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Buckingham Palace won’t return remains of Ethiopian prince

Ethiopia's Prince Alamayou circa 1968.

Ethiopia's Prince Alamayou circa 1968. Photo: Getty

Buckingham Palace has declined to return the remains of an orphaned Ethiopian prince buried at Windsor Castle 144 years ago.

The British took Prince Alemayehu to the UK when he was age seven, having laid siege to his family’s fortress in Ethiopia.

The boy’s father Emperor Tewodros II killed himself after the defeat and his mother died on their voyage to London.

Queen Victoria took an interest in the orphaned prince’s well-being, paying for his education and, in the end, his burial in the royal catacombs of St George’s Chapel.

His modern-day relatives have requested the prince’s body be sent back home to Ethiopia.

The prince’s family told the BBC it was “not right” for the Ethiopian to be lying in the UK.

“We want his remains back as a family and as Ethiopians because that is not the country he was born in,” one of the royal descendants Fasil Minas said.

Prince Alamayou with Captain J C Speedy (left) who became his guardian. Photo: Getty

However, Buckingham Palace told the BBC that trying to exhume his remains would disturb other 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,” the palace said.

The statement said chapel authorities had “the responsibility to preserve the dignity of the departed”.

The Royal Household had also “accommodated requests from Ethiopian delegations to visit” the chapel.

The story of how the prince ended up in London dates to 1862, when his father sought an alliance with the UK.

When the emperor’s letters to Queen Victoria went unanswered he reacted by taking some Europeans hostage, among them the British consul.

Britain then launched a military expedition of 13,000 British and Indian troops and in 1868 overwhelmed the Ethiopians in a matter of hours.

The Ethiopian emperor shot himself rather than be taken prisoner.

Gold crowns and necklaces were among the thousands of artefacts and treasures the British carted away.

They also took Prince Alemayehu and his mother Empress Tiruwork Wube to Britain, where the prince arrived an orphan in 1868.

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