Alemayehu - The Orphan Prince of Ethiopia

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The tragic case of an unfortunate young Ethiopian prince by the name of Alemayehu conjoins the horrors of war, kindness of strangers and struggles of race in an era known for its widespread prejudice.

The prince's story begins, not with himself, but with his father, Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia, defeated in battle by Robert Napier of the British Indian Army. Tewodros took his own life rather than surrendering - leaving his son and wife in the wake of his defeat.

The Empress Tiruwork, Alemayehu's mother, taken under the protection of Napier, intended to take her son to Britain, but met with an untimely illness to which she quickly succumbed. She'd been distressed at the insistence of a certain decorated captain by the name of Tristram Speedy to be appointed as her son's legal guardian and asked that he be kept away. Upon arrival in Britain, the young prince had already lost both his father and his mother.

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Tristram Speedy took charge of the prince - dismissing his official Ethiopian caretakers. Alemayehu was taken to see Queen Victoria. She'd also been given a letter by Napier who'd carried it for the boy's grandmother Woizero Lakiyaye - beseeching her to care for Alemayehu in her stead. Queen Victoria was touched by it and the young prince's story - assuming full responsibility for his education and upbringing.

Captain Speedy was appointed Alemayehu's guardian, despite his mother's wishes and he brought the boy with him to his home in India. However, after a little while, it was decided by the government that he ought to be educated in England and he was brought back to Hertfordshire, then Cheltenham to study.

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"I was a stranger and ye took me in"


Come 1879, the Prince would go to Leeds, West Yorkshire to live with one of his tutors, Cyril Ransome. Sadly, his time there would be short-lived as he succumbed to pleurisy - a lung disease - mere weeks after his arrival. And so it was that the young prince Alemayehu passed away at only the age of 18 in a land far from his own.

Tragically, the Queen recounted his kindness and sorrow - mentioning in her diary how unhappy he'd been being viewed as an outsider. She arranged for his burial to be had at Windsor Castle on the 21st of November. Two plaques now commemorate his burial there, one in the nave and another in the chapel - bearing the words "I was a stranger and ye took me in."

Read our article on a black princess in England...

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