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photograph of current display in the Grand Vestibule

A display highlighting the interaction between the monarchy and the wider world

Ethiopia

Armlet 1800-69

RCIN 61589

Grand Vestibule, Windsor Castle

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Emperor Menelik II (r. 1889–1913) was one of Ethiopia’s greatest rulers. As well as considerably expanding the country’s territory, he successfully repelled an Italian invasion in 1896 and undertook modernisation schemes such as the construction of railway and telephone lines. Before he became emperor, he ruled as Negus or King of the province of Shewa. During this time, he sought to increase his influence at the expense of the Emperor Tewodros II (r. 1855–1868) by maintaining independent diplomatic contact with Britain. His regular letters and gifts to Queen Victoria included this armlet or cuff (bitäwa), made from silver and applied with gold filigree work. Such ornaments were worn exclusively by warriors and chiefs, and often awarded by the emperor for distinction in battle.