The British royal family is facing criticism for their refusal to return the remains of an Ethiopian prince who was allegedly kidnapped and taken to the UK as a child. According to BBC News, the controversy centers around the late Prince Dejatch Alemayehu, who was born in Abyssinia, which is now part of Ethiopia and Eritrea. A British siege on the area resulted in his father’s death, and his mother died while en route to England.
Prince Dejatch was left an orphan and was subsequently taken to the UK in 1868. Queen Victoria agreed to financially support him, but he died at the age of 18 in 1879 and was buried at Windsor Castle.
Now, nearly 150 years after his death, Fasil Minas, an Ethiopian royal descendant, is demanding the return of Prince Dejatch’s remains. The calls for repatriation have been ongoing, but the British royal family has refused to comply, sparking controversy and renewed attention to the alleged kidnapping of the Abyssinian prince.
“We want his remains back as a family and as Ethiopians because that is not the country he was born in.”
Minas also shared that it “was not right” for Alemayehu to be buried in England. Abebech Kasa, another Ethiopian royal descendant, shares this sentiment.
“I feel for him as if I knew him. He was dislocated from Ethiopia, from Africa, from the land of Black people and remained there as if he had no home.”
She added, “If they agree to return his remains, I would think of it as if he came home alive.”
“We want him back. We don’t want him to remain in a foreign country. He had a sad life. When I think of him, I cry. If they agree to return his remains, I would think of it as if he came home alive.”
Despite these pleas, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson says it’s “very unlikely” that the prince’s remains will be returned. Specifically, it’s noted that the exhumation would end up “disturbing the resting place” of other buried bodies.
“It is very unlikely that it would be possible to exhume the remains without disturbing the resting place of a substantial number of others in the vicinity.”
After declaring the British royals have a “responsibility to preserve the dignity of the departed,” the spokesperson pointed out that the family had “accommodated requests from Ethiopian delegations to visit” the site.
However, University College Dublin professor Jeremiah Garsha tells NBC News that, despite this gesture, the fact remains that Alemayehu was “kidnapped.”
“He was kidnapped. You have a minor coming to another country as an orphan after his mother dies, and then he himself dies at 18—something should feel wrong about that.”
Garsha added, “He’s looted as well, like all the other curios and treasures that were taken.”