In a series of letters from African writers, Nigerian journalist and novelist Adavi Tricia Nuwabani writes about the throne reserved for the Queen of England in a West African state.
The Efik myth of southern Nigeria is that one of the 19th-century kings married Queen Victoria of England.
“I first heard about 2001 when I was passing through the museum, and I saw this very interesting communication between Queen Victoria and King Eyamba,” said a major renovation of the National Museum and the National Museum. Said 60-year-old Donald Duke. During his time as Governor from 1999 to 2007, he founded the Slave Trade Museum in Calabar, the capital of Cross River.
“We did a lot of research because we thought it was important to keep track of our history,” he said.
Eyamba V was one of two monarchs based in the coastal town of Calabar and consisted of two sovereign states.
King Eyamba V of Duke Town and King Eyo II of Creektown presided over the Efik affairs in the mid-19th century and managed commerce with European merchants.
Because the Efik were located along the coast, they had many years of relationships with Europeans and had a great influence on their culture.
They often have British names such as Duke and Henshaw, and traditional men’s and women’s clothing resembles Victorian British fashion.
The Efik also dominated the slave trade. They acted as an intermediary between the African merchants in the hinterland and the white merchants on ships, primarily from British cities such as Liverpool and Bristol.
They negotiated the price of slaves and collected royalties from both sellers and buyers. They worked at the docks, loaded and unloaded ships, and provided food and other food to foreigners.
“The king has become very wealthy. The family has become prominent. They ruled the largest valley of slaves coming out of Africa,” Duke said.
Witness testimony of the slave trader
More than 1.5 million Africans were transported to what was then called the New World in the Americas via the Bight of Bonny’s port of Calabar, making it one of the largest exits in the Atlantic slave trade.
Pidgin A book, written in English and found in the Scottish Missionary Archives, containing an 18th-century journal of the Efik slave traders was published in 1956.
Titled the Duke of Antera’s Diary, it is the only surviving eyewitness testimony of the slave trade by African merchants.
“I bid with Tom Cooper and the Captain of Convertback and boarded at 2 o’clock to solve everything. He struck the Duke and us with 143 barrels of powder and 984 barrels of copper,” said an entry. Says.
Decades after the abolition of the slave trade in Britain in 1807, human cargo was still being transported to other countries via Calabar.
“It was important for Queen Victoria to have the King of Calabar on her side,” Duke said.
“She wrote a letter asking people to stop trading and start trading spices, palm oil, glassware, etc.”
The myth begins here.
In her letter to King Eyamba, Queen Victoria provided incentives, including protection for him and his people.
She then signed off as “Queen Victoria, Queen of England”, but a local interpreter mistakenly said “Queen Victoria, Queen of all white men”.
King Eyamba decided that if he accepted protection from women, he would have to get married. He said so in writing to her and signed off as “King Eyamba, King of All Black Men.”
“He was adventurous and dictatorial,” said Charles Efion Ofion Ovo, the current Efik chief of the Duke Town clan.
“He wrote to the Queen and said she wanted to marry her so that they would rule the world.”
I can only imagine Queen Victoria’s reaction when reading King Eyamba’s letter. But she didn’t explicitly decline his offer.
“She acknowledged the letter for the king and said she was looking forward to a good trade relationship with him,” said Ofion Ovo.
Her letter was accompanied by several gifts, including a royal cloak, sword, and Bible. This is a well-meaning gesture that King Eyamba interpreted as accepting the offer to marry.
Therefore, people began to believe that their king married the queen.
A copy of the communication between Queen Victoria and King Eyamba and Honest King is on display at the National Museum in Calabar, once home to the British colonial government in southern Nigeria.
Some of the original letters were sold to unnamed individual collectors, I was told by a staff member of Between the Covers Rare Books Inc who handled the sale.
At some point in the 20th century, the Efik agreed that only one monarch, called Obon, would represent them, and united the throne once occupied by King Eyamba and King Honesty.
Prince becomes “in-law”
Prince Michael of Kent made a brief personal visit to Calabar in 2017. At that time, the active Obon, Eddie Dem Esteban Ocon Abashiots V, learned that there were people in law from England in the town.
He was a member of the British royal family and congratulated the prince, Queen Elizabeth II’s first cousin, and named him Adidagake Efficevrutz, meaning “a person of honor and status in the Kingdom of Efficevrez.” I made it a chief.
Obon Awan, or Queen of the Efik tribe, recalls that Barbara Etim James was given only two days to plan a grand ceremony to award the title at Obon’s palace.
“On every occasion during Prince Michael’s visit, they reminded him that he was their in-law. Even at the ceremony, they told the story again,” she said.
“Prince Michael is delighted to hear the historical connection between the Efik and the British royal family and is honored to have a deeper relationship with the Efik chief,” she added.
Following the tradition that began following King Eyamba’s “marriage” with Queen Victoria, the coronation of Obon in Calabar still takes place in two stages.
After the traditional rituals in the community are over, the coronation continues in the Presbyterian Church (formerly the Scottish Church). There, Obon wears a custom-made crown and cloak for an opportunity in England.
Two thrones are placed side by side, he sits in one, and the second is left empty for the absent Queen of England (or the Bible placed on it). His known wife is sitting behind him.
“Here is the coalition between all white male queens and all black male kings,” Duke said.
More letters from Africa: