Abyssinia Project

Addressing the colonial era legacy of the King’s Own Royal Regiment and researching cultural objects related to the 1868 Abyssinian Campaign


About the Project

In 2022 the Museums were instrumental in securing £53,000 for the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum Trustees to undertake the Abyssinia Project exploring the colonial era legacy of the 1868 campaign and the objects in their collection. Eyob Derillo, an Ethiopian expert from the British Library, has been appointed as the Project Officer, and the project has attracted significant international interest.

The King’s Own collection includes objects taken during the 19th-century campaign in Abyssinia, now Ethiopia. Many of these objects may have a deep cultural significance for the modern nation and Eyob Derillo, an Abyssinian specialist and author of histories of magic, has been engaged to research the objects in the collection relating to the Campaign, both from the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) and British sides.

The project also aims to work with source communities such as the Ethiopian community within Britain, the National Museum of Ethiopia and also the Regimental family as well as local students and volunteers.

The work is particularly relevant as there have been calls from Ethiopia to return looted objects that are considered sacred by those involved in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.


“By fostering collaboration, inclusivity, and academic rigour, the museum aims to contribute to cultural understanding and historical enrichment, ultimately creating a more nuanced and accurate narrative surrounding the Abyssinia Expedition.”

(Eyob Derillo)


The Abyssinian Campaign 1868

The King’s Own Museum wants to tell the stories not only of the regiment’s soldiers but also their “adversaries”, who they met on the battlefield. Our ambition is to now work in partnership with stakeholders from Ethiopia in bringing a fully rounded perspective and involvement in what was a truly extraordinary event, the 1868 invasion of Abyssinia by British forces, including the King’s Own Royal Regiment, to secure hostages.

The British government often employed its military strength to settle its disputes with foreign powers. In this case, the Army was called upon to free several Europeans who were being held captive in Abyssinia. The King’s Own was one of three regiments to serve in this campaign. On arrival from India, the King’s Own marched many hundreds of miles inland to the fortress of Magdala. During the Battle of Arogie, the Abyssinians were defeated and the fortress was stormed days later. The conflict resulted in the sacking of the fortress of Magdala, the death of Emperor Tewodros II, and the subsequent auction of items from the fortress/palace.

The collection includes a number of beautifully illuminated texts and scrolls alongside other artefacts from both sides.

Objects from the Collection

Find out more about each object that is being researched during the project. Click on the links below. (Coming Soon)