African prince's journey to Rugby covered in new book

By Dan Santy 05/03 Updated: 05/03 15:44

Buy photos » Former Rugby School pupil and friend of Queen Victoria, Prince Alemayehu of Ethiopia. (s)

THE STORY of an African prince orphaned by war who studied at Rugby School and was befriended by Queen Victoria is told in a new book.

Prince Alemayehu of Abyssinia - now Ethiopia - was brought to England by the British Army after his father, Emperor Tewodros II, was killed after brutal fighting at the Battle of Magdela in 1868.

Shortly after the death of his father the young prince also lost his mother, and the British forces decided to bring the orphaned seven-year-old Alemayehu back to England for safekeeping.

Once in England he was befriended by Queen Victoria and enrolled at Rugby School in 1878 to learn how to be a 'proper gentlemen'.

The move presented the teenage Alemayehu with a whole new set of challenges as he learned to adjust from life as a prince in his mountain home to coping with the very different surroundings of the famous public school.

Chronicling Alemayehu's fascinating life is a new book penned by well-known children's author Elizabeth Laird. Titled The Prince who Walked with Lions, it reflects his own battle to show the same courage his father did when facing down the British Army.

The author was drawn to combine her love of Ethiopia and documenting history through novels and write about Alemayehu's life.

She said: "What drew me in particular to this story was the dignity and courage of the young prince. Through his mother, he could boast a lineage more ancient than Queen Victoria's.

"Afro-Caribbean children in this country are bombarded with stories from the past about black people as slaves, and modern images of Africans living in hunger and poverty, but have few chances to learn about and celebrate black kings and princes."

After leaving Rugby School, Alemayehu went to Far Headingley in Leeds in 1878 but later contracted pleurisy and died aged just 18 after a six week illness.

Queen Victoria, saddened by his death, arranged for him to be buried at Windsor Castle. His funeral took place on November 21 1879.

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