The First Black Bride Of Windsor


The whole world was agog yesterday, celebrating the wedding of Prince Harry of Britain to Miss Megan Markle, a former American Hollywood actress for the simple fact that the union has broken many rules and barriers of prejudice, race, class, gender and identity. Megan Markle is a product of a biracial marriage, a divorcee, all which would have disqualified her for marriage into the conservative British royal family. It seems the rules have changed and the monarchy has equally changed its outlook, not to be seen to be out of tune with the reality of modern times.

But the wedding of Markle is not the first for a ‘colored girl’ by the Windsors of Britain. Exactly 156 years ago, a similar royal wedding took place. This was during the time of slavery, colonialism and racism, a young African princess was adopted by Queen Victoria. This was at the height of the British Empire when Britain ruled the world and Queen Victoria the most powerful world leader of the period. She also led the Abolition of Slavery Campaign.

Sara Forbes Bonetta Davis (1843 — August 15, 1880), was a young Nigerian princess who was adopted by Queen Victoria and became her tenth child.Sarah Forbes Bonetta was originally born ‘Aina’ in 1843 to Egbado parents of Yoruba Ethnic group. ‘Aina’ is a Yoruba name given to a baby girl born with umbilical cord round her neck. Her father was a high chief of Oke-Odan, an Egbado village in Western Nigeria until he was killed in 1848 by King Ghezo of Dahomey, one of the notorious and merciless slave raiders in the 19th century, raided his village.

Sarah’s parents and siblings whose name were unknown were killed in the raid which turned Sarah, an Egbado princess into a slave.Sarah Forbes Bonetta was just five when she was captured by the merciless king Ghezo of Dahomey in 1848 and ended up as a slave in the court of king Ghezo, intended as a human sacrifice to the gods. She was rescued by Captain Fredrick E. Forbes of the Royal Navy who was on a mission to convince the king to abandon slavery and change to trade in agricultural produce, managed to bargain for the little girl’s life by convincing king Ghezo to give her to give Queen Victoria as a ‘present from the King of the Blacks to the Queen of the Whites.”

Forbes took her back to England, renaming her after himself and his ship the HMS: She became Sarah Forbes Bonetta, also nicknamed “Sally.” Forbes was very fond of his charge and impressed by her quick learning and talent for music, writing in his diary that she was a “perfect genius” with an amazing strength of mind and affection.

Queen Victoria first met with Sarah at Windsor castle on November 9, 1850. The monarch (who herself was opposed to racism and slavery) recognised her royal blood by calling her a princess. Queen Victoria adopted Sarah as her goddaughter and was to sponsor her education. The eight years old spent the festive period living with the royal family and playing in the royal nursery, but she was desperately unhappy missing her surrogate mother Mrs Forbes. Prince Albert persuades the monarch to let her go back to the Forbes.

Unfortunately, early 1851, disaster struck when Captain Forbes died. Around this time, Sarah developed a chronic cough, this was attributed to the climate of Great Britain, so when the Queen had her sent to Sierra Leone where it was hoped that warmer climate might improve her health. From the age 8 until 12 she lived unhappily in the Sierra Leone, attending the Church Missionary Society School where she excelled academically. Queen Victoria arranged for her return in 1855, and sent her to live with the middle class Schoen family in Gillingsham.

As Sarah approached adulthood, she, like most young women her age was expected to marry. She received a proposal from a suitor who would later become her husband, similar to many women in Victorian England. they would no longer be ‘kept’ by their family, marriage for Sarah was inevitable irrespective of personal preference.

Her suitor was James Pinson Labulo Davis 31years old Nigerian man from the Yoruba tribe, a widower and 13years older than Sarah. Who was this suitor Davis? Davis was born on 14th August 1828 to former Yoruba slaves whom the British had rescued and resettled in Freetown. His father was from Abeokuta and his mother from Ogbomosho. His parents refused to accept that Africans should be left to their traditions and ways of life after what they had done to them. Their son joined the Royal Navy as a sea cadet in 1849 and later retired and began his own shipping line. Being trustworthy, he became a point of contact for many European trading companies in West Africa. He grew rich, he was the richest man on all the coast of West Africa.

Sarah initially turned him down, but the Queen approved the match and Sarah had no financial independence if she refused. As was the custom in the Victorian England, a young girl needed persuasion often from family relations or family friends. Sarah was therefore sent to live with two old spinsters in Brighton in a place that was remote and desolate for a young African girl. The role of the two spinsters was to persuade Sarah to marry James Davies. The Queen paid for the elaborate ceremony that was talk of the country. In August, 1862, Sarah married James Pinson Labulo Davis at St Nicholas Church in Brighton.
Additional materials from wikipedia

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Sara Forbes Bonetta Davis
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