Alexandrina Victoria (24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom from 20 June 1837 until she died in 1901. At that time, the United Kingdom comprised only Great Britain and Ireland. Referred to as the "Victorian Era," her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than previous monarchs.
While there is a lot to discuss on Queen Victoria during her reign, it is perhaps her supposed secret marriage to an African monarch that has caught the attention of many historians.
She became the Empress of India in 1877, and her reign experienced a tremendous cultural expansion in industry, science, and communications; and the building of railways and the London Underground. The significant developments resulted from her ability to relate and trade with other territories during the post-slavery.
According to the Efik people of Southern Nigeria, Queen Victoria was married to King Eyamba V during the 19th Century. To date, an empty seat is placed on the throne beside the king, a seat they claim is for their British queen.
During the coronation of a new king, a special ceremony is held to commemorate the supposed marriage of Queen Victoria to King Eyamba V. The king was one of two monarchs based in the coastal town of Calabar.
King Eyamba V of Duke Town and King Eyo Honesty II of Creek Town presided over the affairs of the Efik ethnic group in the mid-19th Century and controlled commerce with European merchants.
Due to the strategic location of the Efik people along the coast, they developed long-standing relationships with the British and Europeans, which influenced their culture greatly.
Rather than the usual African traditional names, the Efik people often bear English surnames, such as Donald, Henshaw, Duke, Clark, etc. Also, their traditional clothing is very similar to that of the British, especially in the Victorian era.
The Efik also dominated the slave trade and acted as middlemen between the African traders from the hinterlands and the white merchants from Liverpool and Bristol. King Eyamba V became very wealthy and influential during his time because he got a fee for slaves shipped through the Calabar port.
Queen Victoria started direct correspondence with King Eyamba V decades after slave trade was formally abolished in Britain in 1807. The transportation of human cargo continued from Calabar into Britain even after the abolition.
In one of her letters to King Eyamba, Queen Victoria offered inducements and protection to him and his people if both parties continued trading. She then signed off as "Queen Victoria, The Queen of England," which a local interpreter incorrectly relayed as "Queen Victoria, The Queen of All White Men."
The title of "The Queen of All White Men" caught King Eyamba's attention, and he thought that it would be a good idea if they both got married and ruled the world together as 'King of All Black Men' and 'Queen of All White Men.'
King Eyamba informed his elders that if he were going to accept protection from a woman, it would be by marriage. He told her his decision in his written reply and signed off as, "King Eyamba, the King of All Black Men."
Surprisingly, she did not explicitly decline King Eyamba's offer; she acknowledged receipt of his letter and said she looked forward to having good trade relations with him.
Her letter was accompanied by some gifts - including a royal cape, a sword, and a Bible - a goodwill gesture that King Eyamba interpreted as accepting his marriage offer. Thus, the people began to believe that their king had married the queen.
The king arranged for a seat beside him on the throne for his new British queen. Correspondence continued between the Queen and King Eyamba, some of which are displayed at the National Museum in Calabar. The museum is housed in a building that was once the seat of the British colonial administration of southern Nigeria.
According to reports, some of the original letters were bought by an unnamed private collector; Covers Rare Books Inc handled the sale. Some locals who criticize the deal believe it was an attempt by the British Royal family to destroy proofs that there was an 'affair' between the pair.
In 2017 when HRH Prince Michael of Kent (a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II) visited the Obong of Calabar to receive an Efik Chieftaincy Title - Ada Idagha Ke Efik Eburutu, he was referred to as "In-Law"; and told the story of how his ancestor had married their king many years ago.
The Prince expressed joy at the story and the possibility of a marital connection between the two kingdoms.
In keeping with the tradition that began following King Eyamba's "marriage" to Queen Victoria, the coronation of the Obong of Calabar still takes place in two phases. Two thrones are set side by side. The Obong sits on one. The other one is left empty for the absent Queen of England."
The Obong is dressed in a crown and cape custom-made for the occasion in England, and in the absence of the Queen of England, a copy of the Holy Bible is placed on her seat. The known wife of the king sits behind the king.
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