Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Death of the Abyssinian Prince 1879

that follows has a more serious tone than some of my recent offerings. It is none the less intriguing, the background to the life of the Ethiopian prince, Amarayu has aspects relevant today.


The story of King Theodore of Abyssinia, his violent passions, his barbarous cruelties, his endless wars, his defiance of British power, the attack on him by General Napier, his determined resistance, and his fall behind the gates of his own city, Magdala – the story of all this must familiar, in part at least, to most readers.

The history of the march of our brave troops to set free the captives whom Theodore had so wantonly imprisoned is one well worthy boys’ reading, and we may perhaps be tempted one day to retell it, with suitable illustrations, in these columns. At present, however, we have to do, not with the terrible king, but with his son.

When Magdala had fallen and Theodore was dead, the Queen of Abyssinia sought refuge in the English camp, but in a few days died of consumption, leaving an orphan son, named Dejaz Alamieo (or Alamayu), between seven and eight years old. What could be done with him? The country was in confusion, thechiefs were opposed to one another, and there was great danger that if the little orphan boy were left behind he would speedily be got rid of, possibly by a cruel death. It was accordingly determined to bring him to England, and he was committed to the kindly guardianship of Captain Speedy to whom he soon became attached.

The prince on reaching England was placed at school, and proving a sharp lad, quickly made progress in his studies, and continued to grow in the respect of all who knew him. He has just died, and as many references to the sad event have been made in the daily papers, we thought our readers might like to know what he was like when brought to this country. The portrait we give is from a photograph taken at the time, and admirably preserves the likeness.


The prince died on November 14th, at the age of eighteen, of inflammation of the lungs, at the residence of Professor Ransome, at Headingley, where he was being educated at the expense of the Government. During his illness our beloved Queen, who took a warm interest in him, twice sent Sir John Cowell to see him, and was kept constantly informed by telegrams as to his condition. The remains of the young prince were brought to Windsor, and buried in the royal catacombs, St George’s Chapel.

We thought it might, perhaps, add to the interest of this brief sketch if we also gave a portrait of Lord Napier of Magdala, and we have selected for the one taken about the time that the prince was photographed; in other words, soon after the general’s successful campaign in Africa by which he won his present title.


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