African Royalty

African royalty
Figure 1.--Here we see the king (chief) of Rebola with his wives and with some of his countless children. The great number of wives and children was a sign of his wealth and power. Rebola is located in the island of Bioko, Equatorial Guinea. The photos came from postcards issued about 1900, but they could be taken some year earlier.

African royalty is a poorly understood topic. All but the Egyptian monarchy in the extreme northeast were pre-literate societies. As aresult, we know very little about theroyalty of sub-Saharan Africa. There were quite a number og\g great empires encompasing areas of West and Central Africa as well the Ethiopian and Kushite empires. By the time the Europeans arrived, most of the continnt was divided into small chiefdoms. One of the few exceptions were the Zulus expanding their territory in South Africa, only ended by the Zulu War (1870s). Many of the chiefdoms have disappeared during the colonial era or with independence. There are, howver, still some 165 monarchies in Africa. They include self-governing states, territories, or nations where power resides with an individual chief or king. Most are associated with a tribal grouping. All have similarities, especially with the sovereign inherits his or her office and usually keeps it until death or abdication. Today the chiefdoms are influential, but not soverign. Only five are actually sovereign ruling national positions. Most are are sub-national monarchies and of these four are constitutional monarchies, wherein the sovereign is bound by laws of the new independent states in the exercise of his or her powers. Only one is an absolute monarchy, wherein the sovereign rules without constitutional bounds. Three of these monarchies are independent states, while the remaining two are dependencies of European monarchies.


We have been able to find very little informtion about royalty in Cameroon. We do note a book about the royal sucession in the Nso Kingdom. [Chem-Langhee and Fanso] There are chapters on the royal prerogative, the leopard pelt principle, and succession council membership. Kesu-Wum and Eyang-Atem-Ako are other kingdoms. We also note a discussion of the Scultor Kings. This focuses on Babungo, formerly the most important iron-working center in Cameroon. Sculptor kings and artists used coded motifs to express ideas, beliefs, mythical scenes and historic events. We also notice aook about Kingdom on Mount Cameroon. It includes eEssays about the history of Cameroon from 1500 to 1960. We are not sure about the role of royalty in modern Cameroon, but these tribal chiefs often have influence even if they have no formal political role.

Equitorial Guinea

We note various chiefdoms dominating areas of both the mainland and offshore islands. There had been historical empires of some size, but by the time the Europeans arrived most of sub-Saharan Africa was divided into small chiedoms.


The Solomonic Dynasty of Ethiopia claims to have reigned with few interruptions (called by the Solomics usurpers) from it's founding by Menelik I, legendary son of the Biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, until the fall of Haile Selassie I in 1974. The ancient claims are largely lengendary. The restored Solomonic dynasty has a historical basis. They claimed descent from the old Aksumite rulers. The restored Solomic dynasty seized power (13th century). The most notable usurper was Kassa of Kwara, who seized control (1855). He claimed descent from Solomonics on the distaff (female) side. He was was crowned Tewodros II. He was defeated and deposed. The best known post-Theodorean Emperors were Yohannes IV, Menelik II and Haile Selassie. Another non-Solomonic, Dejazmatch Kassai took over and had himself crowned as Yohannes IV. When Yohannis IV died, Menelik of Shewa of Solomonic descent ascended the throne. Menelik had impeccable ancestry. He was in the direct male line and junior only to the Gondar line. He thus presented himself as restoring the male-line Solomonic tradition. Emperor Menelik II achieved a major military victory against Italian invaders at the Battle of Adwa (1896). This was the only important victory of an African nation against a European colonial power and a matter of considerable ebarassment for the Italians. After Menelik, in contrast to Solomonic tradition were of distaff descent from Solomonics. The male line, through the descendants of Menelik's cousin Dejazmatch Taye Gulilat, existed, but had Menelik did not favor it because of personal relations. Menelik's Solomonic successors ruled Ethiopia until the military coup removed Haile Selassiein (1974).



Sobhuza II (July 22, 1899 August 21, 1982) was King of Swaziland. He was the son of Ngwane V. His father died on December 10, 1899, when Sobhuza was only a few months old, and his grandmother, Labotsibeni Gwamile Mdluli, acted as regent until December 22, 1921. His nominal reign of over 82 years (1899-1982) is the longest precisely dated monarchical reign on record, although Pepi II Neferkare of Egypt has claim to an even longer one.

South Africa

One of the most important African tribal kingdoms were tht of the Zulu expaning their territory in what is now South Africa. They ran squareinto the better arned Boors an British Army. The major enganement was the Zuku War (1870s).


Chem-Langhee, Bongfen and Verkijika G. Fanso. Royal Succession in the African Kingdom of NSO': A Study in Oral Historiography.


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Created: 12:22 AM 11/16/2012
Last updated: 12:01 AM 3/7/2013