Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters

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More About This Title Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters


Sylvia Brooke (1885-1971), better known as the Ranee of Sarawak, was the wife, consort, and—by custom—slave of Sir Vyner Brooke, the last White Rajah of the jungle kingdom of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. The nation had its own flag, revenue, postage stamps, and money, and for three generations the White Rajahs had held the power of life and death over their subjects. But by the 1930s there was a sharp decline in their power and prestige, and at the center of it all stood Ranee Sylvia. Author of eleven books, an extravagantly-dressed socialite and incorrigible self-dramatist, the Ranee was described by the press as “that most charming of despots” and by her own brother as “a female Iago.” With a supporting cast including her father, a celebrated courtier in love with his own son, and her whimsical and sexually incontinent husband, this is the fascinating account of the extraordinary and often malevolent life of Ranne Sylvia.


Philip Eade has written for the Daily Telegraph.


"An enthralling study of an extraordinary woman." —Joanna Lumley"Percipient, sympathetic, amusing . . . Those with an interest in the adventures of British eccentrics during the last decades of the Empire will have their knowledge agreeably enriched: and those who have never heard of Sylvia Brooke are in for a treat."  —Michael Holroyd "Juicily entertaining . . . an exceptional life, one to which Eade does rich justice."  —Mail on Sunday"Biting biography . . . draws on family archives to tell the full, jawdropping story of a family more than usually mischevious and dysfunctional."  —The Times"Eminently readable, with a detective's pertinacity at finding the clues to forgotten secrets and a raconteur's gift for sustaining his narrative interest."  —Sunday Telegraph "A thorough, fascinating and rather giddying book . . . most sensational" —Sunday Times"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"  —Country Life"A scrupulous researcher . . . his prose is clear and his style pleasing: he writes with panache."  —Daily Telegraph