Conventionally, the focus of history writing is ‘public’ lives and ‘public’ events. Maharaja Kumari Binodini Devi’s Boro Sahib Ongbi Sanatombi (The princess and the political agent, 1976), however, inverts this dominant tradition, diverting the attention of the reader from the larger ‘public’ events in Manipur’s history to a very specific and ‘private’ love relationship between her aunt Maharaja Kumari Sanatombi Devi and Major Horatio St. John Maxwell, the first political agent of British-occupied Manipur. This paper shows how the liminal form of Binodini’s book allows it to become a site for contestation and negotiation between public and private histories as it simultaneously confuses the line between history and fiction. To prove its point, it reveals first the blurring of the line between history and fiction in Boro Sahib Ongbi Sanatombi, and then demonstrates the relation between public and private histories in the book. Finally, the paper analyses the public–private (histories) distinction in a colonial relationship as illustrated in the book. © 2016, © 2016 SAGE Publications.