In the same vein of highlighting extraordinary ordinary women, today we are diving into the story of a formidable military ruler, conqueror and political leader; Queen Mmantatisi-also spelt Manthatisi. Bear with us as records vary, but the arguably most highly revered queen of the 19th century was said to be born in 1781-other documentation say 1784- in Southern Africa.
Manthatisi was the daughter of Chief Mothaba of Basia in the district now called Free state. She was betrothed and eventually married to King Mokotjo of the neighboring BaTlôkwa, together they had a son; Sekonyela.
Unfortunately, King Mokotjo passed away shortly after Sekonyela’s birth, so Manthatisi had to think fast! She sent her son away from the kingdom to protect him from rivals as he was the rightful heir to the throne but was too young to rule, from there Queen Manthatisi became a regent.
Immediately after the death of King Mokotjo there were a series of military encroachments on the BaTlôkwa by the AmaHlubi who were fleeing their homes, this was when the queen got to work!
Know for her military prowess and success with vicious hit and run attacks, she soon earned a name ‘the queen of the wild cat people’.
Queen Manthatisi fought off British insurgence and Zulu generals attempting to invade her Queendom. It is rumored that her favorite weapon was a battle axe.
She was so powerful that at the height of her success, neighboring communities absorbed themselves into her Queendom; the literal definition of ‘if you can’t beat her, join her’. And because she was well respected she had the ability to unite her nation with ease, having delivered her people from devastating droughts and political turmoil.
Her reign of military conquest extended as far as central modern day Botswana. Queen Manthatisi was said to command 40,000 troops at the peak of her political power.
Jealousy spurred vicious rumors of sorcery about the queen, saying she breastfed her soldiers, while some locals imagined her as a terrible one-eyed monster. However, documentation from Robert Moffat described the ‘woman chief’ as beautiful, regal, powerful, and intelligent. Unfortunately, Queen Manthatisi’s winning streak didn’t last too long. When she tried to gain more ground in Botswana she suffered a huge loss. However, an ever wise Queen, she was smart enough to retreat, and when her son; Sekonyela was of ruling age the queen relinquished power.
Sekonyela, lacked his mother’s natural wit and charisma, so he had a hard time keeping his nation united. He lead them into a losing battle with Lesotho’s powerful King Moshoeshoe.
Reports vary for when the Queen finally laid her head to rest-between 1836/1947, all we know is we are stanning hard!
Women always do what has to be done, so remember that and know WhoToldYou because we did!