Buckingham Palace Rejects Request to Return Prince Alemayehu's Body to Ethiopia
"Conscious of the responsibility to preserve the dignity of the departed it is therefore, with regret, not possible to agree to the request," courtiers said
Prince Dejatch Alemayehu of Abyssinia will remain buried in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle after Buckingham Palace refused a request to repatriate his body.
The update comes after his descendants asked the palace to make the move happen, the BBC reported on Monday.
“The Dean and Canons of Windsor are very sensitive to the need to honour the memory of Prince Alemayehu. However, they have been advised that 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,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement shared with PEOPLE.
“Conscious of the responsibility to preserve the dignity of the departed it is therefore, with regret, not possible to agree to the request, but in recent years we have accommodated requests from Ethiopian delegations to visit St Georges and will continue to do so."
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Prince Alemayehu was a 7-year-old orphan when he was taken to the U.K. in 1868. His father Tewodros II, Emperor of Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia), died by suicide after his troops were defeated by the British at the battle of Magdala. The British then took Tewodros’ wife Empress Tiruwork Wube and their young son, but she died during the journey.
According to the BBC, Queen Victoria took pity on the child when he came to the U.K. in June 1868. She arranged to support him financially and made Captain Tristram Speedy, who he traveled with from Africa, his guardian.
Prince Alemayehu was later educated in the U.K., including at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He died of pleurisy at age 18 in 1879 and was buried at St. George’s Chapel, the final resting place for generations of British royalty, at Queen Victoria’s request. Alemayehu is interred in the catacombs west of St. George’s Chapel, the church states.
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"Emotionally, most people who get to know Alemayehu’s story feel his remains should be returned. He made it so clear before he died that he wanted to go back,” Andrew Heavens, who explored the prince’s story in The Prince and the Plunder, told NBC News. The author added that the palace could better shed light on why the remains can’t be returned.
"We want his remains back as a family and as Ethiopians because that is not the country he was born in," Fasil Minas, a royal descendant of Alemayehu, told BBC. "It was not right for him to be buried in the U.K.”
There have been calls for the body of Prince Alemayehu to be repatriated in the past. President Girma Wolde-Giorgis of Ethiopia sent a request to Queen Elizabeth in 2007, Reuters reported, but no change came.
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