Ethiopians urge Britain to return bones of ‘stolen’ prince after 150 years

Ethiopia_Prince Alemayehu
Prince Alemayehu, son of Emperor Tewodros II, as photographed in 1868 by Julia Cameron

Here is another outrageous article about British looting in Africa, and particularly in Ethiopia. The remains of Prince Alemayehu, son of the Emperor Tewodros II are still in Great Britain 150 years after his death. How preposterous is this! When the Ethiopian government asks, the British say that they cannot identify his bones, when in this day and age the remains of King Richard III of England have been identified 500 years after his death (Body found under parking lot is King Richard III, scientists prove). This makes you wonder: After King Mkwawa, and Prince Alemayehu, how many African kings, princes, and queens’ remains are still stuck in Europe?

Below are snippets of the article; for the full version, go to: The Guardian.


For 150 years, Ethiopians have been asking when Prince Alemayehu will come home. The orphan prince, a descendant of Solomon, was taken to England – some say “stolen” – after British soldiers looted his father’s imperial citadel following the Battle of Magdala in 1868The fortress was looted and razed to the ground. It is said to have taken 15 elephants and 200 mules to remove the loot.

Emperor Tewodros II

He died at the age of 18, after an unhappy childhood, and was buried at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle at the request of Queen Victoria. Now, as discussions take place with the Victoria & Albert Museum about the return of royal treasures taken by British forces during the battle, the Ethiopian government told the Observer it is “redoubling” its efforts to finally bring back the prince’s remains. Last week there were celebrations in Addis Ababa to commemorate the life of the prince’s father, Tewodros II, on the 150th anniversary of his death in the battle. A selection of the objects in the V&A’s possession went on display last week.

[The poet Lemn Sissay said:]The first corrupt theft of an Ethiopian child was this one in 1868,” Sissay said. “He was taken from his family. He deserves, too, for his remains to go back to Ethiopia, back to where he was stolen from.”

In the aftermath, as the British forces carried off crowns, scrolls and fine clothing, a war artist cut a lock of Tewodros’ hair. The lock of hair is now at the National Army Museum in London. Sissay and others believe that a DNA test could establish whether any of the remains in the grave match it. …

After the sacking of Maqdala, a British officer named Tristram Speedy took the prince and his mother, the Empress Tiruwork Wube, to Britain. The empress died on the way and before the party was due to embark on a ship from Alexandria in Egypt, the officer ordered all the other Ethiopians to return. …

The intensity of feeling among Ethiopians is growing, according to the Ethiopian embassy. “Ethiopians revere Prince Alemayehu as a young prisoner of war – he was only seven years old when taken hostage,” it said in a statement. “Prince Alemayehu remains the son of a hero, who chose to end his own life, rather than surrender to foreign soldiers. Ethiopians view the Prince with the same level of affection and respect.”

7 thoughts on “Ethiopians urge Britain to return bones of ‘stolen’ prince after 150 years

  1. They don’t plan on giving those bones back. They’ve probably already used them for something. The facts that he’s a descendent of Solomon and we know how the royals are linked to every major player in history, they will keep it then rewrite the history books saying he was one of them.


  2. I don’t think I heard this story about Alemayehu’s bones. That’s terrible and they should bring them back. You’re definitely right about Europe stealing skeletons as well as artifacts, and it’s crazy how they’re just now coming back to their home countries like the Namibian skulls or Tewodros’s hair to Ethiopia. You also made a good point about the Solomonic dynasty which applied to so many of Ethiopian royals for centuries. If I’m not mistaken, Haile Selassie was the last Ethiopian emperor who had that bloodline.


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