The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

 
 
 
Sarah Forbes Bonetta

Sarah Forbes Bonetta


Born in West Africa in the area once known as ‘the Slave Coast,’ she was captured and became a slave of the King of Dahomey when she was about 5 years old. Two years later, in June 1850, Commodore Forbes of H.M.S. Bonetta arrived in Dahomey to negotiate the suppression of the slave trade and the King of Dahomey presented him with the girl as a gift for Queen Victoria. She was brought back to England and given the names Forbes after her rescuer and Bonetta after the name of his ship. [Her surnames are sometimes reversed.] Queen Victoria and Prince Albert received her at Windsor and paid for her education at a CMS school in Freetown. The child quickly became proficient in English and showed a natural talent for music.

On 14 August 1862 at St Nicholas's Church in Brighton she married James Labulo Davies, a merchant from Sierra Leone. The couple returned to Africa, where they settled in Lagos. Queen Victoria was godmother to their first child, named Victoria in her honour.

Mrs Sarah Davies died in Madeira on 24 August 1880.

Photographed by Merrick of Brighton.

Entered at Stationers' Hall [part of the copyrighting process] on 30 August 1862.
 

Code: 122013
 
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