Theodore or Theodros or Tewodros I

Theodore or Theodros or Tewodros I

Theodore or Theodros or Tewodros I

A carte-de-visite (CDV) of Theodore or Theodros or Tewodros II (1818-1868), King of Abyssinia and Emperor of Ethiopia (reigned 1855-1868). Born in the western province of Qwara during a period of disunity in Ethiopia, he was called Kassa and was the son of a minor chief. By military prowess he made himself master of Wars, whereupon Queen Menen, the mother of the ruler of Gondor, then the capital, sent an army to crush him. The expedition failed and Kassa was allowed to marry the Queen’s grand-daughter, Tewabetch. By 1854 he was the ruler of Gondor and Amhara, and in 1855 proclaimed himself Tewodros, a significant choice, as legend said that a sovereign of that name would rule justly, conquer Islam, and capture Jerusalem. Tewodros dreamed of reuniting the empire, and restoring its greatness. He attempted to conquer the different provinces, crush the nobles, reorganize taxes, and expropriate church lands, as well as to abolish the slave trade and convert Muslims to Christianity. He tried to create a paid army directly loyal to himself to replace the feudal levies who looted the countryside and obeyed only their own immediate masters.


 Tewodros had rifles smuggled through the Sudan and Massawa, both under hostile Ottoman rule, obliged Protestant missionaries to cast cannon for him, and built roads for his artillery. He also sought to develop relations with Europe, to exchange embassies with foreign powers, and to import gunsmiths and other craftsmen. He accordingly wrote to Queen Victoria, but his letter remained unanswered, so he decided to force the British government to listen by arresting the British envoy and other Europeans, the provoking the British government in 1867 into sending an expedition against him. The British advanced rapidly against his mountain fortress of Magdala. Tewodros, unable to repulse the invaders, killed himself on 13 April 1868. Produced by Eugen Lulves of Hanover, identified verso by a backplate.

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