Monday, 12 October 2015

Black Victorians - Sara Forbes Bonetta

"There weren't any black people in England in Victorian times," was the assertion during a discussion of Facebook I was looking at recently. Several people told the lady who said this that it wasn't true, and that there were lots of black people in England in Victorian times, so I thought I'd find out about some of them.
So here's Sara Forbes Bonetta, about the most high ranking black Victorian there could be - she was god-daughter to Queen Victoria herself!

As a small child, Sara (then called Aina) was orphaned and enslaved by a Dahomean army in West Africa. She ended up at the court of King Ghezo, and was intended to be a human sacrifice. Fortunately, she was rescued by Captain Frederick Forbes of the Royal Navy, who persuaded King Ghezo to give her to Queen Victoria as a gift. He named her Sara Forbes Bonetta (Bonetta was the name of his ship).
Queen Victoria was impressed with the child, and had her educated, and later gave her permission for Sara to marry Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies. He was a Yoruba businessman, and they got married in Brighton. They had three children together - Victoria, Arthur and Stella. Victoria Davies also became a god-daughter of Queen Victoria, and they remained in touch even when the Davies family moved to Lagos. Descendants of the family now live in England, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Sara died in 1880, aged only 37 - she had suffered for many years from a cough, which became tuberculosis, probably caused by the climate of England. Her husband erected an eight foot high granite obelisk in her memory at Ijon in Western Lagos, where he started a cocoa firm.

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