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Annie Walsh alumna and teacher was a protégée of Queen Victoria
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Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a young Yoruba princess who was rescued by a British naval captain moments before being slaughtered in a ritual sacrifice by a Dahoman king later became a protégée of Britain's Queen Victoria who sent her to school at Freetown's Annie Walsh School.

bonettaIn 1849, on a mission to eradicate slavery in West Africa, Capt. Frederick E. Forbes and the crew of the Bonetta, were guests of Gezo, a Dahoman king whose notoriety for slave raiding and brutality was made obvious by the considerable number of human skulls topping his palace walls. Arriving just in time for an annual Dahoman festival called the "watering of the graves," the captain and his men were forced to witness the ritual slaughter of human beings.  After forceful protestations by Capt. Forbes at the decapitations of several victims, King Gezo agreed to spare the life of a little girl and instead presented her to the captain as a gift to the "Queen of the whites." Capt. Forbes named the young Yoruba girl Sarah Forbes Bonetta, after his ship and himself. He returned with her to England.

Through Capt. Forbe's reports to his superiors, Sarah's story reached Queen Victoria who immediately ordered her brought to Windsor Castle. Enthralled by the little girl's story, Queen Victoria took a special interest in Sarah's welfare. Sarah's fortunes had gone full circle, from Yoruba princess to slave girl facing death to a black princess at the Court of St. James.  She became the beneficiary of a private education and as a regular at the royal household was a playmate of Queen Victoria's daughters.

But Sarah's health became an obstacle to a happy life in Britain. Genuinely believing that black people were better off in Africa, Queen Victoria arranged through the Rev. Henry Venn, head of the Church Missionary Society, to send Sarah to Sierra Leone in the summer of 1851.

Now an international celebrity due to her relationship with Queen Victoria and her role in Capt. Forbes book Dahomey and the Dahomans, Sarah was enrolled at the Female Institution (later Annie Walsh School) along with other Liberated African girls including Abigail Crowther, daughter of the Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther. For four years in Freetown, Sarah received special attention from Julia Sass and other European teachers at the Female Institution. Freetown was a magnet for distinguished visitors whose itinerary always included a stop at the Female Institution where they were introduced to Sarah. James P. L. Davies, a businessman and missionary much older than Sarah was one such visitor.

Sarah remained a favorite of the royal family when Queen Victoria ordered her abrupt return to Britain in June 1855.  While many Britons lived in poverty, Sarah enjoyed the good life as an adopted member of the upper strata of English society.

Until widowed James P.L. Davies, the older gentleman she met earlier in Freetown, endorsed by the queen because of a character recommendation by Rev. Venn proposed marriage. When Sarah demurred, Queen Victoria withdrew all privileges and banished her to a life of poverty in the fishing village of Brighton. Sarah eventually relented and agreed to marry Mr. Davies.

After a wedding fit for royalty in August 1862, the couple returned to Freetown where Mr. Davies ran a business while Mrs. Davies taught at the Female Institution. Their first child, named after Queen Victoria became a goddaughter of the monarch.

Sarah Forbes Bonetta died in August 1880 in Funchal, Madeira where she had gone to recover from what is today known as tuberculosis.