Sunday 6th August 2023 - Cara Bentham
Read more about the intriguing Zulu items.
A guest on the Antiques Roadshow delighted expert Marc Allum when he presented a collection of items that once belonged to his great grandfather. The collection, which carried huge historical significance, was valued at around £10,000 - £15,000.
One item in particular stood out to the Antiques Roadshow expert as it had an incredible backstory. The item was a necklace of blue beads which was gifted to the man’s great grandfather in 1879 during the Zulu War.
The 1879 war between Britain and the Zulu people resulted in the capture of the then Zulu ruler, King Cetshwayo, along with the deaths of thousands of Zulu people. When looking at what he described as ‘an amazing group of objects’ on the table, Marc was keen to discover more about the necklace and asked the guest to explain who the man in the photograph was. The guest explained that the man in question was his great grandfather and that he had been a naval surgeon during the Zulu war.
The man’s great grandfather was Henry Frederick Norbury. It transpired that, despite the Zulu War being against King Cetshwayo, Henry had in fact cured the King of a disease after the war had ended. As a gesture of appreciation for this, King Cetshwayo took the beaded necklace off his own neck and gave it to Henry.
Marc noted that it is a ‘very difficult piece of history to kind of take apart’ because, he added, ‘It's about colonialism, it's about imperialism. It's about the Zulus basically defending themselves and their homelands’.
However, he went on to point out that the guest’s great grandfather was the centre of this story which was one of a man who, rather than being directly involved in the war itself, was there to help people. He would have taken the Hippocratic Oath which would have been the motivation behind him treating King Cetshwayo despite them technically being enemies.
The guest stated that ‘the Zulu warriors were ferocious warriors. I mean, I think the British Army had the worst defeat ever in Africa, from the Zulus themselves. And my great-grandfather wasn't involved in that battle, but he was involved in treating people who had been injured in battle.’
Marc agreed that Henry had been involved in what could be considered as the more ‘humane’ side of what was occurring in that period. He added that ‘I find it fascinating that I can touch these beads that were around the neck of the Zulu king, King Cetshwayo, presented to your great-grandfather’.
Admitting that the valuation was incredibly difficult due to the amount of personal material, Marc suggested that the entire collection, which also included a KCB set and some medals, could fetch somewhere between £10,000 - £15,000 if it were put up for auction.
Despite the necklace being made from simple blue glass trade beads, much of its value comes from its remarkable story, royal connections and historical significance. Following the incredible valuation of his collection, the guest noted what he intended to do with the necklace. He explained that ‘We have been wondering what to do with these because it's not the kind of thing that you wear these days. So, we were wondering whether to give them back to the Zulu people, we understand that there is a new Zulu king - maybe he would like them back, and I think is directly related to King Cetshwayo.’
A wonderful gesture.