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Current Affairs, History, History, Politics & Current Affairs
Publication Date
04 October 2018
Paperback (also available as an eBook)
Available for Sale
Birlinn Ltd
16pp b/w plate section


Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom


eBook also available from the iBookstore

This is the true story of Sikkim, a tiny Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas that survived the end of the British Empire only to be annexed by India in 1975.

It tells the remarkable tale of Thondup Namgyal, the last King of Sikkim, and his American wife, Hope Cooke, thrust unwittingly into the spotlight as they sought support for Sikkim’s independence after their ‘fairytale’ wedding in 1963. As tensions between India and China spilled over into war in the Himalayas, Sikkim became a pawn in the Cold War in Asia during the 1960s and 1970s. Rumours circulated that Hope was a CIA spy. Meanwhile, a shadowy Scottish adventuress, the Kazini of Chakung, married to Sikkim’s leading political figure, coordinated opposition to the Palace. As the world’s major powers jostled for regional supremacy during the early 1970s Sikkim and its ruling family never stood a chance. On the eve of declaring an Emergency across India, Indira Gandhi outwitted everyone to bring down the curtain on the 300 year-old Namgyal dynasty.
Based on interviews and archive research, as well as a retracing of a journey the author’s grandfather made in 1922, this is a thrilling, romantic and informative glimpse of a reallife Shangri-La.
Andrew Duff is an author and freelance journalist based in London and Scotland. In the UK his work has appeared in The Times, The Financial Times and The Sunday Telegraph, and in India in the Times of India and the India Quarterly. He travels frequently in India and East Asia.



'A remarkable piece of detective work… a very valuable addition to how the Cold War played out in South Asia' – Michael Burleigh, author of Small Wars, Faraway Places

'The last days of a Himalayan kingdom presented in glorious Technicolor' – Prajwal Parajuly, author of The Gurkha’s Daughter

'Those who fantasise about Shangri-La will find this book a fascinating requiem for their dreams' – Country Life

'A gripping page-turner' – Govindan Nair, The Hindu

'Duff draws out the remarkable story of Sikkim's annexation and its last king' – DNA India

'Clearly the most comprehensive account so far of Sikkim's fall' – Calcutta Telegraph

'An enthralling retelling of the Sikkim tragedy' - Barbara Crossette, author of So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas,

'A wonderful story, expertly told... What a film it would make!' – Sara Wheeler, Spectator

'A richly researched and compellingly written account' – John Keay, Literary Review

‘Skilfully weaving all these strands – personal, national and geostrategic – into a pacey narrative, Andrew Duff hones in on the 1975 denouement’ – Literary Review

'Absorbing' – Free Press Journal

'A substantial work of history' – Anjuli Kaul, Open Magazine

'An act of remembrance for a land that once belonged to a fairy tale… excellent research work meets historical story-telling' – Financial Chronicle

'It has all the ingredients for a major Feature Film: Love and hate, suspense and suspicion, great powers and small nations, a Shangri-la, beautiful foreign and Sikkimese princesses and a handsome king' – Sanjoy Hazarika, The Pioneer

'A fast-paced, entertaining yet thoroughly researched work' – Jules Stewart, author of 'Spying for the Raj: the Pundits and the Mapping of the Himalaya', The Geographical