Palau in London: Rotherhithe and the Story of Prince Lee Boo

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With our World in London series, we’re highlighting many modern restaurants and attractions with roots from around the world, but in fact London’s incredible multiculturalism has spanned centuries. And we’re discovering even the tiniest places have forged strong connections with our huge city.

The Republic of Palau‘s links with London date back to the 1780s and the arrival on the small Pacific archipelago of a group of shipwrecked sailors, including Captain Wilson, his son Henry, and his brother Mathias – all from Rotherhithe in South East London.

Local Chieftain Abba Thulle helped the men build a new vessel to replace their shipwrecked packet, The Antelope. He was so impressed and intrigued by their strange customs and ship-building skills that he arranged for his second son, Prince Lee Boo, to return with the men to England.

Lee Boo reached London in July 1784, and was set up in the home of Captain Wilson, on Paradise Row, Rotherhithe, and attended a local academy.

While in London, Lee Boo was also in the crowd who witnessed Vincenzo Lunardi‘s first balloon flight at The Artillery Ground near Old Street.

Sadly Lee Boo succumbed to smallpox and died in December 1784, but the relationship between London and Palau that he began continues to this day. His tomb, in the Wilson family plot in St Mary’s Churchyard, Rotherhithe, was recently visited by an official delegation from The Republic of Palau.

The inscription on Lee Boo’s tomb reads:

To the memory of prince Lee Boo, a native of the Pelew or Palaos Islands and Son of Abba Thulle, Rupack or King of the Island Cooroora, Who departed this Life on the 27th December 1784, aged 20 years, this stone is inscribed by the Honourable United East India Company as a testimony of Esteem for the humane and kind treatment afforded by his Father to the Crew of their Ship, the Antelope, Captain Wilson, which was Wrecked off that island on the Night of 9th August 1783. Stop, reader, Stop  let Nature Claim a tear. A prince of Mine, LEE BOO, Lies Buried Here.

Do you know of any other London links with Palau? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Palau recent connection to London is the International Inspiration Program. Palau was one of the first five countries of the world to be part of the program. We are also preparing a small Team Palau to the London 2012 Olympic Games in July.