Prince Dejatch Alemayehu was the heir to the throne of Abyssinia – now known as Ethiopia. In 1868, his father, Emperor Tewodros II, fought with the British army and killed himself at the Battle of Magdala rather than surrender, making him a national hero to many.
His son Alemayehu was brought to the United Kingdom by British soldiers. His mother, who traveled with him, died on the way, leaving him an orphan when he reached British shores when he was 7 years old.
He was placed in the care of the British general Tristam Charles Sawyer Speedy, who took him on a trip to India and later enlisted the young African king in a high position. British boarding schoolsincluding Rugby and Sandhurst military college.
The Queen at the time, Queen Victoria, also took a shine to Alemayehu when she met him at his holiday home on the Isle of Wight. He made her a ward, paid for her education and helped her financially. “The queen was very impressed with the child,” according to to Britain’s Royal Collection Trust, which sparked “great interest in the widowed prince’s collection.”
Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria, even he remembered playing with him at Windsor Castle as a child.
But despite the appearance of a fortunate life, and many stories, young Alemayehu faced ten miserable years in Britain. Historians say that he was “very unhappy” at Rugby and Sandhurst and faced discrimination, and that they ask to go back home was ignored.
Alemayehu died at the age of 18 from pleurisy, a lung disease. At Victoria’s request, he was buried in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor. His epitaph reads: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
But such a story of colonial kindness has been challenged in recent years, especially in terms of bloody war. Although the expedition of 13,000 British troops was initially aimed at rescuing Tewodros II’s European hostages, it also led to the capture of large quantities of goods after the victory. Most of the loot ended up in London museums, incl British Museum. Most Ethiopians now describe Alemayehu as a prince who was “stolen” in his home country as a child.
The Ethiopian government has asked for Alemayehu’s body to be returned, as have his relatives.
“We want his remains to return as a family and as Ethiopians, because it is not the country he was born in,” his older cousin Fasil Minas. he said BBC interview this week. “The fact that he was placed there is nonsense, and it was not correct.
Ethiopian American writer Maaza Mengiste is he explained Alemayehu’s problem as a “kidnapping” that resulted from “imperial arrogance”. He added: “There is no good reason to continue to preserve his body. He has become, like the sacred and precious objects that are still in British museums and libraries, a treasure.”
Buckingham Palace made headlines in Britain this week when it rejected yet another request for remains, this time from the prince’s family, saying any movement would affect other bodies in the tomb.
“It is unlikely that it will be possible to excavate the remains without disturbing the resting place of many others nearby,” it said on Tuesday.
It added that the chapel authorities were “deeply concerned with the need to honor the memory of Prince Alemayehu” but had to balance this with “the responsibility to preserve the dignity of the dead.”
It added that it had previously “received requests from Ethiopian delegations to visit” the church “and will continue to do so.”
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry called Alemayehu a “prisoner of war” in a statement to the Washington Post on Tuesday. “We believe that Prince Alemayehu should be buried in his homeland,” it said, adding that “the Ethiopian government remains committed to efforts to return the remains … of historical, cultural and religious importance to Ethiopia.”
For many Ethiopians, Buckingham Palace’s statement does little to support Britain’s past and what they say their prince has suffered. Kearyam Agegnehu Yideg, an accountant in Addis Ababa, told The Post on Tuesday that he was “disappointed” by the denial, as were “many fellow Ethiopians.”
“He died with a broken heart,” he continued, calling it “unforgivable” that “even in death he is kept as a memory.
Even Victoria, in an earlier post in 1879, seemed to acknowledge the loneliness in which Alemayehu was caught.
“I am saddened and surprised to hear by telegram, that the good Alamayou died this morning. It is very sad! He is alone, in a foreign country, without a single person or family. … Everyone is sorry,” he wrote, after hearing about his death.
The request for his body to be repatriated comes at a time when many Western countries and organizations are grappling with how to deal with what they did during the colonial era.
Members of the royal family sometimes talk about British history and condemned slavery as “disgusting” but did not apologize for the role of the British monarchs in it. In April, King Charles III showed that he was supporting an investigation into the history of links between the monarchy and transatlantic slavery – although campaigners urged Buckingham Palace to launch a comprehensive investigation and apologize for the royal role in British slavery and slavery.
Meanwhile, some European countries have returned art and objects to their original countries – but they will he stopped lack of cash back payments.