British soldiers took Emperor Tewodros II’s hair after the battle of Maqdala in 1868
LONDON/ADDIS ABABA, March 5 (NNN-AGENCIES) — A British museum is to return a lock of hair that the Ethiopian government considers a national treasure.
It was cut from the head of Emperor Tewodros II, who killed himself rather than be taken prisoner by the British during their 1868 invasion of Ethiopia.
His seven-year-old son Prince Alemayehu was taken to the UK along with looted treasures, where he became a favourite of Queen Victoria before dying aged 18.
His remains are kept in Windsor Castle despite campaigns for their return.
The lock of Emperor Tewodros II’s hair was given to the National Army Museum in London 60 years ago.
It has now agreed to return the artefact. Talks about the process of repatriation with the Ethiopian government are set to begin within the next few days.
The move has reignited demands for the UK to return all the looted artefacts on display in British museums.
Historians say 15 elephants and 200 mules were needed to cart away all the loot from Maqdala, the emperor’s northern citadel capital.
Ethiopia lodged a formal request in 2008 at various British institutions for the return of the treasures worth millions of dollars taken from the site.
The announcement comes at the end of a year-long commemorations marking 150 years since the Battle of Maqdala.
The so-called Napier expedition, often described as the largest military offensive by the British empire in Africa, saw thousands of soldiers deployed to face Emperor Tewodros II.
Rather than become a prisoner, Emperor Tewodros took his own life.
British forces left with manuscripts, crowns, crosses, chalices, religious icons, royal and ecclesiastic vestments, shields and arms.
The emperor’s seven-year-old son was also taken to Britain and then educated at Rugby School. He died of pleurisy at 18 and is buried at Windsor Castle. — NNN-AGENCIES