The Prince who Walked with Lions

This book by Elizabeth Laird may be aimed at children but it is worth adults picking it up to gain a fictional insight into a piece of British Empire history.  The Prince of the title is Alamayu, the son of the King of Abyssinia, who relates his story from the closed world of Rugby School in England where he is educated at the instruction of Queen Victoria.  How he comes to be there is told through his memories of his earlier life when his father led his nation and was a leader as strong as a lion.

The British Empire came to Abyssinia and, by the end of an efficient military campaign, the King is dead and his son is on his way to Britain.

Alamayu wants to be a worthy son in memory of his father but the Empire educates its sons in a particular way and throughout the book there are episodes where he discovers what it means to be a man.

The book is based on true events but, by fictionalising it, we gain a view of the Empire from an outsider.  The attitudes of some of his fellow pupils to a boy from Africa are illuminating, as is the treatment of him by royalty.  The culture shock Alamayu experiences is greater than that of an African in England.

‘The Prince Who Walked With Lions’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

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