07 Oct Portrait of Queen Victoria’s African goddaughter displayed by English Heritage | UK News
A painting of Queen Victoria’s African goddaughter is being displayed as part of a plan to feature “overlooked” black figures across English Heritage sites.
The charity also announced that it will bring information surrounding its connections to the slave trade “to the fore” next year across its properties.
The portrait of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, who was orphaned and sold into slavery at the age of five, will be displayed in Osborne House throughout Black History Month.
Ms Bonetta was brought to England after being presented as a “diplomatic gift” to Captain Frederick Forbes in 1850 – he named her partly after his ship, the HMS Bonetta.
Captain Forbes later visited the King of Dahomey, as Queen Victoria’s representative, in a bid to negotiate the suppression of slavery.
Queen Victoria and Ms Bonetta met several times – including at the monarch’s Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
Described as “sharp and intelligent” by Queen Victoria, Ms Bonetta became her goddaughter when she was seven years old.
Queen Victoria paid for her education, and Ms Bonetta later became an accomplished musician and linguist, naming her own child after the Queen.
English Heritage said it will commission portraits of other historical black figures connected to its sites “and whose stories, like Bonetta’s, have been previously overlooked”.
The painting was created by Hannah Uzor who said: “(Bonetta) challenges our assumptions about the status of black women in Victorian Britain.”
The charity said: “Black history is part of English history and, while we know we have more to do, English Heritage is committed to telling the story of England in full.
“There are a number of black figures from the past who have played significant roles at some of the historic sites in our care but their stories are not very well known.
“Starting with Sarah, our portraits project is one way we’re bringing these stories to life and sharing them with our visitors.”
More portraits will be displayed next year, these include Rome’s African-born emperor Septimius Severus, who strengthened Hadrian’s Wall, and James Chappell, a 17th century servant at Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire, who saved the life of the country house’s owner.
Commons Leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, criticised the Trust for not realising “how wonderful” Churchill was.