Friday, September 6, 2013 Blog: Black Roman Soldiers in Britain 'were under the rule of Septimius Severus, a Black Roman Emperor based in York.'

Septimius Severus

Hazel Singer
Friday, September 6, 2013

Early Black British
People in Britain of African descent generally refer to themselves as Black British. This includes people from former British colonies in Africa and Afro-Caribbeans. However, Africans appeared in Britain long before the British colonized Africa. The first Blacks in Britain arrived as soldiers in the Roman armies in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. They rebuilt and were stationed along Hadrian's Wall. They were under the rule of Septimius Severus, a Black Roman Emperor based in York.

Archaeological finds also indicate that there were other African people in the upper echelons of society at that time. A Roman grave found in York contains a skull of a Black or mixed-race woman. Her sarcophagus was made of stone and also contained a jet bracelet and ivory bangle, both indicators of great wealth at that time. Later, the Vikings raided the north coast of Africa, taking people as slaves to Ireland and Britain.

There are numerous instances of interest and surprise to be found in the history of Black BritonsQueen Phillipa (b. 1313, Belgium) was married to the future King Edward III and descriptions of her indicate African ancestry. Their son was known as the Black Prince, a reference to his appearance.

Africans arrived in Britain in the 16th century in the entourage of Catherine of Aragon. An illuminated manuscript from 1511 shows a black trumpeter in the retinue of King Henry VIII.

[John Blanke (16th c.), the Black trumpeter in the service of King Henry VIII, is featured at

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