Monday, 8 April 2019

When Three African Kings Met Queen Victoria

I came across a fascinating book in the Victorian History section of the shop where I work, about a little known State visit to Queen Victoria.
The book is King Khama, Emperor Joe and the Great White Queen, by Neil Parsons.

In Southern Africa, Cecil Rhodes was increasing the territory under the control of his British South Africa Company.
In the 1880s and 90s, he was looking at the territories ruled by three dikgosi - kings or chiefs - in what was then known as Bechuanaland.
Dikgosi Khama III had worked closely with the British military during his reign - he ruled the Bamangwato people.
Dikgosi Bathoen ruled over the neighbouring Ngwaketse people, and Dikgosi Sebele I ruled over the Kwena people.
Together they agreed that they didn't want to be ruled by Cecil Rhodes - so in 1895 they decided to visit the Queen of England and put their case to her.
They were supported in this by the British army and local missionaries.
At first they were denied an audience, so they went on a tour of the British Isles to put their case to the British public. They gave speeches in chapels and at town meetings and gave interviews to newspapers, through interpreters, though Sebele and Bathoen spoke Dutch/Africaans as well as their own language of Setswana. There were even ballads written about them.
Eventually, they did meet with Queen Victoria privately. The result of the meeting was that their lands were put under the direct rule of the Crown, rather than the British South Africa Company, under the Chamberlain Settlement (Joseph Chamberlain was Secretary of State for the Colonies).
This agreement eventually led to the independence of the country of Botswana in 1966, and in 2005 a monument was put up to them in the capital of Botswana, Gaborone.

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