Theodore II of Ethiopia

Czeslaw Jesman describes the revival of the African Empire and the British expedition of 1868.

Theodore II of Ethiopia
Theodore II of Ethiopia

On Easter Monday, 1868, the Emperor Theodore II of Ethiopia died, in all likelihood by his own hand, on the amba of Magdala, a fortified and almost impregnable mountain.

At that time its defences were being rushed by British infantry of the Anglo-Indian Expeditionary Force, commanded by Sir Robert Napier, the future Lord Napier of Magdala. Theodore disbanded the garrison of his last redoubt a few days before, and had only eighteen followers at his side, some of them elderly courtiers and hardly combatant.

Sir Robert commanded about 4,000 troops on the spot and, including garrisons of staging posts, detachments and units covering the approaches to his principal base on the Red Sea, had in Ethiopia some 32,000 men and ample artillery under his orders.

Captain Cameron, the British Consul, Hormuz Rassam, a special envoy from the British Government to Theodore, and a score of European missionaries and mechanics, were sent on the Emperor’s orders to the British camp even before the storm of Magdala began. Their imprisonment was the official reason for mounting the expedition.

A few days after Theodore’s death, his body was buried within the precincts of the Church of Medhane Alem. It was burned together with the rest of the amba's buildings. Its fortifications were blown up, and the guns of Magdala were spiked.

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