating.



— From Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters



Sylvia Brooke was one of the more exotic and outrageous figures of the twentieth century. Otherwise known as the Ranee of Sarawak, she was the wife of Sir Vyner Brooke, the last White Rajah, whose family had ruled the jungle kingdom of Sarawak on Borneo for three generations. They had their own flag, revenue, postage stamps, and money, as well as the power of life and death over their subjects Malays, Chinese, and headhunting Dyak tribesmen. The regime of the White Rajahs was long romanticized, but by the 1930s, their power and prestige were crumbling. At the center of Sarawak's decadence was Sylvia, author of eleven books, mother to three daughters, an extravagantly dressed socialite whose behavior often offended and usually defied social convention. Sylvia did her best to manipulate the line of succession in favor of her daughters, but by 1946, Japan had invaded Sarawak, sending Sylvia and her husband into exile, ending one of the more unusual chapters of British colonial rule.

Philip Eade's Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters is a fascinating look at the wild and debauched world of a woman desperate to maintain the last remains of power in an exotic and dying kingdom.

About the Author

Philip Eade was born in Shropshire and graduated from Bristol University. He was briefly a criminal lawyer before turning to journalism. For several years he was on the staff of the Daily Telegraph as a writer and editor on its obituaries page. He lives in London and the Welsh Marches. Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters is his first book.

Praise For…

Praise for Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters:

“Biting biography...Draws on family archives to tell the full, jaw-dropping story of a family more than usually mischievous and dysfunctional.”—The Times (London)

“The kind of gift subject that a biographer must dream of...Colorful anecdotes of eccentricity, lunacy, and infidelity crowd every page.”—The Sunday Times (London), Books of the Year

“Philip Eade is eminently readable, with a detective’s pertinacity at finding the clues to forgotten secrets and a raconteur’s gift for sustaining his narrative interest....A rollicking good read.”—The Sunday Telegraph (London)

“[Eade] traces this tangled tale with diligence, humor, and an easy style.”—The Spectator (London)

“Amazing and hilarious.”—Daily Express (London)

“Richly entertaining.”—The Irish Times (Dublin)

“An incredible story.”—Daily Mail (London)

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250045898
ISBN-10: 1250045894
Publisher: Picador USA
Publication Date: June 3rd, 2014
Pages: 362
Language: English
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