British monarchy refuses to return captured prince's body to Ethiopia

British monarchy refuses to return captured prince's body to Ethiopia
Credit: Belga

The British monarchy has rejected a request by Ethiopians to recover the remains of their ancestor, a prince who died in England in 1879 after being captured as a child in Ethiopia by the British army and buried at Windsor Castle.

According to historians, Prince Alemayehu died of pneumonia at the age of 18 in Leeds, northern England. Queen Victoria, who was fond of him, wanted him buried in the royal crypt of St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, west of London.

Ethiopia had repeatedly called, to no avail, for the return of the prince, who was forcibly taken to Britain by the British after their victory over the Ethiopian Empire army in 1868.

Decendants of the late prince reiterated this request to the BBC. “We want his remains back … because this is not the country where he was born,” said one of them, Fasil Minas.

However, Buckingham Palace rejected the request. “It is highly unlikely that it would be possible to exhume Alemayehu’s remains without disturbing the resting place of a large number of others nearby,” a spokesman told the BBC in a statement on Monday.

Queen Elizabeth II, who died last September, is among the many members of the royal family buried in St George’s Chapel.

The statement said the royal household had in the past “acceded to requests for visits to the chapel from Ethiopian delegations.”

The prince’s memory has remained vivid in Ethiopia. During a trip to London in 1924, Emperor Haile Selassie laid a plaque engraved in Amharic, Ethiopia’s national language, on his grave.

In 2007, Ethiopia’s president, Girma Wolde-Giorgis, asked Queen Elizabeth II for the prince to be returned to his country.

Prince Alemayehu, born in 1861, was captured with his mother, Empress Tiruwork, when the British took the imperial fortress of Mekdela on 13 May 1868.

His father, Emperor Tewodros, had committed suicide rather than surrender. The empress died during the journey.

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