The Prince and the Plunder

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

Category: Drinking vessels

The Bonhams drinking horn ‘taken from Magdala’

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

What: Horn, said to belong to Tewodros, later mounted in silver, engraved and turned into a pitcher

Where: Last in the hands of an unnamed buyer who paid £2,125 for it at Bonhams,in London in January 2017

According to the sale details, which include two photos:

the horn has a cover inscribed: “THE DRINKING HORN OF KING THEODORE’S WAS TAKEN FROM MAGDALA by Lieut C M Davidson ADJUTANT 4TH KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT 13th April 1868”. There is a shied on the front inscribed: “TO Lieut Colonel Edmond A Shuldham OF COOLKELURE FROM HIS FRIEND Capt C M Davidson”.

There is a footnote saying Christopher Middlemass Davidson and Edmond Anderson Shuldham are linked through the South Cork Militia. It adds:

“Christopher Middlemass Davidson was born June 5th 1843 and became Ensign by purchase in the 4th Foot in Feb 1862. As Lieut. and Adjutant of the 1st Battalion, 4th Foot, he participated in the Abyssinian Campaign. He saw action at Arogee and was in the forefront in the Capture of Magdala. In 1869 he became Regimental Instructor of Musketry and with promotion to Captain in 1875 transferred to the 104th Foot. He served as Adjutant of the South Cork Militia from 1878 to 1881. In 1881 he was promoted to Major and retired from the Royal Munster Fusiliers as Lieut. Colonel in 1882. In 1889 Lt. Col. Davidson became a Gentleman at Arms. He served in the sovereign’s bodyguard under Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V. He was awarded the 4th Class MVO in 1921 and died April 6th 1922.”

Lot 72
Maker’s mark: WH, London 1879
Height 26.7cm
Sold for £ 2,125 inc. premium
The Gentleman’s Library Sale
19 Jan 2017, 10:00 GMT


The Christies horn cup ‘taken at the storming of Magdala’

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What: Horn cup, said to belong to Emperor Tewodros, taken by Captain Thomson during the storming of Magdala, sold via Christies in April 2014

Where: Last in the hands of an unnamed buyer

The auction page has a picture of the cup and describes it as “a white metal mounted buffalo horn cup”. It is unclear who added the metal mounting.


Lot 284
Sale 5953
Robert Kime, David Bedale, Piers von Westenholz and Christopher Gibbs – The English Home, 30 April 2014, London, South Kensington
Sold for £812
Estimate £600 – £900
13 in. (33 cm.) high; 6 in. (15.2 cm.) diameter

The Berlin drinking horn ‘found during the storming of Magdala’

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What: Drinking horn with leather cover and metal mouthpiece, said to belong to Emperor Tewodros

Where: The Ethnological Museum of Berlin, Takustraße 40, 14195 Berlin, Germany

Fotonachweis: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum /CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

The catalogue entry includes a picture of the horn and a description of how it was found:

“The present drinking horn was found by me (Stumm, A. d.) During the storming and the taking of Magdala by the English on April 13, 1868, in the tent of Emperor Theodore of Abyssinia … As one of the first to climb over and enclose the fence of the fortress in which Theodore and 19 companions had encircled, I found the emperor’s corpse, apparently barely a few moments after Theodoros had taken his life by a pistol shot far from the entrance of the tent, which was immediately recognizable by its size and splendor as that of the emperor. A divan and a heap of piled blankets occupied the interior, and on the latter the drinking horn, half-filled with araki, was evidently the last part of the emperor known by his drunkenness.

“The closure of the drinking horn consisted of a wooden stopper with a brass button, which was lost during the transport to the coast, and was later restored in Germany, according to the original form in … (illegible) silver.”
Florenz den 1. December 1868. Gez. Stumm, Second Lieutenant à la suite of the Hanoverian Hussar Regiment No. 15 (Letter to Wilhelm I of Prussia).

The catalogue entry says Stumm gave the drinking horn to the Prussian king who later passed it onto the museum.

The mouthpiece is marked with the inscription: “Trinkhorn des Kaisers Theodoros von Abissinien – Magdala 13. April 1868”.

Length: 62 cm
Diameter: 14 cm (bottom)
ID No. III A 252