Buckingham Palace declines to exhume and return remains of Ethiopia’s Prince Alemayehu

Francis Akhalbey May 23, 2023
Prince Alemayehu is believed to have been stolen by British soldiers -- Photo Credit: Julia Margaret Cameron

A request to return the body of an Ethiopian prince who has been buried in Windsor Castle since the 19th century, to his homeland, Ethiopia, has been declined by Buckingham Palace. As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, Prince Alemayehu was taken to the UK at the age of seven after British soldiers allegedly stole him when they laid siege and looted his father’s imperial fortress in 1868. 

The Ethiopian royal, whose father took his own life during the siege, was supposed to arrive in the Uk with his mother; however, she died during the journey. After arriving in the UK, Queen Victoria became fond of him and ensured he was educated. Prince Alemayehu, however, died of an illness at the age of 18 after suffering racism, and was buried at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle upon the request of Queen Victoria.

The deceased royal’s family recently told BBC that they want his remains returned to their native Ethiopia. “We want his remains back as a family and as Ethiopians because that is not the country he was born in,” Fasil Minas, a descendant of Prince Alemayehu, said, adding that the deceased royal being buried in the UK “was not right.”

Responding to the request in a statement, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson told the news outlet that exhuming the prince’s remains from the catacombs of St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle could disturb others who have been laid to rest there.

“It is very unlikely that it would be possible to exhume the remains without disturbing the resting place of a substantial number of others in the vicinity,” the statement said, adding that though officials at the chapel also understood the need to pay homage to the deceased prince’s memory, they likewise had the “the responsibility to preserve the dignity of the departed.”

The statement also said that previous “requests from Ethiopian delegations to visit” the chapel had been “accommodated” by the Royal Household. 

Prince Alemayehu’s father, Emperor Tewodros II, ruled Ethiopia from 1855 till his death in 1868 during the Battle of Maqdala. For more than a century, Ethiopians have been fighting the British to return looted items from the Emperor’s fortress, including his hair and the remains of his son. In 2019, Ethiopian officials announced the British National Army Museum had returned locks of hair belonging to Emperor Tewodros II.

In 2007, then-Ethiopian president, Girma Wolde-Giorgis, wrote to Queen Elizabeth II asking for the remains of Prince Alemayehu to be exhumed. However, according to the Ethiopian embassy, the Lord Chamberlain replied on behalf of the Queen, saying that even though the Queen supports the repatriation, identifying the remains of the young prince would not be possible, Face2Face Africa reported at the time.

“I feel for him as if I knew him. He was dislocated from Ethiopia, from Africa, from the land of black people and remained there as if he had no home,” Abebech Kasa, another descendant of the deceased prince, told BBC

“We want him back. We don’t want him to remain in a foreign country,” she added. “He had a sad life. When I think of him I cry. If they agree to return his remains I would think of it as if he came home alive.”

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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