REVEALED: Queen Victoria adopted Nigerian princess whose parents were murdered

Princess Sarah Forbes Bonetta was sent to Sierra Leone by Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert enjoyed a passionate private life that saw them share nine children.

Victoria, portrayed by Jenna Coleman in the ITV drama of the same name, famously refused to obey the conservative standards of the time, even going as far as calling her many pregnancies the ‘shadow side’ of marriage.

But what is little known is the fact the queen and her husband also had a tenth child after adopting a Nigerian princess following the brutal murder of her royal parents.

Sarah Forbes Bonetta was just five when she was captured by the merciless King of Dahomey in 1848.

But before she too could be killed, British naval officer ­Frederick Forbes rescued her while on a mission to end slavery among the Dahomans.

He managed to convince Sarah’s captors to present the child as a ‘gift’ to Victoria and sailed back to England with her on his ship HMS Bonetta, which became her adopted name.

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The princess’ remarkable story will be told in the Victoria Christmas special.

Speaking to the Mirror, her great-great grandson Arnold Awoonor-Gordon said: ‘For an African slave to be taken on by the British royal family in the 19th century is remarkable.

Very few people knew that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had a tenth child in adopted Princess Sarah Bonetta Forbes

‘Sarah grew up with the queen’s children around her and was treated just like a member of the queen’s own family.

‘Queen Victoria was very kind to her, and it was a relationship that was really ahead of its time.’

Mr Awoonor-Gordon discovered his royal link when researching his family history.

His great-grandmother Emily used to tell the improbable story of a relative rescued from the slave trade and whisked off to the regal surroundings of Buckingham Palace.

And 10 years ago he made inquiries with Windsor Castle – and found the story to be true.

Princess Sarah Bonetta Forbes during her stay at the Buckingham Palace

Mr Awoonor-Gordon, a retired broadcaster from Sierra Leone, called Victoria a ‘pioneer’ and praised her for her open-minded attitude.

And he revealed Sarah, who the queen called Sally, loved Victoria that much she named her eldest daughter after her.

Despite their apparently close bond, Sarah, played in the ITV Christmas special by Zaris-Angel Hator, was shipped out to live with the Forbes family in Gillingham, Kent, after Albert convinced Victoria the child was not happy.

A year later Sarah was sent to Sierra Leone for her education before returning to England in 1855.

The creator of Victoria, Daisy Goodwin, said the queen did not have any prejudices though acknowledges Sarah’s discomfort in Buckingham Palace.

But whatever difficulties the young princess had, the queen remained an important influence in her life, even pressuring her into marrying wealthy businessman Captain James Davies in 1862.

Sarah, then 18, had been unsure of her proposed husband because he was 13 years older.

Even after walking down the aisle Sarah continued to visit the queen, and introduced her to her oldest daughter who took the monarch’s name.

Victoria senior agreed to be the child’s godmother.

The visits continued even after Sarah returned home to Lagos, Nigeria, and had two more children, Arthur and Stella.

But Sarah had been plagued by poor health and Victoria had sent her to school in Sierra Leone because she thought the British climate was making her poorly.

She died of tuberculosis in 1880 at the age of 37 and was buried in Funchal, Madeira.

Mr Awoonor-Gordon has a picture of her grave in his home.

The Victoria Christmas special airs on Christmas Day at 9pm on ITV.

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