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UK Refuses to Return Remains of Ethiopian Prince

As time runs on the UK is facing increased criticism for the significant amount of relics that they had taken from other countries during the imperial times of the British Empire. Many nations accuse the British Crown of stealing from them, and many of these nations are also asking for their relics to be returned. One such country is Ethiopia, yet it is not a jewel or a relic they are asking for, but a person.

Ethiopia has repeatedly asked that the returns of Prince Dejatch Alemayehu, a prince of Abyssinia, be returned to Ethiopia for burial. The Prince was taken from Abyssinia at 7 years old in 1868, after he was orphaned due to his Father’s suicide after defeat to the British in the battle of Magdala in the same year. While he was supported financially by the British crown before his death at 18 years old from pleurisy, he reportedly did not live a particularly happy life.


Prince Alemayehu in 1868 (Photo from Universal Images Group via Getty Images).

Queen Victoria wrote about him in her diary after his death, saying she was “Very grieved and shocked to hear by telegram, that good Alemayehu had passed away this morning. It is too sad! All alone, in a strange country, without a single person or relative, belonging to him…His was no happy life”.

Despite Ethiopia’s longstanding wishes for the Prince’s remains to be returned to his homeland, Buckingham Palace has refused. In 2007, the Ethiopian Prime Minister wrote personally to Queen Elizabeth II, asking for the exhumation of the Prince’s remains. According to Ethiopia’s Embassy, the Lord Chamberlain replied on her behalf, stating “while Her Majesty was in favour of repatriation […] identifying the remains of young Prince Alemayehu would not be possible”, due to his remains being added to a grave with 9 other people.

In the most recent requests, Buckingham Palace yesterday once again denied Ethiopia’s requests, this time stating it would be difficult “without disturbing the resting place of a substantial number of others in the vicinity”.

It would appear the Prince’s journey home is still a long way off.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien is a published journalist and historicist with over six years of experience in freelance journalism and research. His primary expertise is in African conflict and politics, with additional specialization in Israeli/Palestinian and Armenia/Azerbaijan conflicts. Sébastien serves as the deputy desk chief for Africa.

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