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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 1868

RCIN 61588

Grand Vestibule, Windsor Castle

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This armlet (bitäwa) was given to Lieutenant General Sir Robert Napier by Prince Kassa, ruler of Tigre, a northern province of Abyssinia, in 1868.

Napier was Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia) whose mission was to rescue a number of Europeans taken captive by Emperor Tewodros II. Careful negotiation with local rulers was required for the 400-mile journey overland to Tewodros' fortress at Magdala. Prince Kassa was among the rulers in the region who gave Napier's troops free passage in an attempt to increase their own power and influence. The pair met on several occasions and exchanged gifts. Napier gave Kassa a double-barrelled rifle, goblets of Bohemian glass and a fine Arab horse. In turn, he received a lion skin and several silver-gilt armlets, ‘the sign of a great warrior’. When Napier returned to England, Queen Victoria wrote that he 'showed me very curious gauntlets, of very ancient make, given him by the Chiefs', of which this was probably one.