The marriage that shocked Victorian Britain: Never-before-seen footage reveals the 19th century African prince who caused a stir by marrying a 23-year-old Cornish woman – before moving to Salford to become a miner

He was the muscular African prince who caused a stir when he fell in love with a Cornish girl.

Peter Lobengula was the 25-year-old grandson of the King of Matabele, whose forces were defeated in battle in what is now Zimbabwe in the 1890s.

The story of how he came to Britain and eventually married 23-year-old Kitty Jewell was told in the Channel 4 program Britain’s Human Zoos, which aired on Saturday.

The couple married in 1899, but when the union collapsed, Kitty moved to America and Lobengula worked as a miner in Salford, Greater Manchester.

Remarkably, the show identified Lobengula in archive footage of miners leaving work at the Agecroft mine in Pendlebury in 1901.

Lobengula was also the star of a show called ‘Savage South Africa’ which was set up to recreate the Matabele defeat.

He was the muscular African prince who caused a stir when he fell in love with a Cornish girl. Above: Peter Lobengula became a miner in Pendlebury, Greater Manchester. Excavated images show that he left the mine with colleagues in 1901

The story of how he came to Britain and eventually married 23-year-old Kitty Jewell was told in the Channel 4 program Britain's Human Zoos, which aired on Saturday.

The story of how he came to Britain and eventually married 23-year-old Kitty Jewell was told in the Channel 4 program Britain’s Human Zoos, which aired on Saturday.

The prince’s relationship with Jewell caused a sensation. An article in the now defunct Evening News said: ‘There is something unspeakably disgusting in the idea of ​​the white girl playing with the dark savage.’

A minister refused to marry them at their local church, St Mathias, in Earls Court.

However, they obtained a special permit and were married at Holborn Land Registry on 11 August 1899.

However, two years later the couple divorced after Jewell, the daughter of a mining engineer who emigrated to South Africa, accused her husband of stealing £5 from her.

Lobengula left the show after his marriage but had no choice but to return after his divorce because he had no money.

He attempted to participate in a competitive show in Vienna, but was arrested for theft of his native costume.

Shortly afterwards the show closed for good and Lobengula moved to Pendlebury.

He subsequently married an Irish woman named Lily. The couple had six children: Alexandra, in 1902, Kitty in 1904, Peter, in 1906, Dollina, in 1909, Eva, in 1911, and Vincent in 1913.

Tragically, only two of the children survived to adulthood.

Lobengula died of tuberculosis on the eve of the First World War at the age of 38.

His wife died seven years later at the age of 39.

The images of Lobengula at the mine were taken by commercial filmmakers Mitchell and Kenyon and is now in the archives of the British Film Institute.

The prince is seen neatly dressed in a cap and vest, smiling and joking.

Paul Kelly, author of The Last Pit in the Valley, was a miner at the mine before it closed in 1992.

He said: ‘Growing up as kids we actually always had the folklore that we had a Prince Peter who lived in Salford.

‘He was seen as a real hero in Salford, something of a legend, you know?

‘I was born in 1960 and my grandmother always talked about him. He seems to have been very popular, very loved.

Lobengula is featured on the cover of The Sketch magazine dressed as a Matabele warrior

Lobengula is featured on the cover of The Sketch magazine dressed as a Matabele warrior

A New York Journal article describing how 'English Girl' Florence Jewell had 'eloped' with Lobengula

A New York Journal article describing how ‘English Girl’ Florence Jewell had ‘eloped’ with Lobengula

Lobengula was also the star of a show called 'Savage South Africa' which was set up to recreate the Matabele defeat.  Above: The artists pose for a group photo in England

Lobengula was also the star of a show called ‘Savage South Africa’ which was set up to recreate the Matabele defeat. Above: The artists pose for a group photo in England

A fragment unearthed by the documentary team showed one of the enactments of the defeat in battle

A fragment unearthed by the documentary team showed one of the enactments of the defeat in battle

Filmed in 1899, African warriors were seen running past the European troop line, before fleeing under gunfire and a cavalry charge

Filmed in 1899, African warriors were seen running past the European troop line, before fleeing under gunfire and a cavalry charge

‘When he died… all the miners came out and took off their caps before his procession, and they went to Agecroft cemetery. So that says it all, right?’

Lobengula had come to Britain after mining magnate and politician Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa Company founded Rhodesia at the end of the second Matabele war.

The country was renamed after independence in 1980.

The Savage South Africa show in which he performed was mounted by English circus impresiario Frank Fillis, at Earl’s Court’s Empress Theatre.

Fillis recruited warriors from the Zulu and Swazi tribes, Boer families and mounted police officers, as well as African wildlife such as elephants, lions and tigers.

The group was tasked with recreating the defeat of the Matabele twice a day.

A fragment unearthed by the documentary team showed one of the enactments of the defeat in battle.

Filmed at Earl’s Court in 1899, African warriors were seen running past the European troop line, before fleeing due to gunfire and a cavalry charge.

The show’s host, Somali-born author Nadifa Mohamed, said: ‘They’ve done their utmost to make it look realistic, but all that happens is the Zulus come running towards the English and then run away again.

“So it reinforces the idea that Britain is destined to have this huge empire.”

The new documentary has also uncovered footage of the pride dressed in traditional lion skins. ostrich feathers, headdresses and swords, arrived in Southampton after a six-week journey from South Africa.

The new documentary has also uncovered footage of the troops dressed in traditional lion skins, ostrich feather headdresses and swords, arriving in Southampton after a six-week journey from South Africa.

The new documentary has also uncovered footage of the troops dressed in traditional lion skins, ostrich feather headdresses and swords, arriving in Southampton after a six-week journey from South Africa.

They were filmed as they docked on a large format Biograph camera by WKL Dickson and are now in the archives of the British Film Institute.

At Earl’s Court the audience then wandered through the Kaffir Kraal, a recreation of a Matabele village, which Fillis had built to house his cast and enable them to ‘observe the natives in their natural environment’.

The show delved into the shocking story of how hundreds of African people were brought to Britain and other European countries for display at events in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Speaking about the Lobengula footage, Red Bicycle’s Yasmin Hai, who produced and co-directed the documentary, said: ‘It was quite amazing to discover it.

‘We looked at Peter through newspapers and through images, but seeing moving images was a revelation. Everyone was very enthusiastic about it.’

Britain’s Human Zoos is available to watch Channel4.com