Prince Alamayou of Ethiopia

 King Theodore of Abyssinia, as modern Ethiopia was usually known
at that time, was born about 1818, the son of a minor chief, who was
reputed to be of the Queen of Sheba's royal line. His original name was
Kassa, and his widowed mother was left so poor that she was obliged to
sell kosso, a specific against tapeworm, in the streets of Gondar.
Kassa was brought up in a monastery on Lake Tsana and proved an apt and
intelligent pupil. The country was engaged in civil war and Kassa
played a leading part in this war and was so successful that by 1855 he
was crowned king, taking the name of Theodore, believing that he was
destined to fulfil a legend that a just and righteous king of that name
would one day wipe out Islam, conquer Jerusalem and occupy the throne
of Solomon. Theodore was greatly influenced during his rise to power by
two English friends, John Bell and Walter Chichele Plowden of whom the
latter persuaded Lord Palmerston to conclude a treaty of trade in 1849
with the Ras of Gondar; on his fall in 1854 Plowden transferred his
allegiance to Theodore, who had deposed the last titular emperor, John
III, and had transferred the capital from Gondar to Magdala, Plow­den
occupied a semi-official diplomatic position in the country and on his
death in 1860 a Captain Cameron was appointed to succeed him as Consul.
The death of his two English friends in 1860 had a serious effect on
Theodore's character: Plowden had already noted that " the worst points
in his character are his violent anger at times and his unyielding
pride as regards his kingly and divine rights," these qualities now
became more marked. After Cameron's arrival the King wrote to Queen
Victoria suggesting the establishment of an Abyssinian embassy in both
London and Paris. This letter was, unfortunately, filed away in the
Foreign Office, possibly because no interpreter who could read Amharic
was available, and when dispatches from Eng- land arrived in Abyssinia
in 1864, Theodore was told that no reply had been received to his
letter. He took this as a gross personal insult to himself and to his
country and threw Cameron and several other English persons into
prison. The British government sent a Levantine, Hormuzd Rassam, to try
to obtain the release of the prisoners, and in 1866 Theodore on a
sudden whim, threw him and sixty other Europeans into prison in Magdala
and had them chained in iron anklets and fetters.
  To rescue these prisoners the British government equipped an
expedition, under the command of Sir Robert Napier to set forth from
India, with elephants, camels, mules and oxen but, owing to the
difficult nature of the country, this expedition took nearly a year to
reach Magdala from the coast, a distance of 325 miles. Napier inflicted
a heavy defeat on the Abyssinian troops at Arogee on April 10, 1868 and
captured Magdala three days later, on Easter Monday, to find that
Theodore had committed suicide.
  The first mention of Alamayou, who had been born in 1861 to
Terunish, the daughter of the Ras of Tigre and King Theodore's second
wife, is to be found in a report sent by Rassam to General Merewether,
a senior officer on Napier's staff, on April 1, 1868: it would seem
that the prisoner's conditions had improved by then for Rassam writes "
the King then introduced me to Dayaz Alameeo (the prince imperial and
the real heir to the throne). . . and told him to escort us back to our
house. Alameeo is a nice youth about eight years of age." After his
father's suicide, Napier, who had first obtained the agreement of the
boy's mother, entrusted the boy to the care of Captain J. C. Speedy, a
member of his staff, who had known King Theodore and who spoke Amharic.
Little is known of Speedy's life before this war, but he had been sent
from Australia to join Napier's expedition. In his dispatches Napier
refers, with appreciation, to Speedy's " familiar knowledge of the
Amharic language and character of the Abyssinians." It was decided that
the boy should return to England with Captain Speedy, it had been one
of King Theodore's wishes that he should visit this country, and
shortly after he left for the coast with Alamayou and his mother, Queen
Terun­ish, the boy's tutor, Alaca Zarat, and a eunuch, Gabra Medin. On
the way to the coast the Queen died, prob­ably from tuberculosis, and,
when dying, she had asked Speedy if he would be a father to her boy,
which Speedy promised that he would be. On June 11, 1868, Speedy and
his party embarked on H.M.S. Feroze to sail to England. The boy shared
the same cabin as his tutor, but spent most of the day with Speedy, to
whom he had become very attached. While still at sea, at about 10
o'clock in the evening of June 15, Speedy " heard an agonised scream,
which was accompanied by a cry for me in Amharic, and which I
recognised as proceeding from Alamayou. While running to the boy I was
met by a messenger from Lord (sic) Napier requesting me to come as
quickly as possible. I found Alamayou in the arms of Lord Napier
suffering from the greatest agitation – after quieting with some
difficulty his distress, the only solution the boy would give as to the
cause of his distress was that Alaca Zarat had the evil eye!"
  The boy refused to return to his tutor, and on the next morning
Napier asked Speedy to take sole charge of Alamayou, and when the boat
arrived at Suez, Napier dismissed both the tutor and the eunuch,
sending them both back to Mombassa. Meanwhile, as Speedy later
recorded: " the distressing alarm that then seized him rendered him so
timid that for the following three months no persuasion could induce
him to sleep out of my arms, and so great was his terror that if he
happened to wake and find me asleep although still in my arms, he would
awake me and earnestly beg me to remain awake until he should fall
asleep; and it is only by continued care and tenderness that he is
gradually losing his timidity."
  He added that up to that time he had never known the boy to
express any superstitious fears, and the un­fortunate tutor was able to
confirm this. Some months later Queen Victoria recorded in her diary
that Captain Speedy had told her : " that the poor child has a
recollection of the horrid massacre of captives by his father's orders
and having heard their shrieks."
  Arriving in England, Speedy took the boy to his home at
Freshwater, in the Isle of Wight, where he began to teach him English.
Alamayou and Speedy were sum­moned to Osborne to meet Queen Victoria,
who had been interested in him before his arrival in England, and on
July 11, very shortly after his arrival, wrote that he must on no
account be removed " from the kind judicious and almost maternal care
of Captain Speedy. The poor child cannot bear him for a moment out of
his sight, requiring him to sleep in his bed : Captain Speedy is very
gentle in his Christianity often the   Queen must say not to
be found in clergymen who are told to enforce their own particular
creed. The child is extremely nervous, and his reason even might be
endangered if the poor little helpless orphan were removed from the one
person to whom he seems to cling most tenderly." On July 17th Speedy
brought the boy again to Osborne. " he was so nice and gentle. He took
a peach which I gave to him and he seemed to enjoy eating it. very
  On the next day, July 18th, Mrs. Tennyson notes in her diary : "
Poor little Alamayue, King Theodore of Abyssin­ia's son, came with
Captain Speedy." and on July 25th the Queen notes : " just after
luncheon saw the little Alamayou in his picturesque Abyssinian dress,
gave the dear little boy a watch and chain."
During the summer the Queen saw Speedy end Alamayou several times and
she wrote that she took a great interest in him and would be pleased to
see him frequently but realised that the responsibility for his
education must rest with the Government. Captain Speedy, however,
served the Indian army and on October 10th of the same year he wrote to
the Under Secretary for India: " the boy is in very good health which
may be owing to the enjoyment of sea air, as well as of sea bathing. I
have also occupied myself in teaching him to swim, he having lost his
repugnance to salt water. His disposition is excellent and his former
shyness is replaced by a most winning manner. He is remarkably
intelligent for his age and makes quick progress in English."
  Later in the year Speedy married a Miss Cottam, whose parents
lived at Afton, near Freshwater, and the Queen notes, on December 26th:
"just before luncheon we saw little Alamayou looking very well and
grown. Captain Speedy being on his wedding tour, the boy was brought by
Mrs. Cottam, Mrs. Speedy's mother." On February 15th, 1869, a further
visit was paid by Alamayou and Speedy to Osborne.
  Meantime, there had been discussions on Alamayou's future, and
the Secretary for India, Sir Stafford Northcote wrote that he had
decided that the boy should remain under the care of Captain Speedy, in
the Isle of Wight, for at least a year, recognising the boy's devotion
to him, that he spoke his language and, further, that this was carrying
out the wish of his dying mother. The Treasury agreed to pay Captain
Speedy £300 a year as guardian and to allow him a further £400 a year
for maintenance. Early in 1869 Speedy was appointed to the post of
District Commissioner of Police at Seetapoor, in Oudh. He left for his
post with his wife and Alamayou on July 4th of that year with an
agreement with the Govern­ment that he should continue his guardianship
of Alamayou for " the period of two years from August 1st next at the
rate of £700 a year." He reported that he had made arrangements for
Alamayou's education and had been lucky to secure the services of Baboo
Ram-chander Bhose, a " most intelligent well educated man and a
Christian " as his instructor. He also reported that Alamayou's health
was good and his disposition amiable.
  "he is passionately fond of all out-of-door sports and riding,
but with regard to any mental occupation, most lethargic
…   I have but one fault to notice, that is an occasional
tendency to untruthfulness." This had only developed since his arrival
in India, " but that by appealling to his bravery and better feelings,
I have never failed to obtain the truth from him."
  But in London, Robert Lowe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in
the Liberal Government, was giving his attention to Alamayou's future.
He wrote in a memoran­dum dated 5/6/1870 that, " I should think the
kindest thing for him would be to let his education take a military
turn and let him be commissioned among the European officers of some of
the Irregular Horse. This is a Royal calling and, as he will be a sort
of Mamluk away from home, our Government will always be the best friend
he has, his loyalty will be pretty well assured."
  Speedy too was thinking of the future, and he wrote in February
1871 that Alamayou will be ten years old in the following April, and
that he now stands 4 ft. 6 in. in height " and always shews great
courage in games, while his fondness for animals is striking." Later in
the year he wrote again "Alamayou is growing a fine lad but I cannot
get him to care for his books. It is ludicrous his utter dislike for
anything in that line. But he is otherwise the best boy in the Universe
… the child has somehow entwined himself round our hearts, and as we
have no family it seems as if Providence has given him to us. India is
bad for Alamayou on account of there being no schools, at least none to
which    I would have sent Alamayou and yet have been in
visiting distance." But the time was at hand when fate, in the person
of the British Government, was to take a decision which was to affect
Alamayou and his guardians profoundly. Early in 1871 Speedy was
transferred from his post at Seetapore to that of a colonial magistrate
in Penang. The British authorities thereupon decided that Alamayou
should return to England forthwith, and that no arrange­ments for his
education outside England could be con­sidered. Anson, who was the
Governor at Singapore, reported to Lord   Kimberley that he
had " seen Captain Speedy and Alamayou frequently together and have had
the latter spending the days at Government House on several occasions
and in justice to Captain Speedy 1 must say that he shows the greatest
affection for his charge which is fully returned by him. Were Captain
Speedy his father he could not have done more for him in every way, and
I consider that under the circumstances Captain Speedy is deserving of
every consideration. Captain Speedy being a married man without any
children he allowed Alamayou to take the place of a son and I
understand that Mrs. Speedy who is at present in England, takes an
equal interest in him."
  The Speedys, too, realised that the time had come when they
would have to relinquish the quardianship of Alamayou under the terms
of the 1869 agreement, and Mrs. Speedy, already in England, wrote to
Sir John Cowell, Master of the Queen's Household, that she " cannot
contemplate the idea of being parted from the boy without the heaviest
sorrow, the idea (or knowledge) of what he will suffer any where else
is too sad to dwell upon and only those who have watched and loved him
in his daily life can know this. If it were for Alamayou's good to be
taken away we would of course say nothing, but this is an extremely
doubtful matter."
  She had been looking for a tutor to go to Penang. and had almost
arranged for " a Mr. Digby", and nephew of Lord Leicester, who had just
taken his degree at Oxford, to go out there and knew of nothing which
would prevent him Sailing very shortly. Speedy himself wrote to Lingen,
an official of the Treasury to tell him that he had arranged for a
tutor to come out for a year at the end of which time he would send
Alamayou home to go to a prepara­tory school where he would have had
the advantage of the companionship of boys of his own age. Speedy later
on suggested that he should be given employment in England so that he
could retain his guardianship of Alamayou. The Duke of Argyll,
Secretary for India, wrote to Sir Thomas Biddulph, Keeper of the Privy
Purse, on November 11th, 1871, that he had told Glad­stone that he
would support the suggestion of leaving  Alamayou with Speedy, but
Robert Lowe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, did not agree, and on
November 6th wrote to Gladstone that " the case had to be decided on
general principle. We are in loco parentis, and ought to look after his
welfare as if he were our own child. What parents would voluntarily
bring up a child in Indian canton­ments where he is sure to become an
accomplished liar, and would probably be contaminated with those vices
which arresi the physical and mental development of boys. I am sorry he
has been left in India so long, but if he is to stay any longer I see
no good in keeping him here … I attach no importance to what Captain
and Mrs. Speedy say. for they have a large pecuniary interest in '
keeping him '. . . I have arranged with Mr. Jex-Blake, the head of
Cheltenham College, to take him into his own house. He has a large
family, so the boy will not be solitary … it is possible that a day
may come when the boy may have some part to play in Abyssinia and we
should be inexcusable if we neglected even the remote chance of
importing there some faint sprinkling of European culture …" 
Lowe, a dominating man, brusque and sarcastic, expressed his own
private feelings in the matter when he wrote a minute, on December
18th, "I am tired of this cant, one would think that education
consisted in coddling and petting instead of making men. Special tutors
mean general ignorance … If he is truthful there is no time to be
lost for he will not be so long. These people think that a boy's
character is formed by those in whose house he lives and not by other
boys and the general moral tone in the community."
 When Queen Victoria heard of the proposal that Alamayou should be
separated from the Speedys she was not at all satisfied. She wrote that
she was " perfectly furious at Mr. Lowe's conduct and she would be
quite ready to pay the £400 herself and have the boy brought and would
be happy to do so rather than see such treatment. Sir Thomas Biddulph's
letter is excellent but the Queen would wish that Sir T. would add two
things; one, that the medical men
should well consider whether the boy would not suffer considering his sensitive temperament from being
taken away from the only friend he has, secondly that Sir W. Jenner should be one of the doctors consulted."
At this stage it is necessary to go back in the story tor a few months in order fully to understand what has
been going on. When Lowe heard that Speedy was to be transferred from India to Penang he wrote, July 12th,
1871, that " the fate of Alamayou in life ought to depend on some fixed
principle, and not on blind chance. Yet how comes he to be in India and
now in the Colony of Penang : simple because he fell into the hands of
an officer whose fate has blown him to these places. I cannot justify
fully the expenditure of £700 a year for an education at Penang. If he
is to have an Oriental education in an Oriental country I think he
should be handed over to the Indian Government -  But if we are to
pay for him I think we should insist on having our money spent in the
manner most for his benefit. I therefore propose to terminate the
present arrange­ment and to pay only what is necessary to bring the boy
to England and to place him in proper hands." The arrangement with
Speedy for the care of Alamayou was due to end on August 1st, 1871, and
the Treasury proposed to bring him back to England where " Their
Lordships would be prepared with suitable arrangements for his
education and maintenance." One of the Treasury officials, R. W. W.
Lingen, was already in touch with a clergyman, the Reverend Jex-Blake,
who kept a large private school, called the College, at Cheltenham to
ask whether Alamayou could be boarded with him. Jex-Blake wrote on
October 2nd that he was willing to take care of the boy " probably he
wants most of all at first some kindly and sensible family life with
other children ; and prob­ably he could not do much better than to come
and stay with us here for a month or two, being treated as a friend's
child who has to do his lessons and ride his pony and do as he is told."
  Lingen minuted the Chancellor on the following day: " I think it might be undesirable (if you decide on
Cheltenham) for Jex-Blake to take the boy into his own family – even on
trial – until he has seen what he is like – especially whether he may
not have picked up bad ways in India. Jex-Blake has several young
children (girls) of his own."
  Jex-Blake wrote to accept the responsibility of Alama-you's
education : understandably, he wished he had been younger, but he
expected to become interested in him, and he hoped that " veracity may
yet be assured." He was to receive £700 a year for his work, and felt
that the title Prince " should not be de rigeur in family life." With
these not very encouraging preliminaries the scene was now set for
Alamayou's return to England. Accom­panied by Speedy he arrived at
Southampton on Decem­ber 30th, and left at once for Mrs. Cottam's house
at Freshwater. Speedy did not receive a letter from Lingen, which
should have been waiting for him on arrival, instructing him to hand
over Alamayou to Jex-Blake, at Brighton, immediately on landing.
Instead, he wrote to Lingen on January 1st, from the Langham Hotel,
making a final plea, for a reconsideration of the plans for Alamayou's
education, and ends his letter " But I cannot refrain from expressing
my regret and surprise, that I who since the close of the Abys­sinian
campaign have stood 'in loco parentis ' to the boy, should not have
been consulted regarding the future of one in whom I am deeply
interested; and with whose particular temperament both physical and
mental, no one can be so intimately acquainted as myself. I think it is
my duty to state that in my opinion the boy is totally unfitted for a
large public school. . . I earnestly solicit the favour of a personal
interview before anything is definitely settled." On receipt of this
letter Lingen sent one of his officials to call on Speedy at the
Langham Hotel, but found that he had already left for Windsor. Here he
probably saw the sympathetic Thomas Biddulph who wrote to Lowe in
January " considering the interest the Queen has taken in the boy, and
that Captain Speedy was brought over at the Queen's desire to be with
him, Her Majesty expected that at least a report of his arrival should
have been made to her, and some explanation made before he was ordered
off to Mr. Jex-Blake. One point to which the Queen attaches great
importance was that a medical examination of him should be made in
order to decide whether England was a fit residence for him. In this
purpose the Queen desires that Sir W. Jenner should see him and report
on his health and also upon his nervous temperament . . . I am not
aware where the boy is at the moment, as 1 know nothing except that
Captain Speedy did not deliver him to Mr. Jex-Blake on the day named
which was I think the fourth day after his arrival in England." To this
letter Lowe replied, indignantly, that Speedy was only brought over to
take care of the boy on the voyage and that he, Lowe, had made all
arrangements about the "disposal" of the boy: Speedy had been
instructed by the Treasury " to take Alamayou to Brighton on Wednesday
last and to deliver him to the Reverend T. D. Blake, 13 Sussex Square,
Brighton. That order Captain Speedy disobeyed."
  This was followed by a letter to Speedy, written on Lowe's
instructions, saying that as long as he did not  comply with their
instructions to him, My Lords must decline to enter any correspondence
with him. Ponsonby, the Queen's private secretary, followed this up by
a telegram to Speedy telling him to take Alamayou to see Jex-Blake in
Brighton, but not to hand him over until further notice. On January
12th Speedy received another telegram telling him to bring Alamayou to
Windsor on the following Wednesday, where the Queen wished to see them
both. Lowe subsequently wrote to Biddulph to tell him that Speedy with
Alamayou were at the Albion Hotel, Brighton, where they could be seen
by Jex-Blake. Lowe had finally given way and agreed that Alamayou
should remain with Speedy until it was decided that the place chosen
for him, Cheltenham, was suitable. Ponsonby wrote rather sadly " had
Mr. Lowe suggested that the first time there need have been no
difficulty." On January 18th Speedy and Alamayou were again at Osborne
and on the same day Biddulph wrote to Lowe to ask him to arrange for an
appointment for Alamayou to be seen by Sir William Jenner and Dr.
Quain; and on January 23rd this consultation took place in Downing
Street, in the presence of Captain Speedy. Jenner reported that, while
it would have been better had Alamayou remained a further two years in
a warmer climate, yet he might reside in the south of England with very
small risk, provided he had a comfortable home. Both he and Dr. Quain
were opposed to the idea of sending the boy to a public or private
boarding school and recommended placing him with a tutor who might have
two or three pupils and that Captain Speedy should stand in loco
parentis and receive the boy at holiday time. The Queen firmly
supported this plan, and Bid­dulph wrote to Gladstone that she "
entirely disagrees in the proposal to place Alamayou with Mr. Blake who
I believe is head of a school at Cheltenham."   When
Gladstone next visited the Queen at Osborne Alamayou's education was
discussed and Biddulph was asked to send a copy of Jenner's report to
Lowe, who replied in an angry mood that the doctor's advice was " that
his nervous temperament unfits him for going to school at present as he
would in their opinion be unable to endure the worry which his foreign
ap­pearance would create. In this way they were contra­dicted by Speedy
himself who says that the boy is never so happy as when playing and
wrestling with other boys. My own not very definite experience in my
own case makes me very much regret the decision. But it has been given
and there is nothing for it but to obey . . . (Alamayou) has learnt as
yet next to nothing and is really unfit for any school beyond a primary
one for poor people's children."   Finally a compromise was
reached: Speedy was pre­pared to stay in England for another year, and
that Alamayou should go with Jex-Blake to Cheltenham, where, the Queen
insisted, that he should see Speedy alone whenever he pleased and
should be allowed to write to him as he wished without showing the
letter to any other person : if the boy were really miserable, he
should not be forced lo stay with Jex-Blake.
  On February 2nd, Biddulph wrote to Ponsonby that " she hopes
that you will make this very clear to Lowe, as she does not understand
what Lowe is about at all. I could not resist telling her about the 700
a year. She said it was just as she would have expected they would
  Biddulph then wrote to Lowe, on February 7th, hoping that he
would now consult the Queen's wishes about Alamayou and on the same day
wrote to Ponsonby that Alamayou and Speedy had been to luncheon with
him at Windsor Castle and stayed until nearly 5 o'clock. Speedy seemed
very reasonable in all he said, and Pon­sonby was much struck with
Alamayou's behaviour. This sensible arrangement was at once upset by
the Colonial Office who wrote to Lowe, on February 8th, that Captain
Speedy's presence was urgently required in the Colony and that they
could not allow him a year's leave now as he had only so recently been
appointed. Speedy reluctantly gave up the struggle and said that
perhaps Alamayou would be all right in England now, for he seems " much
more manly and self reliant lately." Lowe then suggested to Ponsonby
that the Queen might receive Jex-Blake and explain to him more fully
her views on Alamayou's education: Ponsonby wrote to Biddulph in horror.
" I hesitate to show Rivers Wilson's letter to the Queen. (He was the
Treasury Officiai who had made this suggestion.)   She will
be in a terrible state. She hates the name of Jex-Blake and it is
merely her anxiety to give in some where that makes her consent to
Alamayou going there. But she insists he ought to have another home –
someone he can appeal to when he wants to get away from Mrs. Jex-Blake
and the nine Miss Jex-Blakes and the governesses." So that proposal was
dropped. On February 29th Jex-Blake wrote to Lingen " I am very glad
Her Majesty takes so warm an interest in Alamayou, and my wish is that
he should look on me as guardian rather than instructor; should find my
house his English home ; and he amongst us -after the first days of
strangers have passed away – as one of my own children. I have no wish
to stop com­munication with old friends, but it would not be in my
judgment to accept the great responsibility of guardianship unless
quite free in the discharge of my duty."
  On March 4th Speedy handed over his charge to Jex-Blake, who
received him with much kindness and in­vited him to stay to dinner, but
when Alamayou en­treated to be allowed to spend his last evening with
Captain Speedy at his hotel, Jex-Blake positively refused. Before
leaving Speedy asked whether, if Mrs. Speedy were to remain in England
for a while, she would be allowed to visit Alamayou : Jex-Blake said
that he could not answer hypothetical questions, and on being pressed
further said that he could not say whether she would be allowed to
visit Alamayou or not. Speedy reported this unsatisfactory conversation
to Ponsonby, who in turn told the Queen: as a result Lowe wrote to
Biddulph that Mr. Jex-Blake had thought better of the matter and would
do all that the Queen wishes. Lowe had already come round to this more
sensible point of view for he had written to Biddulph on March 1st.
" I am glad we can now close the chapter of Alama­you. I will endeavour
to give effect to Her Majesty's wishes as to communication with Captain
Speedy and his family."
  On March 8th, Stafford Northcote asked, in the House of Commons
why Alamayou had been removed from the care of Captain Speedy and was
answered by Lowe who told him that it was important that he should
receive proper teaching " he is now 11 years old and that opinion (that
his health might be injured) was of less consequence in so much as he
has no elementary knowl­edge; so that he would not be fit even for the
humblest school, such as gentlemen's children attend. He is a person of
promising ability, but 1 believe he cannot really read or write : at
least we were not allowed to see specimens of his performance."
  Speedy sailed for Penang on March 14th, having been presented,
on the previous day, by the Queen with a watch and chain " as a token
of Her Majesty's apprecia­tion of your kind services to Alamayou."
Jex-Blake formed a favourable opinion of Alamayou -" he has
considerable social tact, and instinctive good breeding."  He
wrote to Lingen that " the Prince possesses nothing whatever that
be­longed to his father or mother. It is much to be hoped that a nation
that does not make war for ' loot ' will let him have something of his
father's and mother's property for keepsake: and that all that may be
en­trusted to me for him, will be religiously preserved." Lingen noted
on this letter " souvenirs, speak to Lord Ripon " – but we do not know
the outcome of this kindly gesture. In other ways the prospect was not
so pleasing: Alamayou, to the horror of Mr. and Mrs. Lingen, was set to
work for 31 1/2 hours a week and Mrs.   Speedy was coldly
rebuffed by Mrs. Jex-Blake, who in­formed her that the Prince was
perfectly well and per­fectly happy and that " he has every facility
for writing, but there appears to be no one he cares to write to."
  Which seems to be either a very rude or a very silly thing to be
said by the wife of a schoolmaster. Mrs. Speedy complained to Biddulph
of this treatment, who replied that he was annoyed and surprised that
difficulties had been made in carrying out the Queen's wish that she
should see Alamayou, and advised her to sec the boy shortly and report
to the Queen. But it would seem that difficulties were still in the way
of securing an interview, for on April 8th  Biddulph wrote to Lowe
that " the Queen will be glad if you will be so good as to give orders
to Jex-Blake to let him (Alamayou) pass a day at Cheltenham with Mrs.
Speedy who is still in England and who will go to see him and Her
Majesty wishes that later this summer he may be allowed to go away for
a holiday with Mrs. Speedy before she returns to the West."
  It was not until May 16, over three months after Alamayou's
arrival at Cheltenham, that Mrs. Speedy was able to visit him. She
reported to Biddulph that he had grown, but looked paler and thinner,
and was quieter in spirits and manner. He assured her that he was well
treated by the Jex-Blakes, but he complained at the almost complete
lack of companionship with other boys, and also at lack of outdoor
exercise. He repeated many times his great longing for boy
companionship – " only on Saturday and Sunday do I ever speak to any –
then come two, always the same, to play with me, on other days I never
even shake hands with a boy." Mrs. Speedy added that " the
exclusiveness of his arrangements in this respect has been a great
disappointment to him, and I could not help noticing a weariness and
want of interest in his life which the companionship he so much desires
would greatly assist to remove. There is evidently a felt sense of
repression in his surround­ings, which, however the great tenderness of
his nature and his wonderful consideration for the feelings of others
forbids him to show . . . He appears thrown for amusement a great deal
on his own resources and remembering the difficulty he would naturally
find in solitary occupation the weariness which he expressed is not
astonishing. He constantly said ' I want boys -and I want more exercise
'. .. I was extremely sur­prised at his small appetite – ' Oh ' he
replied, ' 1 cannot eat now I never have any exercise – only very
little.' I do not think Alamayou seems quite happy and satisfied."
  This letter, or report, was shown to the Queen who asked Lady
Ely, her Lady of the Bedchamber, to write to Biddulph that " Her
Majesty thinks the little Prince would be the better of more companions
also that he should enjoy more exercise."
  Lingen minuted on May 25th that he thought it desirable to avoid
contact with Mrs. Speedy between now and her return to India, but as
Jex-Blake had already written to him that he would not object to
Alamayou spending three weeks holiday with Mrs. Speedy in the summer
and as this suggestion was backed by the Queen in a letter to Lowe on
June 15th, it was arranged that Mrs. Speedy should take Alamayou for a
holiday in the Isle of Wight, where he would meet again her nephew, an
old friend of Alamayou's. On August 1st Mrs. Speedy wrote to Biddulph
that Alamayou was in good health and spirits and that he seemed to be
making progress in reading and writing " His wish to advance seems
chiefly to be prompted by his great desire to be in a position which
would enable him to mingle freely with other boys …  I trust I
may be pardoned for saying that I find it to be the universal
impression of all who know Alamayou well, that he would develop in
every way successfully if he were given this advantage. His manly
character and keenness of observation renders him very apt at learning
from life, more than from books and emula­tion in his lessons would
probably be the greatest assistance he could have."
  Shortly before Alamayou left Mrs. Speedy to return to
Cheltenham, she had his photograph taken and sent one or two copies of
this to the Queen which she hoped she would be " graciously pleased to
  However, Alamayou continued to make some pro­gress with his
lessons: in January 1873, Jex-Blake re­ported that he now reads for his
own amusement, " the greatest sign of development hitherto visible …
he is always cheerful, and I have never, in ten months, seen him out of
temper." In April of this year Alamayou went to spend three weeks of
his holiday with Biddulph who wrote that " the poor boy is staying with
me here for part of his holidays, and is as gentle a child as is
possible to see and appears to have little trace of his savage origin."
He must have repeated this visit later on in the year, for the Queen
records in her journal for September 6th, at Balmoral, " Mary Biddulph
brought little Alamayou, who is a dear boy and to whom I gave some
studs and a photograh," in January of the next year the Queen again
writes, at Osborne, " took short drive with Beatrice and Jane C. and
took tea with Mary Biddulph at Osborne, where we found little Alamayou."
  In July of that year Alamayou wrote to Lady Biddulph a letter, the only one of his that has been preserved.
" I hope you are quite well. I am sorry to say that Mr. Jex-Blake will
not let me come to see the match. I have had a letter from Captain
Speedy he says he went to India to some of the brave men from here and
before he went to fight the Chinese he asked the Raga of Caroot to ask
them if they could have peace but they would not listen and so the Raga
told Captain Speedy to go and take their forts and Captain Speedy and a
hundred men went and took six of their forts and mud stockades and
Captain Speedy said that the Chinese put sharp bamboo spikes and
poisoned them and so the Malays were afraid to go near the forts but
the Indians did not care because they wore boots. What does Sir
Stafford Northcote say about my going into the modern. I am going in
for a junior race and I am getting on very well in my class. I may get
the prize I am working very hard. If I stay at Cheltenham I will get my
promotion but I should like to know what Sir Stafford Northcote says
about it." In 1875 Jex-Blake was appointed a master at Rugby and after
some discussion it was agreed that Alamayou should follow him there,
but that he should not enter Jex-Blake's house but should be boarded in
another house, that of Mr. Lee Warner. But his progress here was not
satisfactory, and in April of the next year Alamayou was entered into
the private boarding estab­lishment of a Mr. Draper, of Broxbourne, an
old pupil of Jex-Blake's, who received nine or ten pupils, some of whom
were of an age with Alamayou. He returned to Rugby after the Easter
holidays in 1876 and in May Jex-Blake reported to Biddulph that "
progress in study he will never make as I would wish: but he is active,
manly and pleasant and fitter for the army than for any other life I
can think of -Wherever he goes he is well liked, I think, and the Army
should give him an excellent training. He is very good at games,
especially football, and I have never seen him out of temper."
Northcote wrote, in the same year that he was un­certain " whether it
would do to put Alamayou to command white men. At all events if he is
ultimately to join the Indian service it must be through the regular
army." Later, during the following year, Alamayou was again put with a
private tutor, Cyril Ransome, of Leeds. While he was there news reached
Jex-Blake that Alamayou could have entrance to the R.M.C. Sandhurst in
Septem­ber 1878 without examination. During the summer of that year it
was arranged that he should visit Paris with Ransome to see the
International exhibition and should spend part of the vacation with the
Biddulphs. In September he entered the R.M.C. as a cadet and the next
news of him is when Northcote wrote to the Queen that, after talks with
Jex-Blake, Lord Napier, the authorities at Sandhurst and with Alamayou
himself, he was convinced that " the young man ought not to return to
Sandhurst. He is doing no good there, and he is unhappy. It so happened
that his old friend Captain Speedy is n in this country, and he has
invited Alamayou to spend a month with him in Scotland. He (Sir
Stafford) has asked him to pay him a visit in Devonshire. He hopes
something may be done to soothe the irritation of his mind: and that he
may afterwards get employment in one of the Frontier regiments in
India." Alamayou spent three weeks with Northcote in Devonshire, where
" he seemed very happy " but " refused to consider going to a tutor in
Gloucest-shire." Northcote wrote to Lady Biddulph on October 20th.
  " He had a hankering after his own country where he said he had
two aunts and a half brother living, I told him that his going to
Abyssinia was out of the question, and he then said there was no one in
England who had ever done him so much good as Mr. Ransome and that he
would like to go to him." Alamayou arrived in Leeds sometime during the
late autumn of that year and during October was taken seriously ill in
Cyril Ransome's house.
  Before continuing the story it is worth while looking back to
three episodes which linked the life of Alamayou with his own country.
First, during May 1872, a letter arrived from Abyssinia for Alamayou:
it was written in Amharic, and Jex-Blake told Lord Enfield, the Under
Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that he had been unable to find anyone
who could read the language: the Foreign Office soon found itself in
the same predicament until, after considerable delay, a missionary,
Theophilus Waldmeir, offered to translate the letter. Lord Enfield
agreed to see Waldmeir in his office on a Saturday after-noon, where he
was told that the letter came from Alamayou's grandmother, the mother
of Queen Terunish. She asked why Alamayou had not written to her and
said that the Abyssinian people were looking forward to his
return.   Enfield sent this translation to Lowe, and no more
is heard of the letter. The second reference is a memoran­dum written
by Ponsonby, in which he refers to a sugges­tion made by Sir Bartle
Frere that Alamayou might be made King of Abyssinia : this was written
in April 1876. Biddulph reported to the Queen that he had never heard
anything more preposterous, that the boy was totally unsuited for such
a position and had no wish to return to Abyssinia; he had quite
forgotten his own language and had no wish to be anything but English.
Bartle Frere dropped the suggestion, remarking that nothing was further
from his mind " than that any attempt should be made to launch poor
Alamayou into the troublesome seas of Abyssinian politics." In June
1878 Ponsonby reported to the Queen that " General Gordon, commanding
the Khedive's troops . . . writes in some alarm at Captain Speedy's
doings as he is support­ing the chiefs to proclaim Alamayou." Again,
nothing more is heard of this rumour, but the two episodes show that
Alamayou, had he lived, might have played some part in Abyssinian
  Northcote wrote to Lady Biddulph about Alamayou's illness : " I
feel I ought to let you know how dangerously ill he is. The last
accounts are rather better, and there seems to be fair grounds for
hope; but he is still in a critical state. He is suffering from an
attack of pleurisy and has been twice tapped in the chest. His illness
has been aggravated and his strength sadly reduced by an extraordinary
fancy that he had been poisoned, which let him for some time refuse all
food and medicines. He has now become more reasonable as to taking what
is ordered."
  Dr. Clifford Allbutt, of Leeds, was in charge of the patient and
he called into consultation Sir William Gull and Sir James Paget. The
Queen was informed of his illness, and on November 4th noted that she
had seen Sir Henry Ponsonby after luncheon and told him to telephone to
Lady Biddulph asking her to go to see Alamayou. On November 11th Sir
John Cowell had called, and found Alamayou very ill, but quite pleased
to see him. The Queen wrote him a letter which arrived when " he was
quite conscious and was much pleased to hear who it was from. He opened
it easily and read a few lines, but the exertion pained him and he
asked me to put it where he could see it and there it remained until
the end."
  Mrs. Jex-Blake and Ransome were with him during his illness and
he died holding their hands at a quarter past nine on the morning of
November 14th, 1879: he was nineteen years old.
  By the Queen's wish Alamayou was buried in St. George's Chapel,
Windsor, but by her wish, again, the funeral was " conducted with very
little display. The Queen and Princess Beatrice sent wreaths, Lady
Biddulph, Lady Ponsonby, Mr. and Mrs. Jex-Blake, Captain Speedy and the
two Chancellors of the Ex­chequer, Lowe and Northcote, were present at
the ceremony, which took place during a bitter snowstorm. The Times, in
a short obituary, reported that Alamayou was a fine well-proportioned
young man, about six foot in height. The Queen summed up the whole
tragic story in her journal for November 14th.
  " Was very grieved and shocked to hear by telegram that good
Alamayou had passed away this morning. It is too sad. All alone in a
strange country, without seeing a person or relative belonging to him,
so young and so good, but for him one cannot repine. His was no happy
life, full of difficulties of every kind, and he was so sensitive,
thinking that people stared at him because of his colour, that I fear
he would never have been happy. Everyone is very sorry."   


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s