Arnold Gordon


Black Cultural Archives

Black Cultural Archives

Arnold Gordon is the great, great grandson of Sarah Forbes Bonetta.

In 1850 Captain Frederick Forbes visited King Ghezo of Dahomey as a representative of Queen Victoria, on a mission to discourage the slave trade. He was given an unexpected gift: a captive girl. He named her Sarah Forbes Bonetta. Forbes after Captain Forbes, and Bonetta after his ship the HMS Bonetta.

Sarah would go on to lead a remarkable life. When she arrived in England, at just six years old, she was presented to Queen Victoria, who agreed to become Sarah’s protector. She described Sarah in her journal as "sharp and intelligent and speaking English", noting that she’s dressed as any other girl, but when her bonnet was taken off, that her little black head and big earrings “gave away her negro type.”

The Queen paid for Sarah’s education, undertaken by missionaries at Palm Cottage in Kent, and ultimately became the Godmother of her first child, named Victoria.

For years Arnold didn’t believe his grandmother’s stories of the family’s royal connections, until they were confirmed by a librarian at Windsor Castle.

This photo was taken for Black and British: A Forgotten History, a BBC series revealing the extraordinary long relationship between the British Isles and people whose origins are in Africa.

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