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The Stolen Prince of Ethiopia

In 1868, British troops ransacked the palace of Ethiopian emperor Tewedoros II and took his son while searching for priceless artefacts. After he was taken, his father died by suicide. Along with Prince Alemayehu, the British troops stole a gold crown, jewellery, manuscripts and gold chalices. They even stole from local churches, taking religious tabots (plaques replicating the Ten Commandments, that are considered so sacred by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church only priests are allowed to look at them).

The seven-year-old prince was taken to Britain, where he became a favorite of Queen Victoria and lived in her care. He was first under the care of Captain Tristram Speedy, and spent some time in India with speedy and his family before going back to Britain for a proper education. Sadly, at the age of eighteen he passed away, which many attributed to distress at living in a faraway land and being looked at many as an exotic being because he was from a different country. He had contracted Pleurisy and died after six weeks of illness, despite receiving medical care from respected physicians including Dr. Clifford Albutt of Leeds. Upon his death, Queen Victoria described him in her diary as a good, kind boy and lamented how sad it was that he had died so far away from his family. She mentioned that he was unhappy and conscious of people staring at him because of his colour.

The queen arranged for him to be buried in the catacombs of St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The funeral was held on 21 November 1879.In 2007, the Ethiopian government requested for the return of his remains for an Ethiopian reburial and was denied. There have been renewed calls for his return that have also been denied so far, with Buckingham Palace stating that it would be impossible to exhume his body without disturbing the remains of others buried in the same place. However in September 2023, they agreed to return a lock of his hair and other artefacts looted from Magdala.