The Rebellious Princess
Original title: La Princesse Insoumise
She was the last great Indian princess. A woman in love, a powerful woman, a feminist ahead of her time.
Descended from two lines of maharajas, Gayatri Devi was raised in India in the 1920s inside sumptuous palaces, some of which had up to 400 servants. Elephant races, panther hunts and history and geography lessons delivered by her mother inside a private plane flying over the Himalayas: the young heiress received an education befitting her rank.
Having fallen in love with the Maharaja of Jaipur, upon marrying, she discovered the hard truth of Indian patriarchy: women must remain invisible, living veiled and cloistered amongst themselves. Refusing to accept that status, Gayatri Devi transformed her role as a wife. A close friend of both the Queen of England and Jackie Kennedy, she founded the first school for girls in Rajasthan.
Beautiful, intelligent and determined, she advanced her progressive ideas, including protecting animals. As the first woman of her rank to be elected to Parliament, she stood up to the Prime Minister, Nehru. That earned her the animosity of Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, who threw her in jail when she came to power.
From the maharajas’ splendor to their loss of influence, from the yoke of the British to Independence, from women’s submission to attempts to achieve emancipation, Gayatri Devi’s story is the tale of a rebellious princess whose fate was closely intertwined with the advent of modern India.