Sara Forbes Bonetta (Black History Month )
There are some true life stories that seem that they are out from the pages of a Nollywood script.
One of such stories is the unbelievable life of Sara Forbes Bonetta, a Yoruba woman who was the god daughter of Queen Victoria of England.
Sara Forbes Bonetta was Yoruba but at an early age she became an orphan because of an inter-tribal war.
She was captured by King of Dahomey in the war of 1848 after her parents were killed.
Two years a later, at the age of eight Captain Frederick E Forbes of the Royal Navy convinced the King of Dahomey to give Sara as a gift to the Queen of England. “She would be a present from the King of the Blacks to the Queen of the Whites” said the British captain and with that he was able to convince King Ghezo to give her to her Royal Majesty.
Her name Bonetta and Forbes came from the name of the ship she boarded and the last name of the captain. When she got to England she was presented to the Queen of England. The monarch gave Sara to the Church Missionary Society.
Due to her ill health, she went back to Africa and studied at the Female Institution in Freetown, Liberia. By the age of 12, the Queen commanded her to come back to England.
Sara’s royal manner impressed the queen greatly. She was a brilliant pupil who excelled in Literature, Music and Arts. The Queen loved her so much that she gave her a regular allowance and a pass to visit her residence- Windsor Castle anytime she wanted. Her intelligence and royal demeanour made her popular in the royal court of England. It was recorded that she was advanced in learning which surprised her tutors.
A 31 year old Yoruba wealthy business man James Pinson Labulo Davies would seek Sara’s hand in marriage when she turned 18. She would reject his proposal. Because of her rejection, Sara was made to live in a place she described as “desolate little pig sty” with two old women. Her time in the little pig sty made Sara reconsider Davies’ proposal.
In August 1862, she married James Pinson Labulo Davies. The marriage took place at St Nicholas Church in Brighton. The wedding party was the talk of the town. It was also very inter-racial with “White ladies with African gentlemen, and African ladies with White gentlemen.” After the marriage Sara Forbes Bonetta and her husband moved to Badagry in Lagos where she was baptised. Her husband settled down in Lagos and became active in local politics. He was a member of the Legislative Council from 1872-1874.
Sara gave birth to a daughter who was named Victoria after the Queen. In 1867, Sara visited the Queen in London. After giving birth to two more children, Sara Forbes Bonetta passed away. Some records say she died at 35 and other say she died at 40.
According to historical documents, Sara had health problems all her life. She had a cough because of her inability to acclimatize with European weather. It was reported that she died of tuberculosis.
This piece of the story from the past is quite surprising. The British monarchy is seen as an all white institution and to think that a Yoruba woman was the god daughter of Queen Victoria is surreal.