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UK museum to return Ethiopian emperor's lock of hair

Publish date: 11 March 2019
Issue Number: 814
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: General

A UK museum is to return a lock of hair that the Ethiopian Government considers a national treasure. It was cut from the head of Emperor Tewodros II, who took his own life rather than be taken prisoner by the British during their 1868 invasion of Ethiopia. Legalbrief reports that the invaders subsequently removed numerous treasures from the capital city Magdala, including Tewodros II's crowns, vestments, crosses, chalices, swords and shields and a large number of valuable manuscripts. His seven-year-old son Prince Alemayehu was taken to the UK along with looted treasures. BBC News reports that he became a favourite of Queen Victoria before dying at the age of 18. His remains are kept in Windsor Castle despite campaigns for their return. Strands of Emperor Tewodros II's hair were given to the National Army Museum in London 60 years ago. It said it had decided not to make photographs of the hair public out of respect, because the matter was ‘too sensitive’. It confirmed that it has now agreed to return the artefact, but says it is not returning any other items of African origin.

Emperor Tewodros II profile

Full BBC News report