Cetshwayo kaMpande, leader of the Zulu Kingdom from 1872 to 1879, was captured by the British on this day in 1879, following the end of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. The last king of the Zulus, Cetshwayo was born in 1826 in the Zulu Kingdom, modern day South Africa. In 1856, he slew his younger brother, his father’s favorite, and proceeded to massacre his supporters. Along with his younger brother, he killed five of his brothers, along with his mother and many of his father’s wives. By this point, Cetshwayo was the ruler of the Zulus in all ways except in name, and his father eventually died in 1872, leaving Cetshwayo as king. By this time, Britain had recently granted Canada independence, and was looking to do the same thing with its colonies in South Africa. However, the threat of Zulu and Boer uprisings against the colonists were too troubling, and the British sought to end Zulu dominance of the area.
Cetshwayo had grown quite aggressive by that point, arming his soldiers with muskets and expelling all foreign ambassadors from his lands. The British began issuing ultimatums to the Zulu government in 1878, but Cetshwayo, conscious of the might of the British, and not considering them as an enemy, avoided war. By 1879, however, he declined the British command to disband his army, sparking the Anglo-Zulu war. At the first battle of the war, the Zulus, led by Cetshwayo, defeated the British, but they were commanded not to follow them, instead to let them return to Britain and to send a message to end the war. The British, however, returned with a larger army, with which they broke through the Zulu ranks, and sacked the capital of the kingdom, Ulundi, on July 4th of 1897. Cetshwayo was deposed and exiled, and he traveled to Cape Town and London before returning to his home nation in 1883, dying in February of 1884, of a heart attack or poisoning, as the last king of an independent Zululand.