According to the BBC, a lock of hair belonging to an Ethiopian royal who died in the United Kingdom over 140 years ago was returned to the Horn of Africa country’s envoy to the European country.Prince Alemayehu was transferred to the United Kingdom at the age of seven after British forces purportedly kidnapped him while sieging and looting his father Emperor Tewodros’ imperial citadel of Maqdala in 1868.
The Ethiopian king, whose father committed suicide during the siege, was due to arrive in the UK with his mother, but she perished on the way. Queen Victoria became fond of him after he arrived in the UK and made certain he received an education. Prince Alemayehu, on the other hand, died of an illness at the age of 18 after being subjected to bigotry and was buried at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle at Queen Victoria’s request.
Captain Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy was a member of the entourage that accompanied Prince Alemayehu to the United Kingdom. Queen Victoria also entrusted the prince to Speedy and offered financial support.
The restoration of Prince Alemayehu’s lock of hair comes amid family pleas for his body to be excavated and returned to his homeland. However, Buckingham Palace just turned down their request.
Speedy also had the hair of the Ethiopian prince before the Scheherazade Foundation arranged for it to be returned. Leonie Turner, a Speedy related, told CBC that she discovered the lock of hair among their family relics.
“I felt Prince Alemayehu’s hair was a long way from home,” Turner reportedly said.
During a function in London on Thursday, the deceased Ethiopian royal’s lock of hair was returned to Ethiopia’s ambassador to the UK, Teferi Melesse. Other looted artifacts from his father’s fortress were also returned. Melesse also stated that they will continue to request additional artifacts seized from the emperor’s fortress from the United Kingdom.
“The restitution of Ethiopian artefacts looted by the 1868 British expedition to Magdala is important for restorative justice and an excellent way to build better relations and collaborations between British and Ethiopian institutions,” Alula Pankhurst, who is a member of Ethiopia’s Heritages Restitution National Committee, told BBC.