Spotlight tells the stories of two important princesses. They used their position to influence the world.
Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.
What do you think of when you hear the word “princess”? Many people think of a made-up story about a beautiful young woman. She wears expensive clothing. She is quiet and gentle. But princesses do not just live in stories. There are real princesses around the world. And they do many different things. Today’s Spotlight is on real and powerful princesses in history.
In the modern world there are many real princesses. Some princesses are born as the daughter of royalty. Others become a princess by marrying a royal prince. But princesses are not all the same. And they are not all just known for being quiet and beautiful. Some have very active and interesting lives. And some have even changed history.
One such princess was a young woman named Pingyang. Adam Navis tells this true story:
Pingyang was born around the year 600 in China. She was not a princess when she was born. Through her intelligence and brave actions Pingyang helped her father become the Emperor of China. Before him, the Emperor was selfish and unwise. He did many things that helped himself - and harmed the people of China. Pingyang’s father, Li Yuan, was a Duke and a military general. But the Emperor thought Li was too successful. He ordered that Li be killed. Instead, Li decided to try to overthrow the unpopular Emperor.
Li’s family was in danger. So Pingyang escaped from the city back to her family home. She sold everything that belonged to her family. She gave food to the people that lived near her. Soon, some of those people became her army.
Pingyang travelled with her soldiers. They were good fighters. But they were also kind. They did not destroy and steal like other armies did. More men joined Pingyang. She soon had an army of more than 70,000 men. People called her army “The Army of the Lady”. Along with her husband, she helped her father overthrow the selfish Emperor. Her father began and ruled the successful Tang Dynasty in China.
Pingyang became a princess. Sadly, she died soon after. She was only 23 years old. Her father gave her a military funeral. Some people thought a woman should not have this honor. But it is said that the Emperor answered them:
“The Princess gathered an army that helped us defeat the Sui Dynasty. She fought in many battles. Her help was important in starting the Tang Dynasty. The Princess rose in righteous rebellion to help me begin the dynasty. She was no normal woman.”
Like Pingyang, another princess was part of a war. But she did not fight in battle. Noor Inayat Khan followed the Sufi religion. Her father was part of a royal family from India. And her mother was from the United States. Megan Nollet tells the story of Princess Noor Inayat Khan.
Princess Noor Inayat Khan was born in Russia. She was a gentle young woman. She loved to play music. She wrote books for children. Khan did not believe in violence. Khan’s family was living in France when World War Two began. It was 1939. She wanted the war to be over. And she wanted to help Britain. So she and her family moved to England as refugees to fight in the war. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce. She trained to be a radio operator.
The Airforce chose Khan to be a Special Operations Executive, or a spy for the British military. She was the first female radio operator that Britain ever sent to France. Khan had to act like someone else. She could speak only in French. She travelled with a large radio and sent secret messages. It was extremely dangerous.
Some people worried that Khan would not be a good spy and radio operator. But she showed she was very good at her job. Ten days after Khan began, the German army arrested most of the spies who worked with her. So Khan was left to do the job of six radio operators.
At that time, most British spies were arrested within six weeks. Khan lasted much longer than this. But after three months, German soldiers did arrest Khan. It was not because she made a mistake. Another woman sold Khan’s name to the enemy. She told the Germans that Khan was a British spy. Khan tried to escape from prison two times. The German army re-captured and tortured her. But she never gave them any information. They never discovered her real name or even that she was from India.
In 1944, German soldiers took Khan to Dachau camp in Germany. They beat her very badly. Then they shot her in the head. She was only 30 years old. Khan’s last words were the cry “Liberte!”. In English this means “Freedom.” She died a war hero.
Many other princesses do good work that is not quite as extreme as Noor Inayat Khan or Pingyang. Princess Diana of Britain was very famous for her work with charity organizations. Grace Kelly was an actress from the United States. But she became the Princess of Monaco. She is also well-known for her work to help people around the world. Ameerah Al-Taweel became a princess by marrying a Saudi Arabian prince. She too, has spent her time as a princess working for other people. She works to make sure women have equal rights in Saudi Arabia.
Princesses do many other activities too. Princess Anne of Britain is an equestrian. She even rode horses in the Olympics. Princess Norodom Buppha Devi of Cambodia is famous for her traditional dancing. She is now a politician and directs the Royal Ballet of Cambodia.
All these princesses are different and interesting. Many of them have difficulties in life just like normal people. But they have used their position to improve the world around them.
Do you think you would like to be a princess or a prince? Are there royalty where you live? Do any of them have interesting stories? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.
The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Powerful Princesses of the World.”