Sarah Forbes Bonetta (Sarah Davies)
1 of 4 portraits of Sarah Forbes Bonetta (Sarah Davies)
Sarah Forbes Bonetta (Sarah 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
Sitterback to top
- Sarah Forbes Bonetta (Sarah Davies) (1843-1880), Goddaughter of Queen Victoria. Sitter in 4 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Camille Silvy (1834-1910), Photographer. Artist associated with 13465 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
Placesback to top
- Place made: United Kingdom: England, London (photographer's studio, 38 Porchester Terrace, Bayswater, London)
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1862back to top
Current affairsThe 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 scienceLouis 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.
InternationalOtto 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.
Develop your art skills
Discover our BP Next Generation short films made by artists. Follow step by step guides in drawing and painting techniques.
Hold Still photography workshop
Reflect on your own experiences of lockdown through this easy-to-do from home, photographic exercise.
Draw Like a Renaissance Master
Revisit The Encounter exhibition and learn about Renaissance and Baroque drawing methods and materials.
- Black History Month
Until 31 October
Tell us more
Framed & unframed prints
Choose your favourite portrait from our Collection as a framed or unframed print for your home.