In 1868, British troops charged into the mountain empire of Ethiopia, stormed the citadel of its monarch Tewodros II and grabbed piles of his treasures and sacred manuscripts. They also took his son – six-year-old Prince Alamayu – and brought the boy back with them to the cold shores of England. For the first time, Andrew Heavens tells the whole story of Alamayu, from his early days in his father’s fortress on the roof of Africa to his new home across the seas, where he charmed Queen Victoria, chatted with Lord Tennyson and travelled with his towering red-headed guardian Captain Speedy. The orphan prince was celebrated but stereotyped and never allowed to go home.
The book also follows the loot – Ethiopia’s ‘Elgin Marbles’ – and tracks it down to its current hiding places in bank vaults, museum store cupboards and a boarded-up cavity in Westminster Abbey. A story of adventure, trauma and tragedy, The Prince and the Plunder is also a tale for our times, as we re-examine Britain’s past, pull down statues of imperial grandees and look for other figures to commemorate and celebrate in their place.