Prince Alemayehu

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Prince Alemayehu
Prince Alamayou in western clothes.jpg
Prince Alemayehu as a young man.
Full name
Alemayehu Simyen Tewodoros
House House of Solomon
Father Tewodros II of Ethiopia
Mother Tiruwork Wube
Born 23 April 1861
Magdala, Ethiopia
Died 14 November 1879(1879-11-14) (aged 18)
Far Headingley, Leeds, England
Burial St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Religion Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo

Dejazmatch Alemayehu Tewodros, often referred to as HIH Prince Alemayehu or Alamayou of Ethiopia (23 April 1861 – 14 November 1879) was the son of Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia. Emperor Tewodros II committed suicide after his defeat by the British, led by Sir Robert Napier, at the Battle of Magdala in 1868. Alemayehu's mother was Empress Tiruwork Wube.

The young prince was taken to Britain, under the care of Captain Tristram Speedy. The Empress Tiruwork had intended to travel to Britain with her son following the death of her husband, but died on the way to the coast leaving Alemayehu an orphan. Initially, Empress Tiruwork had resisted Captain Speedy's efforts to be named the child's guardian, and had even asked the commander of the British forces, Lord Napier, to keep Speedy away from her child and herself. After the death of the Empress however, Napier allowed Speedy to assume the role of caretaker. Upon the arrival of the little Prince's party in Alexandria however, Speedy dismissed the entire Ethiopian entourage of the Prince much to their distress and they returned to Ethiopia.

While staying at Speedy's home on the Isle of Wight he was introduced to Queen Victoria at her home at Osborne House. She took a great interest in his life and education. Alamayehu spent some time in India with Speedy and his wife, but the government decided he should be educated in England and he was sent to Cheltenham to be educated under the care of Thomas Jex-Blake, principal of Cheltenham College. He moved to Rugby School with Jex-Blake in 1875, where one of his tutors was Cyril Ransome (the future father of Arthur Ransome). In 1878 he joined the officers' training school at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, but he was not happy there and the following year went to Far Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, to stay with his old tutor Cyril Ransome. Within a week he had contracted pleurisy and died after six weeks of illness, despite the attentions of Dr Clifford Allbutt of Leeds and other respected consultants.[1]

Queen Victoria mentioned the death of the young prince in her diary, saying what a good and kind boy he had been and how sad it was that he should die so far from his family. She also mentioned how very unhappy the prince had been, and how conscious he was of people staring at him because of his colour.[2]

Prince Alemayehu, as photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron at the Isle of Wight in 1868.

Queen Victoria arranged for Alamayehu to be buried at Windsor Castle. The funeral took place on 21 November 1879, in the presence of Cyril Ransome, Chancellor of the Exchequer Stafford Northcote, General Napier, and Captain Speedy. A brass plaque in the nave of St George's chapel commemorates him and bears the words "I was a stranger and ye took me in", but Alamayehu's body is buried in a brick vault outside the chapel.[1] Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia arranged for second plaque commemorating the Prince to be placed in the chapel as well.

In 2007, the Ethiopian government requested the return of Alemayehu's remains for reburial in Ethiopia.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

The story of Alemayehu's life is told in the radio play I was a stranger, by Peter Spafford, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in May 2004.[4] The role of Alemayehu was played by Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The story of Alemayehu's life is also told in the book The Prince Who Walked With Lions by Elizabeth Laird (ISBN 978-0230752436) in March 2012.[5][6]

In December 2012 Alemayehu was featured in the BBC Radio 4 programme Great Lives, nominated by poet Lemn Sissay. Elizabeth Laird was the invited expert.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hall, David (2000). "The Extraordinary Story of Prince Alamayou". Far Headingley, Weetwood and West Park. FHVS. pp. 117–122. ISBN 0-9539312-0-X. 
  2. ^ The relevant passage from Victoria's diary is quoted in Appleyard, Letters, p. 150 n. 4
  3. ^ Blunt, Elizabeth (2007-06-03). "Ethiopia seeks prince's remains". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  4. ^ "Radio Review". The Stage. 2004-05-24. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  5. ^ "Author's website". 
  6. ^ "Elizabeth Laird: The Prince Who Walked With Lions". Scottish Book Trust. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  7. ^ "Prince Alamayu". Great Lives series 29. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 22 March 2013.