TAYTU BETUL-THE ETHIOPIAN EMPRESS

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By Kessy Thiauru

kamathithiauru@gmail.com

Thumbnail Photo Courtesy of awleadershipnarratives,wordpress.com

Taytu Betul was the empress of the Ethiopian Empire, under Emperor Menelik II, ruling from 1889-1913. Taytu is speculated to have been born in 1851, the third born of five children.

She is believed to have been a descendant of a prominent family as it is believed that their family had a ruling foothold in the Northern region of the Empire. It is such growing from such an aristocratic family that might have awakened the leadership abilities in her.

Although exceptional for women living in her time, Taytu was lucky to get an education. It is believed that this was an opportunity she got after her mother got remarried to an administrator.

She learned how to read and write Amharic, she learned the language, composed poetry, played chess, and played a begenna (a 10-string musical instrument). It is believed that she was also taught diplomacy, politics, and economics.

Taytu had been in three other marriages before becoming the third wife to Menelik II, the King of Shoa. She was an important asset to the king as she acted as an advisor during the making of major decisions. She is said to have used her exceptional intelligence to strengthen and extend her power through an adroit blend of patronage, political marriages, and leadership craft.

In her lifetime some of the remarkable achievements was leading the people, alongside her husband during the war against the Italians. This was after she had torn the treaty between Italians and the Ethiopians, which had intended to make Ethiopia an Italian protectorate.

When diplomacy failed to settle the conflict over the treaty, Taytu alongside her husband, the emperor marched northwards where she commanded her platoon during the war. Her presence was crucial in the Ethiopian victory at Adwa in 1896, the most significant victory of any African army during the climax of European colonialism.

She is also remembered as the founder of Addis Ababa, which till to date, is the capital city of Ethiopia.
As her husband fell ill, she began to concentrate more and more power in her own hands. This eventually provoked public agitation against her and forced her into retirement.

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