The Prince and the Plunder

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

Sword with Arabic inscription *

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

What: Sword linked to Magdala, but wrong date

Where: Pitt Rivers Museum, South Parks Rd, Oxford, OX1 3PP

Magdala is mentioned several times in the records, but they also say the sword was collected by Hubert Berkeley in 1866, two years before the battle.

The catalogue entry describes:

“Sword with single-edged, slightly curved blade, blued, gilt, inscribed with Arabic characters and incised with a robed figure and military regalia. The guard is silver with repousse designs, the grip of wood covered with mother-of-pearl and decorated with silver plaques depicting military regalia.”

The Accession Book entry reads: “June 1945. Wolstan E. Berkeley, late of Bruton Manor, Portishead, Somerset. Bequest. Specimens collected by his brother, Captain Hubert Berkeley. – Abyssinia, Magdala. Slightly curved sword, with engraved blade (human figure, crossed flags, and Arabic characters). Wooden handle partly covered with mother-of-pearl, silver guard. Coll. in 1866. (H.W.B.)”

Related Documents File – 1945.6.1 contains a series of letters relating to the donation of Hubert Berkeley’s collection to the PRM. The first is dated 21/1/43, from W.E. Berkeley to Beatrice Blackwood, and mentions ‘trophies’ left to him by his brother, Hubert, that had been “hanging in our house Bruton Manor for the past twenty years”, as well as additional items Hubert had had at another location [illegible, Ch…jah?].


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