Royalty or conman? The mystery of ‘Prince’ Peter Lobengula

18 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Royalty or conman? The mystery of  ‘Prince’  Peter Lobengula Prince Peter lobengula

The Sunday News

By Mzala Tom

Peter Khutshana Lobengula was a sensation in England in the late 1890s. Peter alleged that he was the son of the last Ndebele king, Lobengula Khumalo and a grandson of King Mzilikazi.

Peter went to England at the request of Frank Fillis, a showman entrepreneur, in a show called ‘Savage South Africa’ which claimed to show the battles that Cecil Rhodes had fought against the Ndebele kingdom.

Peter was the lead performer and handsome star attraction of the Buffalo Bill Wild West tours in South Africa. He was fluent in Ndebele/Zulu, English and Afrikaans and always asserted himself as royalty in all his interactions.

Fillis had heard about the success of the Buffalo Bill Wild West tours and saw this as a great chance to seize the opportunity and bring the shows to the English audience and make a fortune.

The England shows were a great success. They depicted the Anglo-Ndebele, Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu wars with a diverse cast of English, African and Afrikaner actors.

Peter became a sensation in the shows that drew the attention of the British royalty. In 1899 he got a royal invite from the Prince of Wales to drink champagne with him when he attended the London show at Earls Court.

Peter drew controversy when he announced that he had engaged a white woman called Kitty Jewell, an English piano teacher. The public was outraged! The London Evening News said, “There is something inexpressibly disgusting about the mating of a white girl with a dusky savage”.

Their attempts to get married were obstructed by the local vicar, the owners of the show and by Kitty’s mother. This prompted Peter to quit the show and threaten to return to South Africa. He however, stayed in Salford. Sadly, their marriage never materialised.

The Savage South Africa Show moved to Salford in 1900 and further to places like Blackpool, Leeds and Liverpool.

However, black performers suffered a lot of racism which eventually led to the collapse of the shows.

Peter remained in Salford, married an Irish woman called Catherine and had four children, living in Gladstone Street, off Indigo Street, Pendleton whilst working as a collier at Agecroft colliery.

In 1913 Peter made headlines when he appeared at Salford Magistrates Court saying that as son of King Lobengula of the Ndebele kingdom then part of Rhodesia he was entitled to vote. He won the case and was allowed to vote in the Salford East ward.

Peter contracted tuberculosis at the mines, which caused his health to deteriorate over the years. When his condition got critical, the local vicar of his parish applied for a pension for him from the British South Africa Company.

Peter made headlines when The British South Africa Company investigated King Lobengula’s family tree and declared him to be a hoaxer and therefore not entitled to the money which King Lobengula’s children were entitled to.

Peter succumbed to tuberculosis in November 1913 and was buried in a public grave in Agecroft cemetery. By 1920 his wife and four of their children were to join him in the cemetery.

It is said that his funeral cortege passed by Agecroft colliery and that his workmates dropped their hats as a mark of respect to their friend, also crowds lined the route to the cemetery. (Source: RealMzalaTom)

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