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.
Before he met the young girl who became Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip had a tumultuous upbringing in Greece, France, Nazi Germany, and Britain. His mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was born deaf; she was committed to a psychiatric clinic when Philip was eight. His father, Prince Andrew of Greece, already traumatized by his exile from his home country, promptly shut up the family home and went off to live with his mistress, effectively leaving his young son an orphan.
Remarkably, Philip emerged from his difficult childhood a character of singular vitality and dash—self-confident, opinionated, and devastatingly handsome. Girls fell at his feet, and the princess who would become his wife was smitten from the age of thirteen. Yet alongside his considerable charm and intelligence, the young prince was also prone to volcanic outbursts, which would have profound consequences for his family and the future of the monarchy.
In this authoritative and wonderfully compelling book, acclaimed biographer Philip Eade brings to vivid life the storm-tossed early years of one of the most fascinating and mysterious members of the royal family.
Fifty years after Evelyn Waugh’s death, here is a completely fresh view of one of the most gifted -- and fascinating -- writers of our time, the enigmatic author of Brideshead Revisited.
Graham Greene hailed Waugh as ‘the greatest novelist of my generation’, and in recent years his reputation has only grown. Now Philip Eade has delivered an authoritative and hugely entertaining biography that is full of new material, much of it sensational.
Eade builds upon the existing Waugh lore with access to a remarkable array of unpublished sources provided by Waugh’s grandson, including passionate love letters to Baby Jungman – the Holy Grail of Waugh research - a revealing memoir by Waugh’s first wife Evelyn Gardner (“Shevelyn”), and an equally significant autobiography by Waugh’s commanding officer in World War II.
Eade’s gripping narrative illuminates Waugh’s strained relationship with his sentimental father and blatantly favoured elder brother; his love affairs with male classmates at Oxford and female bright young things thereafter; his disastrous first marriage and subsequent conversion to Roman Catholicism; his insane wartime bravery; his drug-induced madness; his singular approach to marriage and fatherhood; his complex relationship with the aristocracy; the astonishing power of his wit; and the love, fear, and loathing that he variously inspired in others.
One of Eade’s aims is ‘to re-examine some of the distortions and misconceptions that have come to surround this famously complex and much mythologized character’.‘This might look like code for a plan to whitewash the overly blackwashed Waugh,’ comments veteran Waugh scholar Professor Donat Gallagher; ‘but readers fixated on atrocities will not be disappointed . . . I have been researching and writing about Waugh since 1963 and Eade time and again surprised and delighted me.’
Waugh was famously difficult and Eade brilliantly captures the myriad facets of his character even as he casts new light on the novels that have dazzled generations of readers.