Captive of 155 years: British royal family refuses to return remains of Ethiopian prince
“Alone, in a strange country…and can’t go back home after death.” Britain was once a colonial empire with territories all over the world. Today, there are still countless cultural relics from the former colonies in Britain—including Ethiopia The remains of Prince Dejatch Alemayehu. Alema Yehu was taken to England by the British army at the age of 7 in 1868, and was buried in Windsor Castle after his death at the age of 18. Over the years, Ethiopia has been asking the British royal family to return his body and the cultural relics looted by the British army. In May of this year, it was rejected again by the royal family on the grounds that it was worried that the excavation of the remains might affect other tombs at Windsor Castle. The Ethiopian government expressed disappointment with Buckingham Palace’s decision and pointed out that it will continue to work hard to promote the return of the prince’s remains and cultural relics to his mother country—why was Alema Yehu taken to the UK? And how can the cultural relics plundered by the colonial empires in the past be returned to the mother country?
Alemayehu was born in 1861 to the son of Tewodros II, the emperor of Ethiopia (then called Abyssinia), and Alemayehu was originally the heir to the throne. However, in 1867, Tewodros II’s request to the United Kingdom to assist Ethiopia in fighting against neighboring Muslim countries was rejected. As a result, Tewodros II captured British consulate officials and missionaries, resulting in the British sending 13,000 troops In the expedition to Ethiopia, Tewodros II was defeated and committed suicide in 1868, and Queen Ube (Tiruwork Wube) and Prince Alemayehu were captured.
Although the British army sent troops in the name of rescuing the hostages, after the overwhelming victory, the British army looted the local cultural relics and carried them back to the UK. Most of the “trophies” were sent to the British Museum and were taken away from Ethiopia Queen Ube died of illness on the way to England, leaving Alemayehu orphaned at the age of 7.
After Alemayehu arrived in the UK, he was taken care of by British officer Tristam Speedy, who had taken Alemayehu with him on his way to India.
At that time, after seeing Alemayehu, Queen Victoria loved and cared for him, and sponsored his education and living expenses. Later, Alemayehu also studied in the British noble boarding house under the queen’s arrangement. School Rugby (Rugby), and Sandhurst (Sandhurst) Military Academy He was also invited to Windsor Castle. Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria, recalled being with Alema when she was young. Yehu played in the castle together in the past. According to the British royal family archives, because of the Queen’s concern for Alemayehu, even the British public is also very interested in him.
However, many historians have pointed out that despite the material life, Alemayehu was not happy in the UK. In addition to being at a loss in boarding schools, Alemayehu also encountered racial discrimination, and the UK ignored his return. ask.
In 1879, when Alemayehu died of pleurisy at the age of 18, Queen Victoria, who was mourning at the time, wrote of Alemayehu’s death in his diary, and also recorded his lonely situation in England:
“Very sad and shocked to receive the news by telegram that well-behaved Alema Yehu passed away this morning. It is so sad, alone, in a strange country, without any relatives around…Everyone feels very sorry .”
The diary also mentioned what a kind boy Alemayehu was, and wrote that he often felt uncomfortable when he realized that others were staring at him because of the color of his skin.
At the request of Queen Victoria, Alemayeju was buried in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, where the royal family belongs. His epitaph reads: “I am a stranger, and you took me in.” And In the eyes of Ethiopians, the prince was not “taken in” but “stolen”.
Over the years, the Ethiopian government has been asking the UK to return Alemayehu’s body and looted cultural relics. Fasil Minas, a descendant of the Abyssinian royal family, said in an interview with the BBC:
“We want his body returned – as our family, as Ethiopians, because that (Britain) is not the country he was born in and it doesn’t make sense for him to be buried there, it’s not right.”
However, the British royal family once again rejected Ethiopia’s request this week. Buckingham Palace’s statement on May 23, 2023 pointed out that if Alemayehu’s body is to be dug from the catacombs of St. George’s Church, it will inevitably affect the Therefore, he refused to go to the graves of other ancestors resting here. On the contrary, he expressed his welcome to the staff of the Ethiopian embassy in the UK to go to Windsor Castle to pay tribute to Alemayehu’s grave.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Washington Post on May 23 that Alemayehu was a “prisoner of war.” “We believe that Prince Alemayehu deserves to be buried in his homeland. Redouble our efforts to facilitate the return of human remains … and looted artefacts that are of great historical, cultural and religious significance to Ethiopians.”
Jeremiah Garsha, assistant professor of global modern history at University College Dublin, commented that Alemayehu was undoubtedly “stolen” out of Ethiopia. He said: “Yes, he was kidnapped…a minor. A man who comes to another country as an orphan after his mother dies and then dies when he himself is 18 – that’s very wrong, he was snatched like all other antiques and treasures that are snatched. “
Gaza further pointed out that the British in the colonial era were very curious and even obsessed with Africa, thus creating a huge black market for the plundered “loot”, from daily necessities, weapons, religious items, and even African blacks, to trade in the black market “swag”. Gaza also believes that Queen Victoria’s care for Alemayehu also comes from this “surprise hunting” mentality. He said:
“You wouldn’t kidnap a white child, Queen Victoria wouldn’t pick a child from the suburbs of London – it was race that made the prince a ‘foreigner in the palace’.”
Members of the British royal family today sometimes talk about Britain’s colonial imperial history and condemn slavery – such as in April 2023, when King Charles III of the United Kingdom supported an academic project to study the link between the monarchy and transatlantic slavery , but the British royal family and members have still not apologized for the role the British monarch played in colonial history and slavery.
In recent years, the issue of “decolonization” has been prevalent in the European and American cultural circles. Museums in many countries—such as the Netherlands, Canada, France, etc.—began to return (Repatriation) cultural relics that were plundered and left their home countries, and collected a large number of cultural relics brought back during the colonial empire. Artifacts from the British Museum are also being explored. In recent years, in addition to returning some of the Ethiopian royal cultural relics looted from the Abyssinian expedition, the British Museum has also negotiated back and forth with the Greek government on how to use the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon. Send it back to Athens-Greece hopes to return it permanently, while the United Kingdom advocates using the form of loan, and the two sides have not yet reached a consensus.
Tags: captive exiled years British royal family refuses return body Ethiopian prince hours udn Global-