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A 156-Year-Old Mystery: The Quest for Emperor Tewodros II’s Stolen Clothes in Manchester

By Gemma Sherlock,
BBC News
A 19th century engraving of the body of Ethiopia's Emperor Tewodros IIAn historian is currently investigating the mystery surrounding the disappearance of an African emperor’s stolen garments 156 years ago, with suspicions that they may have ended up in Manchester.

Emperor Tewodros II had his prized coat and scarf ripped from his body during a British invasion of Ethiopia in 1868.

Andrew Heavens is encouraging individuals to search their attics, suspecting that fragments of the garments might have been misplaced within the city.

He said finding any relic of the emperor would be “a huge deal”.

Emperor Tewodros II
Emperor Tewodros II

Ethiopia is appealing for the return of any artefacts taken during the battle “in the same way Greece wants the Elgin Marbles back”, Mr Heavens said.

Britain’s invasion saw soldiers charging into the east African mountain kingdom of Abyssinia – now known as Ethiopia – in a bid to free European captives.

Defeating the emperor, who took his own life amid the destruction, the British then fled, taking with them various treasures including gold crowns, illuminated manuscripts and sacred carvings.

They also ripped up the emperor’s scarf and coat, and cut off locks of his hair for souvenirs.

This golden crown was also taken during the battle

Mr Heavens, who has written a book on the subject, said “bits and pieces” from the battle have been turning up ever since, with the National Army Museum returning a lock of the emperor’s hair to Ethiopia in 2019.

A small piece of his silk scarf was also presented to Stamford Park Museum in Stalybridge.

Mr Heavens now believes part of the scarf or coat may have been taken to somebody’s home after the museum was demolished in the 1950s.

Bits of the collection survived and were distributed to other local museums – but Mr Heavens’ efforts to find evidence of the clothes have so far turned up a blank.

“[The scarf] may have been lost or destroyed,” he said.

Emperor Tewodros II
Emperor Tewodros II

“But I thought there was just a chance someone took it home when the museum closed, particularly if it was in a nice display case.”

However, Stalybridge Library and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Museum said they do not have the clothes in their collection.

The historian has since sent requests to Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre and Manchester Museum.

According to the National Army Museum, Emperor Tewodros had established his rule since 1855 through war but also continued to face many internal rebellions as he tried to remain in power.

Crowns and other trinkets have also been pictured in old engravings

In 1862 he asked the British Government for an alliance and assistance in acquiring the latest weapons and tactical experts to help him – but his request went unanswered.

As a result he seized a number of European hostages, among them was the British Consul, Captain Charles Cameron, who was kept in chains for over two years.

It created a public outcry that forced the government into a response – resulting in the invasion and subsequent looting.

Historians say 15 elephants and 200 mules were needed to cart away all the stolen treasure from Maqdala, the emperor’s northern citadel capital.

Ethiopia lodged a formal request in 2008 at various British institutions for the return of the items.

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UK to return emperor’s stolen hair

1 thought on “A 156-Year-Old Mystery: The Quest for Emperor Tewodros II’s Stolen Clothes in Manchester”

  1. Stop ur nonsense, Ethiopia was and is callled Ethiopia since ancient time. “Absyiania” is an European fabriction when they were barbarians and ignorants before the 15th century AD. So called west European Catholics have ransacked Constantinople the capital of Byzantiine Orthodox Christaians on their way to Palastine to conquer Jerusalem from Islamic Sultanates which was was called crusade. They were defeated by Sultan Salhadin and were chased out of the Middle East. However, they were able to steal the civilization of the Near East. Islamic scholaras were so advanced in all fields of science, architecture, weaponery, lingustics, Theology and commerce.
    Yes English blood suckers of Africans and Asians have looted Meqdella. The Photo shown here does tell how still savages were and are they. They’ve stollen too our many thousend years of cornation cermoney and ancient books, artifacts and many items of cultural goods and materials.Even without havang any relation with us Semetic people, they have considred and claimed to be the children of Zion. In fact they are same other Europeans mongrel bastards. Due to their hybrid beings they’re anti- Semetic people, anti- Hebrew and Muslim Arabs etc.

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