The Prince and the Plunder

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

Queen Terunesh’s cloak

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

What: Queen Woyzaro Terunesh’s embroidered blue silk cloak

Where: Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Downing St, Cambridge CB2 3DZ

This appears to be at one of a group of similar robes, cloaks or mantles from Magdala currently split up in the store rooms of The British Museum, The Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and The Ethnological Museum of Berlin. See the ones we have tracked down here.

The Berlin database entry, which has several detailed images, gives details on the collection and suggests Emperor Tewodros initially commissioned them to send as presents to Queen Victoria. It also says a group of missionaries from Magdala had been trying to sell the cloaks in Egypt after the campaign.

The Cambridge catalogue entry, which includes pictures, reads:

Context: “Information supplied by Nicola Stylianou, PhD student at the V&A and taken from the V&A archives, offers evidence that Z 19184-5, Z 18161 and Z 19188 were transferred from the Victoria and Albert Museum on 24/8/1934, with the Hawaiian cape 1934.1159, three Chinese textiles, a Russian silk, and a fringed woven vegetable fibre textile, with bands of geometrical patterns’ from the South Seas, the latter items as yet unidentified.

“The Handwritten V&A register, completed on entry, noted it was given by the Secretary of State for India, and the date of receipt from stores as April 28th 1869. The V&A printed register adds ‘This cloak formerly belonged to the Queen of Abyssinia’. This is a reference to Queen Woyzaro Terunesh, the second wife of the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros (Theodore), and mother of the prince Alamayehu. presumably acquired by British troops at the siege of Magdala (Mek’dala) in 1868 along with Z 19184.”

Reference numbers: Z 19188; 396-1869 [V&A]
Measurements: 980.0mm x 1905.0mm

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