Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies))

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies))

by Camille Silvy
albumen print, 15 September 1862
3 1/4 in. x 2 1/4 in. (83 mm x 56 mm) image size
Purchased, 1904
This portrait has been adopted thanks to a generous donation from Carl Ross and John Fredriksen for Jill Alexander
Photographs Collection
NPG Ax61380

On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Camille Silvy (1834-1910), Photographer. Artist or producer associated with 14313 portraits, Sitter in 24 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 65 Read entry

    Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies, 1843-80), Queen Victoria’s goddaughter, was a West African Egbado princess of the Yoruba people. Caught up in intertribal warfare, in which she saw her family slaughtered, she was captured in 1848 by Dahomey raiders, then traded, as a present, to Queen Victoria, ‘from the King of the

    Blacks to the Queen of the Whites’. Her Yoruba name was Aina, but her captors named her Sarah Forbes, after the British emissary who negotiated her transfer, and Bonetta, after his ship, she was

    described by Captain Forbes in his journal as possessing ‘intelligence of no common order’. She was brought up under Victoria’s protection. The Queen, impressed by her many qualities, funded her education and encouraged her visits. In Brighton in 1862, she married James Pinson Labulo Davies, a wealthy Yoruban, in a lavish ceremony, returning to West Africa, where she settled in Lagos. (This photograph is one of several that were taken by the London-based portrait photographer Camille Silvy to mark the wedding, pasted into one of the daybooks that record his work.) Sarah’s first child, Victoria, was also a godchild of the Queen. In her life, cut short by tuberculosis, she summoned strength and dignity in difficult times.

  • Birkett, Dea; Morris, Jan (foreword), Off the Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers, 2004 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 7 July to 31 October 2004), p. 134
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 165

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Events of 1862back to top

Current affairs

The Lancashire cotton famine, a depression in the north-west textile industry brought about by the American civil war, reaches its climax. With large numbers of mills closing after Confederate blockades halted cotton supplies, many Lancashire families were in receipt of relief.

Art and science

Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard carry out the first pasteurisation tests, the process of heating liquids at 55 degree Celsius or higher for short periods of time, destroying viruses and harmful organisms such as bacteria and yeast. .
Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables is published, covering the Napoleonic wars. It traces the ex-convict Jean Valjean's character against wider questions of social and political justice, duty and love.


Otto Eduard Leopold Bismarck becomes Minister-President of Prussia, appointed by Wilhelm I after the liberal Diet refused to authorise funding for a proposed reorganisation of the army. Bismarck, intent on maintaining royal supremacy, engineers the Unification of Germany during his time in office.
John Hanning Speke claims to have found the source of the Nile, proving that the Victoria Nile issued from the north end of lake Victoria, over Ripon Falls.

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