Today’s Black History Month LGBT+ hero is Princess Catherine Duleep Singh, nominated by Melissa Hawker, on behalf of the wonderful Teenage History Club from the Ancient House Museum in Thetford. Catherine’s grandmother, Sophia, was an enslaved woman from modern day Ethiopia. Melissa writes:
“Princess Catherine lived with a woman called Lina Schafer for most of her life. Catherine was born on 27 October 1871 and was the second daughter of Maharajah Duleep Singh. She grew up at Elveden Hall, near Thetford.
In 1889 after her father moved to Paris and the death of her mother, Catherine and her siblings were cared for by Mr and Mrs Oliphant at Folkestone. Fräulein ‘Lina’ Schafer, from Kassel, Germany was their governess. She was 12 years older than Catherine. The pair had formed a strong attachment and travelled to Europe together. In 1890 Princess Catherine attended Somerville Hall, Oxford.
Catherine was an active member of the women’s rights movement all her life. In 1912 she opened a ‘forest of Christmas trees’ in Birmingham in aid of the ‘Constitutional Women’s Suffrage Works.’
In 1908 Lina and Catherine moved to Germany and set up house together. Catherine’s sister Princess Sophia described their relationship as “intimate”. Catherine stayed in Germany during the First World War. Lina said “we are like two mice living in a little house.” The couple enjoyed taking long walks. Catherine liked gardening and Lina liked to cook. Catherine wrote: “I am having a very good time of it and enjoying myself thoroughly.”
During the 1930s the couple’s neighbours said “the local Nazis disapproved of the old Indian lady”. Despite this Catherine remained with Lina until she died on 26 August 1938 aged 79. In November 1938 Catherine sold everything and returned to England. Before she left she was able to help the Hornstein and Meyerstein families escape the Nazis.
Catherine died on 8 November 1942. She was cremated and requested that her ashes be “buried as near as possible to the coffin of my friend Fräulein Lina Schafer at the Principal Cemetery at Kassel in Germany”.”
If you would like to nominate your hero or find out more about our BAME LGBT+ Forum, please email Norwich Pride historian Stevie at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can check out all our Black History Month LGBT+ heroes on our website www.norwichpride.org.uk/news/
To download a copy of the Norfolk Black History Month 2020 brochure go to www.norfolkblackhistorymonth.org/events