Saturday, October 1, 2011

Asking the right questions

On a recent visit to the Royal Dockyard Museum at Chatham, I read the intriguing story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta (Davies), a West African princess brought to England as a "gift" for Queen Victoria. Some sources state that Sarah was a goddaughter of the Queen as was her own daughter, Victoria Davies (Randle).
The "Dahomian Captive"

Sarah's extraordinary life is fully covered in this Youtube interview with Claire Kittings, Learning Manager at the National Portrait Gallery, but I'm now on the hunt for more stories about the Queen's numerous godchildren, especially those with unusual backgrounds. Who were they, and what happened to them?
A Wikipedia list can be found here, from which it is soon apparent most of these people came from the privileged upper echelons of British or European society (with the notable exception of Prince Albert Kamehameha of Hawaii) and does not include any godchildren from the middle or lower orders, or people of "colour" who came from the Empire like Sarah and her daughter, Victoria.
For example, the children of Maharajah Duleep Singh are not shown, neither is the Maori, Albert Victor Pomare. Could there be others? If anyone reading this knows, I'd love to hear from you.
One goddaughter who will be the subject of a future post is Victoria Drummond, the first female qualified Marine Engineer.
In the meantime, my quest continues. As Claire Kittings says in the interview, finding hidden history is all about asking the right questions.
Sarah was the subject of a book by Walter Dean Myers entitled At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England 

Some links:
Sarah Forbes Bonetta
Victoria Davies
Duleep Singh

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