Empress Taytu Betul of Ethiopia

Empress Taytu Betul

Empress Taytu Betul

The loyal wife of Emperor Menelik II, the commander, the strategist and the practical feminist. Her name literally means Empress Sunshine, and was indeed a sunshine for her nation when it fell under the cover of darkness. She inspired Ethiopian victory at the Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896.

Empress Taytu was actively invoved in Menelik’s government. She exemplified the possibility of reform and transformation from within. She was a persistant critic of the nobilities and ministers of Menelik II. Born in Wollo from a Christian and Muslim family, Taytu had a comprehensive early training in traditional education. She was fluent in Ge’ez, the classical Ethiopian language.

Empress Taytu was powerful enough to challenge her husband’s decision making. She was the one that pushed him to declare war against Italy, at the Battle of Adwa, tearing up the Wuchale Treaty between Ethiopia and Italy. The treaty had two different meanings in Amharic and Italian versions. The Amharic recognized the sovereignity of Ethiopia, and its relationship with Italy, as a diplomatic partnership, while the Italian version made Ethiopia Italy’s protectorate. The moment that discrepancy was discovered, Empress Taytu was the first to agitate the hesitant Emperor, and others to stand up for liberty, dignity and against Italian aggression.

Empress Taytu, as a military strategist, facilitated the downfall of Italy at the Battle of Adwa. She had her own brigade that she bravely commanded in the battlefield, fighting in the frontline and motivating any man that wanted to retreat. She also mobilized women, both as fighters and nurses of wounded soldiers. You could say, she was a fierce and motherly teacher that brilliantly led from behind, without taking any credit for it.

Sadly, after Emperor Menelik II passed away, she was the victim of a conspiracy and power struggle in the palace, which forced her to spend the rest of her life in solitary. When Menelik II’s health began to decline around 1906, Taytu began to make decisions on his behalf, angering her rivals, for her appointment of favorites and relatives to most of the positions of power and influence. Widely resented for her alleged Gonderne xenophobia and nepotism, the nobility of Shoa and Tigrary, along with the Wollo relatives of the heir-to-the-thr
one, Lij Iyasu, conspired to remove her from state responsibility. In 1910, she was forced from power and a regency under Ras Tessema Nadew took over. Instructed to limit herself to the care of her stricken husband, Taytu faded from the political scene.

Taytu and Menelik did not have any children. Menelik died in 1913, and was succeeded by his grandson Lij Iyasu. Taytu was banished to the old Palace at Entoto, next to the St. Mary’s Church she had founded years before, and where her husband had been crowned Emperor.

SOURCE: Kweschn Media


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