The untold truth of Queen Victoria's adopted child

Any British history enthusiast worth their salt can tell you that Queen Victoria had nine children. There was Edward VII and Victoria the younger. There was Princess Alice, Princess Louise, and young Prince Arthur. You had your Princesses Beatrice and Helena, your Prince Alfred, and your Prince Leopold. (By then Victoria had to be running out of names she liked that didn't come with emotional baggage.)

And then there was Sara, the oft-forgotten Rudolph to the royal family's Dasher and Prancer and Dancer and so on.

Yes, Albert and Victoria sort of adopted a tenth child. And the whole story is downright bananas.

Queen Victoria adopted an African princess named Sara

The year was 1848, and Captain Frederick Forbes of the British Royal Navy was working in Africa to end the local slave trade, which will come off as pretty bleakly ironic in a minute. While there, he met with the king of the now-defunct nation of Dahomey, whose armies had recently raided a nearby kingdom, killing their leader and taking their 5-year-old princess hostage, intending to use her as a human sacrifice. It was all very dramatic.

Forbes, as the Daily Mail tells it, convinced the Dahomeyan royals to release the princess, and brought her back to England (here comes that grim irony) so that he could give her to Queen Victoria as a present, proving that chivalry and tone-deafness have gone together like chocolate and peanut butter for centuries.

Victoria took a shine to the little girl and, by all accounts, took pretty remarkable care of her. The girl, who at this point was going by Sara Forbes Bonetta, was cared for in Kent and educated on the queen's dime, according to the Royal Collection Trust. She and Victoria stayed close throughout her life, with the queen giving Bonetta her blessing to marry at 18 and Bonetta naming her daughter after the monarch. Victoria was even the godmother to Sarah's daughter.

Sadly, Sara died of tuberculosis when she was in her late 30s. As recounted by the UK's Black History Month archive, Victoria set her children up with an annuity to secure their well-being after their mother's passing.