Aina Sarah Forbes

Aina Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies was born in 1843 to Egabdo parents of the Yoruba ethnic group. Her father was the chief of Oke-Odan, an Egbado village in Western Nigeria until he was killed during inter-tribal warfare. Sarah lost both her parents when King Gezo of Dahomey (now Benin Republic) raided Oke-Odan. She was then captured as a slave at the age of five. Her captors had the intention of using her as a human sacrifice until she was rescued by Captain Frederick E. Forbes of the Royal Navy who convinced King Gezo of Dahomey of giving her as a “present” to Queen Victoria. King Gezo agreed and Sarah was taken to Britain in 1850. She was baptized in the Church and was given the name Sarah and last name Forbes Bonetta (Forbes-Captain Frederick’s last name, and Bonetta- Captain’s Frederick’s Ship which he used to transport her to Britain).

On Saturday 9th November 1850, at 11’o clock, Sarah was invited to Windsor Castle where she met Queen Victoria. 

Queen Victoria

The Queen admired Sarah’s intelligence and ability to learn quickly.  Soon, Sarah became a regular visitor at Windsor Castle and also became close friends with Queen Victoria’s children especially Princess Alice.

After a while, Captain Frederick Forbes died, and Sarah was sent to Schoen Family in Palm Cottage, Gillingham. During Sarah’s stay at Gillingham, Queen Victoria decided to adopt her as her goddaughter and sponsored her education. At that time, Queen Victoria was the most powerful emperor in the world and it was very uncommon for anyone to visit her at her palace, but Sarah was an exception, for Queen Victoria always enjoyed Sarah’s company. The Queen described Sarah as “Brilliant and Beautiful”.  The kind of connection and experience Sarah had with Queen Victoria was what most people in England at that time could only imagine or dream about. 

During the winter of 1850, Sarah repeatedly fell ill due to the damp weather of Britain and this made the Queen worried. She then she decided that Sarah should continue her education in Freetown, Sierra-Leone West Africa since she was used to the West African climate condition.

Sarah arrived Freetown, Sierra Leone on the 19th of June 1851 and there she was accorded the privilege of being the Queen’s goddaughter. The Queen would usually ship Sarah’s school and personal supplies to Freetown from Britain.  Sarah completed her education and returned to Britain in 1855. In January 1862, Sarah attended the Queen’s eldest child; Princess Royal Victoria’s wedding as a guest and seven months later, she was offered to marry Captain James Labulo Davies, a 31 year old wealthy Yoruba businessman.

Captain James Labulo Davies

At first, Sarah declined the offer, but she later accepted the offer after much persuasion and in August 1862, Sarah got married to Captain James at the St. Nicholas Church in Brighton, England.

Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies & Captain James Labulo Davies

The couple lived briefly in Brighton before relocating to Africa and then settled in Badagry, Lagos Nigeria. Sarah and her husband had three children together; Victoria (1863), Arthur (1871) and Stella (1873). When Sarah had her first daughter, she named her Victoria (after Queen Victoria). She had asked for the Queen’s permission to name her first child after her; a request the Queen granted.  Not only did the queen grant Sarah’s request, but she also adopted baby Victoria as her goddaughter and gave her annuity as financial allowance. Sarah and Victoria traveled back to Britain to visit the Queen, and afterwards, Victoria continued to visit the Queen throughout her life and was one of the Queens’ last visitors until her demise in 1901.

Sarah Forbes Bonnetta Davies continued to enjoy a close relationship with Queen Victoria to the point that she and Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (First African Anglican bishop in Nigeria) were the only Lagos indigenes the Royal Navy had standing orders to evacuate in the event of an uprising in Lagos.

Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther

Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies died of tuberculosis on 15 August 1880 in the city of Funchal, the capital of Madeira Island, a Portuguese island located in the Atlantic Ocean where she had gone to seek treatment for tuberculosis.

After her death, her husband Captain Davies, then erected a granite obelisk shaped monument more than eight feet high in memory of Sarah Forbes Vonetta Davies at Ijon in Western Lagos where he had started a cocoa farm. The inscription on the obelisk reads:


Sarah’s grave is number 206 in the British cemetery of Funchal near the Anglican Holy Trinity Church Rua Quebra Costas Funchal, Madeira.