1889 SCANDAL: When Lobengula married a 23-year-old English woman
By the Daily Mail
LONDON: He was the muscular African prince who generated uproar when he fell in love with a Cornish girl.
Peter Lobengula was the 25-year-old grandson of the King of Matabele, whose forces were defeated in battle in what is now Zimbabwe in the 1890s.
The story of how he came to Britain and ended up marrying 23-year-old Kitty Jewell was told in Channel 4 programme Britain’s Human Zoos, which aired on Saturday.
The couple married in 1899 but, when the union broke down, Kitty moved to America and Lobengula worked as a miner in Salford, Greater Manchester.
Remarkably, the show identified Lobengula in archive footage of miners leaving work at the Agecroft colliery, in Pendlebury, in 1901.
Lobengula was also the star of a show called ‘Savage South Africa‘ that was set up to re-create the defeat of the Matabele.
The prince’s relationship with Jewell caused a furore. An article in the now-defunct Evening News read: ‘There is something inexpressibly disgusting in the idea of the white girl mating with the dusky savage.’
A vicar refused to marry them at their local church, St Mathias, in Earls Court.
However, they were granted a special licence and wed at Holborn register office on August 11, 1899.
However, two years later, the couple got divorced after Jewell, the daughter of a mining engineer who emigrated to South Africa, accused her husband of stealing £5 from her.
Lobengula left the show after his marriage but had no choice but to return after his divorce because he was penniless.
He tried to join a competing show in Vienna but was arrested for theft of his native costume.
Soon afterwards the show closed down for good and Lobengula moved to Pendlebury.
He went on to marry an Irishwoman called Lily. The couple had six children, Alexandra, in 1902, Kitty in 1904, Peter, in 1906, Dollina, in 1909, Eva, in 1911, and Vincent in 1913.
Tragically, only two of the children survived into adulthood.
Lobengula died aged 38 on the eve of the First World War after suffering from tuberculosis.
His wife died seven years later aged 39.
The footage of Lobengula at the colliery was shot by commercial film makers Mitchell and Kenyon and is now in the British Film Institute’s archive.
The prince is seen smartly dressed in cap and waistcoat, smiling and joking.
Paul Kelly, the author of The Last Pit in the Valley, was a miner at the colliery before it closed in 1992.
He said: ‘When we were growing up as children, we always had this folklore, really, that we had a Prince Peter who lived in Salford.
‘He was seen as a real hero in Salford, some sort of legend, you know?
‘I was born in 1960 and my grandmother used to speak about him. He seems to have been well liked, very well liked.
Lobengula is seen on the front cover of The Sketch magazine, dressed as a Matabele warrior
An article in the New York Journal detailing how ‘English Girl’ Florence Jewell had ‘eloped’ with Lobengula
Lobengula was also the star of a show called ‘Savage South Africa‘ that was set up to re-create the defeat of the Matabele. Above: The performers are seen posing for a group photo in England
A clip unearthed by the documentary team showed one of performances of the battle defeat
Filmed in 1899, African warriors were seen running at the line of European troops, before they fled in the face of gun shots and a cavalry charge
‘When he died …all the miners came out and doffed their caps to his cortege, and they went to Agecroft Cemetery. So, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?’
Lobengula had come to Britain after mining magnate and politician Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa Company founded Rhodesia at the end of the second Matabele war.
The country was renamed following independence in 1980.
The Savage South Africa show that he performed in had been set up by English circus impresiario Frank Fillis, at Earl’s Court’s Empress Theatre.
Fillis recruited warriors from the Zulu and Swazi tribes, Boer families, and mounted policeman as well as African wildlife such as elephants, lions, and tigers.
The group were tasked with recreating the defeat of the Matabele twice a day.
A clip unearthed by the documentary team showed one of performances of the battle defeat.
Filmed at Earl’s Court in 1899, African warriors were seen running at the line of European troops, before they fled in the face of gun shots and a cavalry charge.
The show’s presenter, Somali-born author Nadifa Mohamed, said: ‘They have gone to great lengths to make it seem realistic, but all that happens is that the Zulus come running towards the English and then run away again.
‘So it reinforces the idea that Britain is destined to have this huge empire.’
The new documentary also unearthed footage of the troop dressed in traditional lionskins, ostrich feathers headdresses and swords, arriving at Southampton after a six-week journey from South Africa.
The new documentary also unearthed footage of the troop dressed in traditional lionskins, ostrich feathers headdresses and swords, arriving at Southampton after a six-week journey from South Africa
They were filmed when they docked by WKL Dickson on a large format Biograph camera and are now in the British Film Institute archive.
At Earl’s Court, audiences would then wander through the Kaffir Kraal, a mock-up of a Matabele village, which Fillis had built to house his cast and allow them to ‘observe the natives in their natural surroundings’.
The show delved into the shocking story of how hundreds of African people were brought to Britain and other European nations to be exhibited at events in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Speaking of the footage of Lobengula, Yasmin Hai, of Red Bicycle, who produced and co-directed the documentary, said: ‘It was quite amazing to discover it.
‘We had been looking at Peter through newspapers, through images but seeing moving footage was a revelation. Everyone was very excited about it.’
Britain’s Human Zoos is available to watch on Channel4.com