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Royal Commonwealth Society : Ostrich feather from the crown of Cetshwayo ka Mpande, King of the Zulu and Treaty of Ulundi pen

Royal Commonwealth Society

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Two objects in the Royal Commonwealth Society collections represent different moments in the history of Britain and the Zulu Kingdom. The ostrich feather is from the crown worn by Cetshwayo at his formal installation as king in 1873 and the pen was used six years later by Zulu leaders to sign the treaty that concluded the Anglo-Zulu War.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The feather was a gift from Cetshwayo to Florence, daughter of Theophilus Shepstone, Native Secretary of Natal. Cetshwayo had invited Shepstone to preside over his installation and the crown for the ceremony, seen in the accompanying contemporary photographs, resembled a Zulu warrior’s headdress. It was made of crimson velvet, gold lace and badges from an army officer’s full dress tunic. A short lappet hung on each side and two longer ones were attached at the rear. Ostrich plumes decorated the top and the central feature was a large crimson-dyed ostrich feather given by Florence. Cetshwayo later presented the smaller feather to her as a wedding gift and it was bequeathed to the Royal Colonial Institute by her son.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Following defeat at the Battle of Ulundi, Cetshwayo was sent into exile and his former kingdom divided into thirteen independent chieftainships.  The original caption for the pen used to sign the treaty on 1 September 1879 reads ‘The wooden holder was sharpened, dipped in ink and each chief’s hand was guided by Mr. John Shepstone [who acted as translator and was the younger brother of Theophilus Shepstone] ’.</p>

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