Queen of the Head Hunters – Sylvia Brooke


Queen of the Head Hunters – Sylvia Brooke


Title: Queen of the Head Hunters

Author: Sylvia Brooke

Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1971. Third impression.

Condition: Hardcover, with dust jacket. Very good. Slight creasing to dust jacket, slight foxing.

SKU: brooke-headhunters Categories: ,

About Sylvia Brooke (from Wikipedia):

Sylvia Leonora, Lady Brooke, Ranee of Sarawak, born The Hon. Sylvia Leonora Brett, (25 February 1885 – 11 November 1971), was an English aristocrat who became the consort to Sir Charles Vyner de Windt Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, the last of the White Rajahs.

She married His Highness Rajah Vyner of Sarawak at St Peter’s Church, Cranbourne, Berkshire, just before her 26th birthday on 21 February 1911. They first met in 1909 when she joined an all-female choral orchestra, established by Vyner’s mother. She first visited Sarawak in 1912, where her husband (from 1917) ruled a 40,000-square-mile (100,000 km2) jungle kingdom on the northern side of Borneo with a population of 500,000, an ethnic mix of Chinese, Malays, and the headhunting Dayak. Sylvia was invested with the titles of Ranee of Sarawak on 24 May 1917 and Grand Master of The Most Illustrious Order of the Star of Sarawak on 1 August 1941. Rajah Vyner died in 1963.

Sylvia was distraught that her daughter, Leonora, under Islamic law, could not take the throne; as a result she hatched various plots to blacken the name of the heir apparent, Anthony, the Rajah Muda.

Richard Halliburton, the celebrated adventurer, met her as he circumnavigated the globe in 1932 with his pilot, Moye Stephens. She became the first woman in Sarawak to fly when the pair gave her a flight in their biplane, the Flying Carpet. Halliburton narrates an account of the visit in his book of the same name.

She was described by her brother as “a female Iago”, and by the Colonial Office as “a dangerous woman, full of Machiavellian schemes to alter the succession, and spectacularly vulgar in her behaviour”. She died in Tuffett Cottage, Sandy Lane, St James, Barbados.

She was the author of eleven books, including “Sylvia of Sarawak” and “Queen of the Head-Hunters” (1970). Fort Sylvia in Kapit is named in her honour. She also contributed short stories to publications such as John O’London’s Weekly, for example “The Debt Collector”, in the Summer Reading Number June 29, 1929.