Picture: Sara Forbes Bonetta by Camille Silvy
Report – Brighton Gazette August 1862
Miss Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a West African of royal blood, was orphaned in a brutal massacre in her home country at the age of eight.
She was captured and later given to Queen Victoria who, impressed by the girl’s natural regal manner and exceptional intelligence, was pleased to give her sanction to be married to Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies in St Nicholas Church in Brighton in August 1862.
The wedding party, which arrived from West Hill Lodge, Brighton in ten carriages and pairs of grays, was made up of White ladies with African gentlemen, and African ladies with White gentlemen. There were sixteen bridesmaids.
In his journal, Captain Frederick Forbes gave an account of his mission with relation to Miss Bonetta:
“I have only to add a few particulars about my extraordinary present ‘the African Child’ – one of the captives of this dreadful slave-hunt was this interesting girl”
“It is usual to reserve the best born for the high behest of royalty and the immolation on the tombs of the diseased nobility. For one of these ends she has been detained at court for two years, proving, by her not having been sold to slave dealers that she was of good family”.
“She is a perfect genius; she now speaks English well, and has a great talent for music. She has won the affections, but with few exceptions, of all who have known her. She is far in advance of any white child of her age, in aptness of learning, and strength of mind and affection”.
Read more about Sarah Forbes Bonetta
Sarah had a daughter named Victoria Davies, who was presented to Queen Victoria. Upon the death of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, the Queen wrote in her diary: “Saw poor Victoria Davies, my black godchild, who learnt this morning of the death of her dear mother”.
So proud was Queen Victoria of Sarah’s daughter, that when she passed her music examination, teachers and children had one day holiday.
Photograph of Victoria Davies facing three-quarters right. She wears an ear-ring in her right ear and a long dress. She stands next to a heap of twisted wood on which she rests both her hands.
Provenance: Acquired by Queen Victoria and held by the Royal Collection Trust