Victorian Triumph of an African Chief

When a king from Bechuana visited England in 1890s, he won friends and respect everywhere he went, and his tale cast new light on the interactions between Britain and her empire, as Neil Parsons explains.

At 11.30am on Wednesday, September 25th, 1895, a crowd of welcomers surged around a first-class carriage just arrived at Leicester’s Midland station. They had come to greet the well-known ‘Bechuana’ king or chief, Khama, and two other brother chiefs from the Bechuanaland Protectorate in southern Africa. All three were sober middle-aged men, dressed in grey suits and top hats, accompanied by an English missionary and by younger attendants who acted as their personal interpreters.

After introductions on the platform and in the street outside, the party of the Bechuana chiefs proceeded in a carriage and a two-horse wagonette to the nearby village of Enderby. As the vehicles turned into the village, they were mobbed by cheering school children running alongside. Hundreds of villagers had gathered to welcome them at the lych-gate of the parish church, including the vicar, Reverend Aylward, the squire, Captain Drummond, the village’s Congregational minister, Reverend Dickenson, and a visiting (white) bishop from Trinidad.

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