Zulu tribal leader, (c.1836-1884)

Also known as Ketchwayo, Cetshwayo kaMpande gained ascendancy in 1856 after defeating and killing his younger brother - their father's favourite son - in battle. In 1872, upon the death of Cetshwayo's father, Mpande kaDingane, he took leadership as King of the Zulus.

Although Cetshwayo tried to maintain peaceful relations with his neighbours, he was determined to both restore the self-respect and esteem of his people, and to resist the European advances in his newly claimed territory. Cetshwayo possessed a powerful army capable of protecting his kingdom, and in December 1878 rejected British demands that he disband his troops. The British army attacked the Zulu Empire on 22nd January 1879, and the epic battles made headlines around the world. The Zulus routed over 1000 of Lord Chelmsford's British Redcoats and allied forces in an hour and a half at the battle of Isandlwana, silencing every gun before forcing their way forward over rugged terrain towards Rorke's Drift, some 14 kilometres away. Here, the two sides engaged in a second epic battle, where a small garrison of British soldiers managed to hold off the advancing Zulu troops for just over 12 hours - 11 of the British soldiers later received the Victoria Cross for their 'gallantry in the face of battle'; a figure that has never since been equalled in a single battle.

Although Cetshwayo inflicted a severe defeat on the British at Isandlwana, the British forces finally rose and defeated the Zulu army at the Royal Kraal of Ulundi in June 1879. The city was burnt to the ground, and Cetshwayo fled. He was eventually captured, deposed, and exiled from his country. In this time, he was taken to London to present his case to Queen Victoria. Insisting that he be treated as an equal monarch, Cetshwayo attracted large crowds wherever he went, and was disdainful of the spectacle. He turned and told one of the Europeans that gawked at him;

"I do not care to be made a show of. If English people have never seen a black man before, then I am sorry. I am not a wild beast; I did not come here to be looked at."
From 108th Edition PEARS Cyclopaedia (Millennium edition)

Exiled from his country, and with his previous settlement depriving the royal house of its cattle, land and wealth, Zululand itself was split up into 13 chiefdoms. In 1883, the settlement was eventually broken down, and Cetshwayo wielded a limited power once more.

Cetshwayo died a year later, and civil war quickly led to the destruction of the Zulu kingdom. With the military might of the Zulu destroyed, in 1887 the United Kingdom placed the region under a protectorate, and finally incorporated it into Natal some ten years later. Apart from the so-called Bambatha Rebellion of 1906, which was swiftly and ruthlessly crushed, the Zulu Empire was never to rise again. Nevertheless, even today's Zulu people acknowledge Zwelithini Goodwill, the direct descendant of Mpande and Cetshwayo, as their king - even though there is no longer an independent Zulu kingdom.


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