Sara Forbes Bonetta

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Sara Forbes Bonetta Davies
Sara Forbes Bonetta (15 September 1862).jpg
Sara Forbes Bonetta photographed by Camille Silvy in 1862
Born 1843
Oke Odan Ogun State
Died 15 August 1880 (age ~37)
Funchal, Madeira Island, Portugal
Cause of death Tuberculosis
Resting place Funchal, Madeira Island, Portugal
Residence London, United Kingdom
Lagos, British Nigeria
Nationality Nigerian-British
Other names Aina
Ethnicity Yoruba
Home town Abeokuta
Spouse(s) James Pinson Labulo Davies (m. 1862–80)
Children Victoria Davies (daughter)
Arthur Davies (son)
Stella Davies (daughter)
Relatives John K. Randle (son-in-law)

Sara Forbes Bonetta (1843 – 15 August 1880[1]) was a West African Egbado omoba who was orphaned in intertribal warfare, sold into slavery, and in a remarkable twist of events, was liberated from enslavement, and became a goddaughter to Queen Victoria. She was married to Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies, the wealthy Victorian Lagos philanthropist.

Early life[edit]

Originally named "Aina", Sara was born in 1843 at Oke-Odan, an Egbado village.[2] In 1848, Oke-Odan was raided by a Dahomean army; during the attack Sara lost her parents and ended up in the court of King Ghezo as a slave. Intended by her Dahomeyan captors to be a human sacrifice, she was rescued by Captain Frederick E. Forbes of the Royal Navy, who convinced King Ghezo of Dahomey to give her to Queen Victoria; "She would be a present from the King of the Blacks to the Queen of the Whites," Forbes wrote later. He named her Sara Forbes Bonetta, Bonetta after his ship the HMS Bonetta. Victoria was impressed by the young princess's exceptional intelligence, and had Sara raised as her goddaughter in the British middle class.[3][4][5] In 1851 Sara gained a long-lasting cough, believed to be caused by the climate of Great Britain. She was sent to school in Africa in May of that year, at the age of eight,[3] but was unhappy and returned to England in 1855 at the age of 12. In January 1862 she was invited to and attended the wedding of the daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Alice.

Marriage and children[edit]

She was later sanctioned by the Queen to marry Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies at St Nicholas' Church in Brighton in August 1862, after a period that was to be spent in the town in preparation for the wedding. During her subsequent time in Brighton, she lived at 17 Clifton Hill in the Montpelier area. Captain Davies was a Yoruba businessman of considerable wealth and the couple moved back to their native Africa after their wedding where they had three children: Victoria Davies (1863), Arthur Davies (1871), and Stella (1873).[6] Sarah Bonetta continued to enjoy a close relationship with Queen Victoria such that she and Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther were the only Lagos indigenes under standing order by the Royal Navy to evacuate in the event of an uprising in Lagos.[6] Victoria Davis was also goddaughter of the Queen of the British Empire.[7] Victoria Matilda Davies married the successful Lagos doctor John K. Randle.[8] A great many of both her and her daughter's descendants now live in England and Sierra Leone, while a separate group of them, the aristocratic Randle family of Lagos, remains prominent in contemporary Nigeria.[7][9][10][11]


Sarah Forbes Bonetta died on 15 August 1880[1] of tuberculosis in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, a Portuguese island. Her husband Captain Davies erected an over eight-foot-high granite obelisk-shaped monument in memory of Sarah Forbes Bonetta at Ijon in Western Lagos, where he started a cocoa farm. The inscription on the obelisk reads:




Sarah´s grave is No 206 in the British Cemetery of Funchal near the Anglican Holy Trinity Church, Rua Quebra Costas Funchal, Madeira. There is currently no headstone.[12]



  1. ^ a b c Elebute, Adeyemo. The Life of James Pinson Labulo Davies: A Colossus of Victorian Lagos. Kachifo Limited/Prestige. p. 138. ISBN 9789785205763. 
  2. ^ Elebute, Adeyemo. The Life of James Pinson Labulo Davies: A Colossus of Victorian Lagos. Kachifo Limited/Prestige. pp. 41–42. ISBN 9789785205763. 
  3. ^ a b Helen Rappaport (2003). Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO Biographical Companions. p. 307. ISBN 9781851093557. 
  4. ^ Ellis Wasson (2009). A History of Modern Britain: 1714 to the Present. John Wiley & Sons. p. 235. ISBN 9781405139359. 
  5. ^ Jan Marsh, Manchester City Art Gallery, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery (19 November 2009). Black Victorians: Black People in British Art 1800–1900. Lund Humphries, University of Michigan. pp. 62, 86. ISBN 9780853319306. 
  6. ^ a b Elebute, Adeyemo. The Life of James Pinson Labulo Davies: A Colossus of Victorian Lagos. Kachifo Limited/Prestige. pp. 77–79. ISBN 9789785205763. 
  7. ^ a b "Bonetta, Sarah Forbes (1843–1880)". Blackpast. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  8. ^ Adeloye, Adelola (1974). "Some early Nigerian doctors and their contribution to modern medicine in West Africa". Medical History 18: 286. doi:10.1017/s0025727300019621. PMC 1081580. PMID 4618303. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  9. ^ Myers, Walter Dean. At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England. ISBN 0-590-48669-1. 
  10. ^ "Brighton and Hove Black History". 
  11. ^ "Image archive". 
  12. ^ Register of Burials, Church Archives, Holy Trinity Church, Funchal

External links[edit]