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UK refuses to return Ethiopian prince's body after almost 150 years

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A diplomatic row remains unsolved after Buckingham Palace refused to return the remains of an Ethiopian royal buried in the UK, to his native country.

Descendants of Prince Alemayehu, who travelled to the UK aged seven in the 1800s, have called for the royal heir's body to be returned to their custody, the BBC has reported.

"We want his remains back as a family and as Ethiopians because that is not the country he was born in," descendant Fasil Minas said.

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But the Palace said disinterring Alemayehu would disturb the resting places of others buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

The Palace said Ethiopian delegations had been granted access to the catacombs to pay their respects and that they were mindful of the need to honour the prince's memory.

Alemayehu was the son of Emperor Tewodros II, regarded as a ruler who centralised the state that would become modern Ethiopia.

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St Georges Chapel on the Windsor Castle grounds in England.

The ancient Ethiopian people were a rare Christian African kingdom, with official Christian belief in the region predating that in much of Europe.

Tewodros II sought an alliance with fellow imperial Christian ruler Queen Victoria of Britain, but his missives went unanswered, prompting him to take a group of British citizens hostage.

This prompted a punitive expedition of British and Indian troops, along with Ethiopian rebels, with Tewodros ultimately dying by suicide during the siege of his capital at the Battle of Magdala (Amba Mariam) in 1868.

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Alemayehu and his mother, Tiruwork Wube, were taken to the UK, ostensibly to spare them the retribution of Tewodros' domestic foes.

But the empress died en route, leaving Alemayehu a seven-year-old orphan.

Despite incurring the fondness and patronage of Queen Victoria, Alemaheyu's life, by the queen's own admission, was a difficult one, and he ultimately died aged just 18, after illnesses including pneumonia, in 1879.

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"It is too sad! All alone, in a strange country, without a single person or relative, belonging to him," Victoria wrote of the prince's death in her diary.

"His was no happy life."

Previous representations to the Palace for the return of Alemayehu's remains by his Ethiopian descendants and the country's government have been made, but so far all have been rejected.

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