before 1868 (made)


Length: 55.5 cm

405-1869 MET

Necklace, silver with applied ornament, Ethiopia, before 1868 (formerly belonging to Queen Woyzaro Terunesh, second wife of the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II (Theodore))

Necklace of two bands of 8 thin silver chains, which appears to be intended for wear across the shoulders. An ornamented silver box (with side piece which pulls out allowing material to be inserted within the box) hangs from one (the front?) end. Further silver chains and conical pendants are suspended from it. Midway along the main chains are two rectangular ornaments surmounted by circular bosses. At the other (back?) end of the necklace is an ornament with a small circular box surmounted on it. Its lid can be removed.

This silver chain was formerly in the possession of Queen Woyzaro Terunesh, second wife of the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II (Theodore) and mother of the prince Alamayou. In 1864, frustrated by a lack of communication from Queen Victoria’s government, Tewodros took a number of Europeans captive, including the British consul, Captain Cameron. The British response was a military expedition of huge complexity and expense led by Sir Robert Napier. The expedition marched to Tewodros’s fortress at Maqdala where a brief battle took place. Britain won the conflict, but not before the captives were released and Tewodros himself had committed suicide. Contemporary reports record that the widowed Queen expressed a wish to ‘be escorted as far as her native province of Semyen, in the north-west part of Tigreh [but] … when the head-quarters’ camp reached Aikhullet, on May 15 [1868], this poor lady died’, apparently of lung disease. ‘Her funeral took place next morning in the great church at Chelicut … The women of her household, showing her robe, her ornaments, her slippers and her drinking cup, beat their breasts, tore their hair, and scratched their cheeks, shedding tears of real grief as they bewailed her death’ (Illustrated London News, 1868). An inventory of the Queen’s possessions includes mention of a ‘silver neck ornament chain’. These possessions were sent on to the Secretary of State for India at the India Office, London, and given to the South Kensington (later V&A) Museum the following year.

Accessions register entry: 'Neck ornament. Silver plaques with cord ornament connected by eight minute chains, belonging formerly to the Queen of Abyssinia. Abysinnian. Given by the Secretary of State for India. April 28th 1869'. See 'Set of Articles of Deceased Queen of Abyssinia' and related correspondence in British Library collections at IOR R/20/AIA/503. Displayed in "V and A Africa: Exploring Hidden Histories" 15th November 2012- 3rd February 2013

Given by the Secretary of State for India

Location: In Storage

View this object on the V&A website