The Prince and the Plunder

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

Category: Said to belong to Tewodros

Prayers written in Tewodros’s reign, mentions the queen (OR 563)

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What: A manuscript of prayers, including a prayer for midnight, with lessons and hymns. “Written during the reign of Theodore (A.D. 1855—68), when Demetrius was patriarch, and ‘Abba Salama (III.) ‘abuna … The queen is named on f. 56 b.”

Where: The British Library, 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB

Provenance: Listed as part of the “Magdala collection” in William Wright’s Catalogue of the Ethiopic manuscripts in the British Museum acquired since the year 1847

Does not appear in British Library’s online catalogue or list of digitised manuscripts

The emperor’s letter to Jaffa

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What: A letter from Tewodros

Where: Previously Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham, now unknown

A letter, described as “from Tewodros”, that was listed in the museum’s catalogue as recently as January, 2018, but the entry has since disappeared.

Here is the original catalogue entry, though the link is now dead:

Object number 4901.39

Letter written in two scripts – one probably Amharic and other Arabic – mounted on card, 14″x 10″, dated 1865. Letter from King? Tewodros to Jaffa, 13.3.1867

Shield with lion’s mane possibly made for Emperor Tewodros

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What: A shield and lion’s mane made for Emperor Tewodros, taken by the British Museum’s expert on the expedition, Richard Rivington Holmes

Where: The British Museum, Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG

Provenance: Maqdala mentioned at length in acquisition notes. Shield described as possibly made for Tewodros.

There are images nd more details on the British Museum’s database entry –

The entry reads: 

“It is possible this shield was made for Tewedros II himself. It was described as ‘royal’ at the point of aquisition and as ‘the most richly ornamented of the royal shieds’ in R. Holmes to J. Winter Jones 20th July 1868 (British Museum Central Archive, Original Papers Volume 94, April to July 1868, no. 7629).

Museum number: Af1868,1001.1
Date: 19thC (mid)
Made for: Tewodros II, Emperor of Ethiopia
Acquisition name: Field Collection by: Sir Richard Rivington Holmes
Acquisition date: 1868

The Bonhams drinking horn ‘taken from Magdala’

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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

A pistol, given to Tewodros by Victoria

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What: A pistol, given to Tewodros by Queen Victoria

Where: The Royal Collection, Britain

The catalogue entry, which has a picture, reads: “Percussion Revolver; octagonal blued steel barrel and body engraved with foliate scrolling; walnut grip carved with chequering; blued steel pommel cap engraved with foliate scrolls; oval escutcheon inlaid in silver and engraved with presentation inscription.”


Royal Collection catalogue entry –

“Sent to King Tewodros II of Abyssinia (1818-1868) by Queen Victoria, ‘in acknowledgement of the kindness shown by him to her servant Plowden’.”

[Note: Several accounts said Tewodros shot himself with a pistol that had been given to him by Queen Victoria.]