In the latest developments surrounding the final resting place of Ethiopian Prince Alemayehu, Buckingham Palace has rejected pleas to repatriate the royal’s remains, which currently reside within the hallowed grounds of Windsor Castle. The young prince, who arrived in the U.K. as an orphan at the tender age of seven, was laid to rest here in the 19th century.
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Taken from his homeland following the death of his mother during the journey, Prince Alemayehu soon drew the interest of Queen Victoria. She saw to his education and, tragically, his interment when he passed away at only 18. Despite this history, the royal family of Ethiopia wishes to see his remains returned home.
Speaking to the BBC, Fasil Minas, a descendant of the prince, passionately expressed the family’s and the Ethiopian people’s longing for Alemayehu’s repatriation. He felt it was “not right” for the prince to be buried in a foreign land.
However, Buckingham Palace expressed reservations, citing potential disruption to other instruments within the crypts of St George’s Chapel, where the prince is buried. The Palace emphasized the importance of upholding the dignity of those interred there while remaining mindful of honoring Prince Alemayehu’s memory. They also noted that past Ethiopian delegations had been welcomed to visit the chapel.
Prince Alemayehu’s journey to the U.K. stems from a turbulent era of imperial endeavors and diplomatic failures. His father, Emperor Tewodros II, sought an alliance with the U.K. but was met with silence. This silence led to a series of events that saw British troops storm Tewodros’ stronghold at Maqdala, which ended in Tewodros taking his own life. In the aftermath, the British took Alemayehu and his mother, along with numerous cultural artifacts.
During his decade-long stay in Britain, the young prince was met with sympathy, especially from Queen Victoria. Despite receiving a formal education and multiple guardians, he longed to return home. This desire was never fulfilled, and after falling ill, possibly with pneumonia, he died.
Demands for the return of Alemayehu’s remains have been made before, and many see repatriation as a crucial step towards reconciliation and reflection on the past. Professor Alula Pankhurst, a specialist in British-Ethiopian relations, views this potential act as a chance for Britain to rethink its imperial past.