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Sylvia, Queen Of The Headhunters: An Outrageous Englishwoman And Her Lost Kingdom

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Sylvia, Queen Of The Headhunters: An Outrageous Englishwoman And Her Lost Kingdom

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    Available in PDF Format | Sylvia, Queen Of The Headhunters: An Outrageous Englishwoman And Her Lost Kingdom.pdf | English
    Philip Eade(Author)

Sylvia Brooke (1885-1971) was one of the more exotic figures of the twentieth century. Otherwise known as the Ranee of Sarawak, she was the consort (and by custom, slave) 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, and each White Rajah had the power of life and death over his subjects - Malays, Chinese and headhunting Dyak tribesmen.


The regime of the White Rajahs was long deemed superior to any in the British Empire, but by the 1930s there was a sharp decline in their power and prestige. At the centre of Sarawak's perceived decadence was Ranee Sylvia, author of eleven books, extravagantly-dressed socialite and incorrigible self-dramatist, described by the press as 'that most charming of despots', and by her own brother as 'a female Iago'. The Colonial Office branded her 'a dangerous woman, full of Machiavellian schemes to alter the succession, and spectacularly vulgar in her behaviour.


Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters chronicles the extraordinary life of the Ranee, with a supporting cast including Sylvia's father, a celebrated courtier in love with his own son; her whimsical and sexually incontinent husband, Rajah Vyner; the Rajah's unhinged, Rasputinesque private secretary; and the Rajah's nephew, whose folie de grandeur as the young heir gave way (after he was thwarted) to an interest in world peace and flying saucers.

Philip Eade... is a natural writer: percipient, sympathetic, amusing... and those who have never heard of Sylvia Brooke are in for a treat (MICHAEL HOLROYD)An enthralling study of an extraordinary woman. Philip Eade's book reads like a thriller... it is wonderfully written (JOANNA LUMLEY)juicily entertaining... an exceptional life, one to which Eade does rich justice. (MIRANDA SEYMOUR MAIL ON SUNDAY)biting biography... draws on family archives to tell the full, jaw-dropping story of a family more than usually mischevious and dysfunctional. (THE TIMES)Eade adroitly handles both the tragic and the comic... certainly entertains. (BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE)a rollicking good read (RICHARD DAVENPORT-HINES THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)a thorough, fascinating and rather giddying book... sensational (LYNNE TRUSS THE SUNDAY TIMES)traces this tangled tale with diligence, humour and an easy style... For the true story read Philip Eade. (CHRISTOPHER ESHER THE SPECTATOR)Eade has uncovered a mine of marvellous material and handles it all with consummate wit and style... a dazzling debut... the perfect summer holiday read. (HUGH MASSINGBERD COUNTRY LIFE)"Philip Eade's fascinating biography recounts a hedonistic life lived in Sarawak, Europe and the Caribbean.... It's all highly entertaining." (THE FIRST POST)A scrupulous researcher... his prose is clear and his style pleasing: he writes with panache. (SARA WHEELER DAILY TELEGRAPH)A ruthless self-publicist, irrepressible fantasist and the subject of Philip Eade's mordant and hugely entertaining biography. (LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS)'If you thought White Mischief was the last word in English expatriate decadence, you haven't yet met Sylvia and the Brookes.' (THE TIMES)an entertaining peep-show view of the British ruling class at the end of the Imperial age. (Lucy Hughes-Hallett TLS)the kind of subject that biographers must dream of...Colourful anecdotes of eccentricity, lunacy and infidelity crowd every page. (CHRISTOPHER HART SUNDAY TIMES BOOKS OF THE YEAR)an incredible story (DAILY MAIL)...there is no denying the technical accomplishment of [Eade's] book - all the more remarkable because it is his first. (KATHRYN HUGHES GUARDIAN)Amazing and hilarious (CHRISTOPHER FOYLE DAILY EXPRESS)

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Book details

  • PDF | 384 pages
  • Philip Eade(Author)
  • Orion; 1st Edition edition (6 Jun. 2007)
  • English
  • 9
  • Biography
Read online or download a free book: Sylvia, Queen Of The Headhunters: An Outrageous Englishwoman And Her Lost Kingdom

Review Text

  • By Dianame on 31 July 2007

    Interesting and well written, a must read this summer! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone wanting a biography of eccentric people in tropical lands.

  • By Cormac Quinn on 22 June 2007

    "A fun and stylish romp through the life of an extraordinary socialite - and the age and class which she inhabited. Sex, drama and absurdities abound. Do yourself a favour - buy your wife or girlfriend a copy and read it yourself."

  • By G.I.Forbes on 30 September 2014

    This is the fascinating story of Sylvia Brooke (1885-1971) second daughter of the second Viscount Eisher who in 1912 marries Vymer the Third Rajah of Sarawak and in 1918 became Ranee of Sarawak when her husband became ruler of the jungle kingdom.Sylvia lead a riotous life of luxury and excess becoming known as the Queen of Headhunters much to the annoyance of the Colonial Office and M.Ps.Unfortunately her husband lost interest in the kingdom and was not present when theJapanesetook over in 1941.Sarawak was handed to the UK in 1946.A truely fascinating story.

  • By N. A. Spalding on 25 May 2015

    A refreshing contrast to the traditional story of Vyner Brooke and the standard sanitised tale of the White Rajas that continued since Bamflydes publication at the turn of the century. The original title did not have the term "outrageous" as this reprint does and the description by Amazon of the Raj's as despots is similarly sensationalist. It is quite untrue the suggestion that Vyner 'lost interest'; His was a tale of the decline of the British Empire in general but in this case, personal. Sylvia keeps to her own experience and refrains from broad speculation.This is fascinating, the only tale of the workings of Vyner, of open marriages, of civil service insights, of all the oddities of what is Sarawak even today. Missing is any suggestion of James's real lifestyle and the absents of any detail of the impact of the Japanese occupation, possibly showing how little she was involved with the Chinese community. There is an obvious resentment to one individual in particular but no real explanation of why. Should be read in conjunction with the title published by her predecessor.

  • By Tim Horton on 19 January 2013

    Early twentieth century women like Sylvia had self belief and arrogance that make any modern trend in feminism look unadventurous! Her single minded assertion of self really did impact on Borneo and its indigenous peoples less than a century ago. But what a story! A vital read towards an understanding of the texture of a peculiarly English colonialism..

  • By owen63 on 17 February 2009

    Unlike other reviewers of this title,I found this book rather disappointing. The subtitle "An outrageous Englishwoman and Her Lost Kingdom" was not lived up to. There was very little outrageous that Sylvia did apart from have three daughters who made some showbiz marriages. There is lots of outrageous behaviour hinted at,, but very little detail. As for the 'Lost Kingdom' part after reading the book one still has very little idea over what life in Sarawak was like.

  • By Lord J G Haddington on 27 April 2013

    A woman's account of a Ladie`s life in the jungles of Borneo which was full of Passion. The last gasp of the Empire.

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