The practice has become common with the arrival of Amazon and the boom in internet sales, but decades ago in the US, a country of hyperconsumption, it was common to buy clothes or objects, use them one or twice, and return them as if nothing had happened. To keep customers, sellers who ask questions or do not return money are rare. It would seem unethical, but it's part of the game.
The British are the antithesis. Nothing is returned here. Neither the friezes of the Parthenon, nor the jewels and treasures looted during colonialism. Not even the remains of the short-lived Ethiopian prince Alemayehu, whose body is buried in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Next to luxury neighbors like Queen Elizabeth; her husband, Duke Philip of Edinburgh; his sister, Margaret, and his parents, grandparents and up to ten English monarchs, including Henry VIII.
This is the reason Buckingham Palace alleges for denying Ethiopia the extradition of the black prince, who was brought to Britain in the 19th century at the behest of Queen Victoria when he was just seven years old: not to disturb the dead who lie in the catacombs of the castle, "because it is very improbable that it is possible to exhume the body without disturbing the rest and altering the dignity of those who are buried next to it", real VIPs from the United Kingdom. If it were common and ordinary corpses, a cemetery to be around the house, it would be another story.
Alemayehu's case has a colonial stamp on all sides. In 1862, his father, Emperor Theodore II, sought an alliance with Great Britain to deal with his enemies, but Queen Victoria, in an exercise of imperial arrogance, did not even bother to answer his missives Without thinking much about it, angered by the silence, he took as hostages a handful of Europeans, one of them the consul of that country and an official of the British Museum. London did react to this offense, which sent thirteen thousand soldiers and within a few hours they took the fortress of Magdala, in northern Ethiopia.
The expeditionary force took the opportunity to loot thousands of cultural and religious artifacts, gold crowns, manuscripts, necklaces and dresses, now distributed in museums and private collections throughout the country, for which the invaders needed dozens of elephants and hundreds of mules. Theodore chose to commit suicide and become a martyr, a heroic figure in his people. And the British took away, along with the treasures, his widow, Tirurork Wube, and little Alemayehu, and claimed that it was to "keep them safe and prevent them from being captured and killed by the political enemies of the 'emperor'.
After his arrival in the UK, the prince's orphan status struck a chord with Queen Victoria, who invited him to spend the holidays at her residence on the Isle of Wight, took affection, supported him financially and placed him under the tutelage of the captain who had accompanied him on the journey from Ethiopia (difficult to deny as this was an express request of the monarch). With him he traveled to India and to other ends of the empire, but this did not make him happy, nor did he study at an exclusive private school, or later enter the military academy at Sandhurst.
He could never fulfill that longing. Aged just eighteen, while living with a family in Leeds, he fell ill with pneumonia and refused treatment because he believed he was being poisoned (there is no evidence either way). His death was reported in the national press and it is said that Queen Victoria was deeply saddened, and even shed a few tears. "The poor thing," he said, "has died alone, in a strange country, without any relative or loved one by his side. He has not had a happy life, with all kinds of difficulties, and he believed that people looked at him with curiosity because of the color of his skin”. Compassionate, she arranged for him to be buried with honors at Windsor Castle.
But this gesture has also turned against the unfortunate Alemayehu, because first Elizabeth II, and now Charles III, have denied the Ethiopian government's request to return the remains. The grave neighbors are too VIP to disturb their sleep. Nothing is returned here.