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The Sad Story of the Filipino Slave Whose Tattooed Skin Was Displayed at Oxford

In the late 1600s, an unfortunate Filipino slave with intricate tattoos was brought to England and became known as the “Painted Prince.”

In the late 1600s, a Filipino slave caused quite a sensation when he arrived in England. The Filipino was given the name “Prince Giolo.” People also called him the “Painted Prince” because his body was adorned with intricate tattoos. However, the man didn’t exactly live like royalty. In fact, he was treated like a freak and dismissed as a savage.

As it turns out, the Filipino slave wasn’t really named Prince Giolo. His real name was said to be Jeoly. His journey to England wasn’t by choice. He was a victim of circumstance and other people’s greed.

Miangas was once called "Palmas Island."

Source: Ezilon.com

Jeoly’s strange tale begins sometime in 1690. He and his mother were on a boat near the island of Miangas. The island is located about 70 kilometers from the coast of what is now Davao Oriental. At that time, Miangas was still considered part of the Philippines. As such, Jeoly was a Filipino. After all, it was only in 1928 that an international court decreed that Miangas was part of Indonesia. Even then, the territorial dispute was between the US and the Netherlands, the colonial rulers of the Philippines and Indonesia respectively.

Tragically, slave traders spotted Jeoly’s boat. They captured the mother and son, took away their gold accessories, and sold them for what would amount to $60 to a foreigner who was identified only as “Mr. Moody.” Moody later sold Jeoly and his mother him to William Dampier, the British adventurer who inspired Robinson Crusoe — the title character of Daniel Defoe’s novel.

Perhaps, William Dampier's greatest discovery was Jeoly.

Dampier had grand ambitions to get rich by discovering spice and gold in the so-called “Spice Islands.” However, his dream didn’t become reality. By the time he ran into Moody, he was already broke and was set to return to England with nothing to show from his failed explorations. Thus, when Moody offered to sell him Jeoly, Dampier saw his chance for redemption through the tattooed Filipino slave. In time, Dampier set out to go back to England with Jeoly and his mother in tow.

During their long journey to England, Jeoly and his mother got sick. Jeoly recovered but his mother died from the illness. Dampier wrote in his diary that Jeoly was grief-stricken and could not be comforted.

Once they arrived in England in 1692, Jeoly had to face a crowd of people who were especially curious about his tattoos. He was covered with them. Only his face, hands, and feet didn’t have tattoos. Later on, historian would note that Jeoly’s tattoos, as seen in illustrations of him, looked similar to traditional Micronesian tattoos of people from the the Caroline and Palau Islands.

Here's how Jeoly was "sold" to spectators.

In time, wild tales were told about Jeoly. One man, who was described as a “mysterious writer,” even claimed that he understood Jeoly’s language. This self-proclaimed writer then declared that Jeoly was an actual prince from the land of Gilolo. Moreover, it was also claimed that Jeoly’s tattoos were magical because they could drive away venomous snakes and poisonous insects.

The fake story didn’t stop there. It also stated that Jeoly or “Prince Giolo” became a slave after sea pirates kidnapped him. The prince supposedly became a slave in the kingdom of Tominec. The story claimed that the people of Tominec engaged in piracy and were “devil worshipers.”

Jeoly allegedly fell in love with a princess of Tominec named Terhenahete. The king didn’t like this so he sent the princess away. However, the princess was kidnapped, but Jeoly followed her and even managed to rescue her from being assaulted by her captor. The “mysterious writer” later made money from the fantastic tale of Prince Giolo. A book had actually been printed about it.

There was a lot of "Prince Giolo" merchandise.

Jeoly’s fate wasn’t so fantastic. Despite his claims that he cared about the Filipino slave, Dampier later sold Jeoly to other opportunists. He was literally put on display like a zoo animal at the Blue Boar Inn in Fleet Street. There were also advertisements about him printed on playbills or flyers. It was even said that the reigning English monarch of that time, King William III, requested that Jeoly be brought before him. Alas, after just three months in England, Jeoly got smallpox and died.


Oxford University got hold of Jeoly’s remains. The university announced that they wanted to preserve Jeoly’s skin in the name of science. Jeoly’s skin was publicized as the “first documented instance of the collection and preservation of tattooed human skin as an anatomical curiosity in England.” Theophilus Poynter, the Oxford University’s most successful surgeon, tasked to remove Jeoly’s skin.

In a way, Oxford University is Jeoly's final resting place.

Jeoly’s tattooed skin was displayed at the Anatomy School (later on the Medical School) of Oxford University. Unfortunately, the skin didn’t survive. It presumably deteriorated over time. Oxford documented it as “lost” in the early 20th century. Perhaps, the preservation techniques and chemicals used when it was put on display weren’t very effective.

Dampier himself published his travel diaries. His book was titled A New Voyage Around the World. It came out in 1697. Of course, his encounter with Jeoly was one of the highlights in the book. In fact, Dampier describes his former slave’s tattoos in detail. He also noted that he knew the body was done by “by pricking the skin, and rubbing in a pigment.”

52 Comments

  1. Li Ta

    January 21, 2018 at 7:00 AM

    The same and patterns of tattoes will be found in northern part of Philippines…
    Tattoes means status to a person, might it be a woman or a man…
    The more tattoes you have the higher your status…
    I will say this man was in high status in his numerous tattoes and their pattern…
    We have this tribe called “Pintados” where they put tattoes as a symbol of bravery and to show how many battles they engage….

  2. Li Ta

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    The same and patterns of tattoes will be found in northern part of Philippines…
    Tattoes means status to a person, might it be a woman or a man…
    The more tattoes you have the higher your status…
    I will say this man was in high status in his numerous tattoes and their pattern…
    We have this tribe called “Pintados” where they put tattoes as a symbol of bravery and to show how many battles they engage….

  3. Peter Alderite

    January 20, 2018 at 12:36 AM

    Q. >c0cg

  4. Peter Alderite

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Q. >c0cg

  5. Agnes Koh

    January 19, 2018 at 2:22 PM

    What a horrisble life for him abd him mom.

  6. Maye Noel Locaylocay

    January 19, 2018 at 10:23 AM

    Ignorant foreigners. No one will know the true story of the “painted prince” it only started base on the idiot who captured him, but never understand a word of what he have to say.

  7. Rhickz Z. Yabil

    January 19, 2018 at 9:38 AM

    Most of foreign country invade the Maharlika and destroyed the origin of Filipino’s

  8. Agnes Koh

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    What a horrisble life for him abd him mom.

  9. Dianne Valdez

    January 19, 2018 at 9:22 AM

    Mariel Ann Fadriquela

  10. Paulo Sahagun

    January 19, 2018 at 7:09 AM

    Robby Tantingco

  11. Maye Noel Locaylocay

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Ignorant foreigners. No one will know the true story of the “painted prince” it only started base on the idiot who captured him, but never understand a word of what he have to say.

  12. Jerome Reyes Byron

    January 19, 2018 at 5:05 AM

    Its just so sad that these happens to them , this story breaks my heart because i am a Filipino…

  13. Rhickz Z. Yabil

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Most of foreign country invade the Maharlika and destroyed the origin of Filipino’s

  14. Dianne Valdez

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Mariel Ann Fadriquela

  15. Donald John Kionisala Hadman

    January 19, 2018 at 2:56 AM

    di masama ang mayrung tattoo nka ugalian na yan foreign and religion try to change our culture that make us more powerful than them one of it is a belief of cursing

  16. Kai Skylark

    January 19, 2018 at 2:31 AM

    He is not a slave. Only warriors got tats as proof of their bravery.

  17. Paulo Sahagun

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Robby Tantingco

  18. Bazon Mananquil

    January 19, 2018 at 12:51 AM

    Pintados were warriors.

  19. Jerome Reyes Byron

    March 5, 2018 at 4:19 AM

    Its just so sad that these happens to them , this story breaks my heart because i am a Filipino…

  20. Mark Songco

    January 18, 2018 at 10:02 PM

    Gabrielle Catu

  21. Donald John Kionisala Hadman

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    di masama ang mayrung tattoo nka ugalian na yan foreign and religion try to change our culture that make us more powerful than them one of it is a belief of cursing

  22. Kai Skylark

    March 5, 2018 at 3:39 AM

    He is not a slave. Only warriors got tats as proof of their bravery.

  23. Edna Ed

    January 18, 2018 at 9:19 PM

    Base from his tatoes… he is a prince. Perhaps his father is a chieftain in their village. Just sad how they treat him and his Mum. Bloody pommies.

  24. Bazon Mananquil

    March 5, 2018 at 4:19 AM

    Pintados were warriors.

  25. محمد م. باسكر

    January 18, 2018 at 7:48 PM

    Its Pintados..

  26. GilBerto Anfone

    January 18, 2018 at 6:52 PM

    Isauli ang Tinta…

  27. Waita Davies

    January 18, 2018 at 6:47 PM

    Michael scoffield

  28. Geri Emboido

    January 18, 2018 at 6:41 PM

    A Filipino warrior and his mum who were sailing within their country’s territorial waters were kidnapped by foreigners and were sold as slaves. That should be how the story is told! No one has the right to sell anyone or own anyone as a slave!!
    Every single tattoo of this warrior is a symbol and a story of how he fought and protected his tribe.

  29. Mark Songco

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Gabrielle Catu

  30. Ickick Arep Elbati

    January 18, 2018 at 4:57 PM

    He is a filipino warrior! the tattoos symbolizes the battles he fought and the enemies he neutralized.. and you western people think you are dominant, bitch you are just bunch of murderers and educated tyrants.. no difference with napoleon the bitch! so dont fuckin remind us Filipinos about the pain and hate that our ancestors had been through..

  31. Edna Ed

    March 5, 2018 at 3:39 AM

    Base from his tatoes… he is a prince. Perhaps his father is a chieftain in their village. Just sad how they treat him and his Mum. Bloody pommies.

  32. Gerald Rubi

    January 18, 2018 at 3:58 PM

    There’s pain when I read this…

  33. Violeta Raguindin

    January 18, 2018 at 3:23 PM

    he is a warrior, he is not a slave! 🙄

  34. محمد &

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Its Pintados..

  35. Pam Fontejon

    January 18, 2018 at 2:36 PM

    Not happy to read the story. Displaying his skin.. So he was fillet for his tatoo.. Tribe kasi tayo then history na naten yun but they copied it around the world

  36. GilBerto Anfone

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Isauli ang Tinta…

  37. Waita Davies

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Michael scoffield

  38. Geri Emboido

    March 5, 2018 at 3:39 AM

    A Filipino warrior and his mum who were sailing within their country’s territorial waters were kidnapped by foreigners and were sold as slaves. That should be how the story is told! No one has the right to sell anyone or own anyone as a slave!!
    Every single tattoo of this warrior is a symbol and a story of how he fought and protected his tribe.

  39. Sum Lui

    January 18, 2018 at 12:54 PM

    ne

  40. Ejay Velasco

    January 18, 2018 at 12:25 PM

    Pintados..

  41. Ickick Arep Elbati

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    He is a filipino warrior! the tattoos symbolizes the battles he fought and the enemies he neutralized.. and you western people think you are dominant, bitch you are just bunch of murderers and educated tyrants.. no difference with napoleon the bitch! so dont fuckin remind us Filipinos about the pain and hate that our ancestors had been through..

  42. Gerald Rubi

    March 5, 2018 at 3:39 AM

    There’s pain when I read this…

  43. Ethel Añosa

    January 18, 2018 at 10:56 AM

    Interesting

  44. Violeta Raguindin

    March 5, 2018 at 3:39 AM

    he is a warrior, he is not a slave! 🙄

  45. Vicki Schmidt

    January 18, 2018 at 10:18 AM

    Lee Candelario

  46. Pam Fontejon

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Not happy to read the story. Displaying his skin.. So he was fillet for his tatoo.. Tribe kasi tayo then history na naten yun but they copied it around the world

  47. Sum Lui

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    ne

  48. Ejay Velasco

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Pintados..

  49. Ethel Añosa

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Interesting

  50. Vicki Schmidt

    March 4, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Lee Candelario

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