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Victoria Davies Randle, the Nigerian Goddaughter of Queen Victoria

Victoria Matilda Davies Randle was a socialite in Victorian Lagos, Nigeria and the eldest child of James Pinson Labulo Davies, a wealthy Lagos merchant and Sara Forbes Bonetta, the daughter of a Yoruba king who was gifted to Queen Victoria.

Sara Forbes Bonetta

Born in West Africa of Yoruba descent, Victoria Davies Randle’s mother, Sarah Forbes Bonetta (Aina), was captured by Dahomean forces in 1848, at the age of five and kept in captivity as a state prisoner.

In June 1850 Captain Forbes, on board the Bonetta, arrived in Dahomey on a mission to negotiate the suppression of the slave trade in Dahomey. After his mission, Captain Forbes accepted Aina from the king of Dahomey on behalf of Queen Victoria and embarked on his journey back to Britain. Captain Forbes would later rename her Sara Forbes Bonetta, after himself and his ship HMS Bonetta.

On arrival, Sara lived at first with Captain Forbes’s family, then, on 9 November, she was taken to the royal residence at Windsor Castle and received by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Queen Victoria was impressed by the young princess’s “exceptional intelligence”, so she had her raised as her goddaughter in the British middle class.

The Queen paid for Sarah to be educated and saw her several times in the space of a few years. Sarah, a highly intelligent girl, developed a particular talent for music. She married in 1862 and later had a daughter “Matilda Davies”.

Victoria Davies Randle

When Matilda Davies was born in 1863, she was taken to the Queen, and just like her mum, queen Victoria accepted to be her godmother as well.

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Queen Victoria gave Matilda Davies the name Victoria at her christening, and bestowed an allowance of £40 for life and also gave her a solid gold christening set.

Victoria Davies would later attend the Cheltenham Ladies’ College, an independent boarding and day school for girls in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England.

In 1890 at the age of 27, Victoria married Dr. John Randle, a Scottish-trained medical doctor who was also active in politics in Lagos, two hundred guests – including the governor of the Lagos Colony – were in attendance at the wedding at St. Paul’s Church in Lagos. The service was officiated by the Reverend James Johnson, the assistant bishop of Western Equatorial Africa and her wedding gown was given to her by the queen.

After their wedding the couple moved back to their native Africa, where they had two children: Beatrice Randle and John ‘Jack’ Romanes Adewale Randle.

Victoria Randle continued to enjoy such a close relationship with Queen Victoria that she took her children Beatrice and John to England to visit her godmother the Queen in 1900. In a continuation of tradition, Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Beatrice, then became her own daughter’s godmother.

Her marriage eventually fell apart in 1909; she lived in exile with the children thereafter, first in the United Kingdom and then in Sierra Leone, only returning to Lagos in 1917.

Her final years were dedicated to the activities of the Ladies’ Club, a group of upper-class women in Lagos.

She died in 1920 at the age of 57.

Talk Africana
Fascinating Cultures and history of peoples of African origin in both Africa and the African diaspora

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