Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters - An Outrageous Englishwoman and her Lost Kingdom - Signed with dedication on title page
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.