150 Years After His Death Ethiopia Commemorates Life of Tewodros II

Emperor Tewodros II who died during the battle of Meqdela in April 1868 [150 years ago this month], was born in 1818, marking his 200th birthday this year. (Image: Mereja.com)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

April 9th, 2018

New York (TADIAS) — This month Ethiopia will commemorate the 200th Birthday of Emperor Tewodros II with planned events in Gondar, Debre Tabor and Addis Ababa.

The government affiliated Fana Broadcasting cited Culture and Tourism Minister Hirut Woldemariam as stating that the program, which is set to take place from April 10th to 16th, will include panel discussions and exhibitions.

Emperor Tewodros has been making international news lately as the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in the UK made an offer last week to loan Ethiopia the treasures that were looted by British troops following the battle of Meqdela in 1868.

The British campaign was waged 150 years ago this month to free a group of missionaries who were being held by Emperor Tewodros at his Meḳdela fortress after he failed to receive a reply for his diplomatic overtures and a letter that he had sent to Queen Victoria requesting military assistance and British experts.

Although Tewodros took his own life in order to avoid being captured alive, the British took his young son, Prince Alemayehu Tewodros (who died as a teenager while in exile in Britain). They also left with a large loot of irreplaceable Ethiopian treasures that are currently housed at various locations in England.

Ethiopia officially asked for restitution of the country’s looted treasures more than ten years ago, but unfortunately the request was rejected.

In 2007 Ethiopia’s president sent Queen Elizabeth II a formal request for the remains of Prince Alemayehu. As the BBC noted at the time: “The young prince was not the only thing the British took from [Meqdela] – they reportedly needed 15 elephants and nearly 200 mules to carry away the treasures that Tewodros had accumulated. Many of them are still in Britain and the Queen has some of them – notably six of the very finest illuminated manuscripts, which are part of the royal collection in Windsor Castle.”

Some of the loot is currently on display at the V&A museum in London including “a priestly gold crown, a gold chalice (both 1735-40), several processional crosses and imperial jewelry,” The Art Newspaper noted quoting V&A’s director Tristram Hunt who said: “They would be sent to Ethiopia on long-term loan, so ownership would remain with the museum.”

According to Fana Broadcasting the Ethiopian government has rejected claims that it is negotiating with the Victoria and Albert Museum of the UK to bring the Meqdela treasures, looted 150 years ago, on long-term loan to the country. “On the contrary we have intensified our efforts for the restitution of all our treasures taken after the battle of Maqdala,” Culture and Tourism Minister Hirut Woldemariam said. Fana adds: “The minister insisted that Ethiopia will further strengthen its demands for the return of treasures from museums and libraries and individuals. There were no discussions about the treasure coming through loan as Ethiopia is the rightful owner of the treasures.”

Regarding the commemoration of the 200th Birthday of Emperor Tewodros Hirut said: “Emperor Tewodros has played significant role in trying to unite the country and modernizing the country as well as establishing and organizing libraries.”

Ethiopians Urge Britain to Return Remains of Prince Alemayehu After 150 Years
UK Museum Wants to Loan Ethiopia Looted Ethiopian Treasures. Why Not Return It?
A Photo Journal Retracing the Last March of Emperor Tewodros to Meqdela

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