The Prince and the Plunder

A book on how Britain took one boy and piles of treasures from Ethiopia

A manuscript of the Miracles of Mary (RCIN 1005083)

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

What: A manuscript, dated 1766, of the Miracles of the Virgin Mary, with unusually rounded pages

Where: The Royal Collection, Britain

Click here to see details and images on the Royal Collection website –

The database entry, which has several black and white images, reads: “Manuscript on vellum, in two columns, written by one scribe in a fair hand, in the Ge’ez language. | 30.5 x 25.5 cm (whole object) | RCIN 1005083”.


“Full leather bound in brown calfskin over wooden boards, partly lined with cloth. An Abyssinian binding with a blind-stamped pattern.

“Unusually for an Ethiopic manuscript the outside edges (top and bottom) have been cut round. It is illustrated to a high standard of both design and execution.”


“Originally owned by Walda Giyorgis (f.19r and passim). Later owned by the Church of Madhane Alam at Magdala; acquired by Queen Victoria, c.1868”


One of six ecclesiastical manuscripts from Maqdala, currently part of the Queen of England’s personal collection in the Royal Library in Windsor Castle.

They were part of the original haul of manuscripts given to the British Museum in the aftermath of the campaign. Museum staff selected the six most beautiful volumes and presented them to Queen Victoria.

Prof Richard Pankhurst, AFROMET vice chair, described the six illuminated books as “six of the finest Ethiopian religious manuscripts in existence”. He added: “These were specially selected for Queen Victoria, and are therefore, from the artistic point of view, virtually without equal anywhere in the world.”

Each volume includes a line identifying it as the property of the Church of Madhane Alam at Magdala. Thay are all written in the ancient Ethiopian language of Geez. All but one are described in the Royal Library catalogue as “profusely illustrated”.

Listed in Edward Ullendorff’s paper The Ethiopic Manuscripts in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle.

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