Gold Crown, probably made in
Gondar, Ethiopia, around 1740
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Golden Chalice made by Walda Giyorgis in
Gondar, Ethiopia, 1735-40
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
...the British Army entrusted to our command completely defeated the Army of Theodore at Arogie on the 10th April. The European captives were all then released; and on the 13th, Theodore having unwisely refused to submit to the mercy of the Queen of England, the aniba of [Magdala] was stormed and taken, and Theodore was found dead within. By our order, [Magdala] was burned, and left a blackened rock, as a warning to all who injure subjects of Her Majesty the Queen of England...the object of our coming having been by God’s blessing completed, we are now marching again to the coast.
Following the defeat of Abyssinian troops, British forces entered the Magdala fortress with the aim of collecting anything of value to be later auctioned off to raise money for the troops. They were accompanied by Richard Holmes, an assistant in the department of manuscripts at the British Museum, who removed a number of objects – manuscripts, regalia, religious antiquities and other material – from the imperial treasury and from the Church of the Saviour of the World.
[At the nearby Dalanta Plain] on 20 and 21 April, the British military authorities held a two-day auction to raise "prize money" for the troops. "Bidders", Stanley states, "were not scarce for every officer and civilian desired some souvenir", among them "richly illuminated Bibles and manuscripts". Holmes, acting on behalf of the British Museum, was one of the principal purchasers. Stanley describes him "in his full glory", for, "armed with ample funds, he out-bid all in most things." Colonel Frazer, buying for a regimental mess "ran him hard", and "when anything belonging personally to Theodore was offered for sale, there were private gentlemen who outbid both".
This officially organised sale raised a total of £5,000, which assured each enlisted man "a trifle over four dollars".
All Abyssinians are bad, all cruel, all treacherous; all they require, is the opportunity. Everyone has in him qualities of a- Theodoras; give one power, he will, as a rule, soon show himself in his true colours. The first thing he will do will he to cut off the hands and feet of even his best friend if he believes that at any time he may prove “dangerous.'’
They follow to a nicety in that respect the maxim that "a prevention is better than cure.” It is natural that an Abyssinian prefers shortening his friend's extremities to undergoing that process himself.
Every one seeks to be the best man, and will often struggle hard to obtain the supremacy. Should the King be no more, every petty chief will be in arms; hundreds of pretenders will be on all sides, and until one is strong enough to make himself respected and impose his will on others there will he no safety for life or property. Abyssinia will be deluged with blood, and anarchy reign supreme over the whole land. Before Abyssinia again accepts a ruler it would necessarily take some time; during that period what would become of the Europeans in this country? All those in Debra Tabor, if spared by the King, would be murdered by the peasantry; their chance is poor indeed.
...Let us admit the best, and suppose that Menilek or Wagshum are the conquerors; what assurance have we that they will allow us to leave the country, even that we would not be worse treated than we are now? None at all!
On [his mother's] request the Prince was brought to England under the guardianship of Captain Speedy, an army officer who had spent time in Abyssinia and spoke Amharic. Speedy took Alamayou to the Isle of Wight where he was introduced to Queen Victoria, whose family spent summers on the island. The Prince made a strong impression on Victoria and, with her support, received an English education.
Wearing Ethiopian dress, he stands over a reclined unidentified African man, with a spear in his hand, apparently playing out a fantasy of conquest (the photograph has been titled ‘Spear or spare’). The mount carries the handwritten caption ‘Báshá Félíka’ meaning ‘speedy’; the Amharic name given to Speedy by Tewodros.
Speedy’s relationship with the Ethiopian people is also reflected in a small collection of objects given to the Museum by his goddaughter in 1936...
Further items formerly in the collection of Speedy are held by the British Museum.
His was no happy life, full of difficulties of every kind, and he was so sensitive, thinking that people stared at him because of his colour, that I fear he would never have been happy.
Very grieved & shocked to hear by telegram, that good Alamayou had passed away this morning. It is too sad! All alone, in a strange country, without a single person or relative belonging to him […] Everyone is sorry.
"a pretty, polite, graceful boy with beautiful eyes and a nice nose and nice teeth, though the lips are slightly thick...there is nothing whatever of the Negro about him."
“How do you think your ancestors got these? Do you think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it… like they took everything else?”
Scientific Researcher, Independent Historian, and Co-Founder of Black Research Central
In-Depth Info on History and Science from another perspective.