Keeping History Alive

Princess Clara Nalumansi

On women’s day, let’s celebrate women around the world, and remember a remarkable Muganda princess who died for daring to defy traditional gender roles, Princess Clara Nalumansi. She was the sister to Kabaka (King) Mwanga, who ruled Buganda kingdom from 1884 to 1897. Traditionally, royal women were expected to serve the king. They were not allowed to marry or get pregnant, for fear that their off spring could try and lay claim to the throne. But Princess Clara would have none of this. She converted to Islam, and then to Catholicism, and married a Christian page.

After her marriage, she was appointed to be the guardian of the late King Jjunju’s tomb. She was expected to go and live at his burial place, and spend her days taking care of the compound alone. She did no such thing. She arrived at the tomb with her husband, and proceeded to destroy the pagan amulets and charms she found at the tomb.

Soon after her appointment, her mother sent Princess Clara her umbilical chord. For royals, the umbilical cord would be preserved at birth, and buried with them when they died, as it is considered to be their twin. Clara cut up her umbilical cord and buried it.

Kabaka Mwanga, her brother, appears to have tolerated her outspoken behaviour – he did execute 45 Christian pages between 1885 and 1887, but spared his sister. But it is said that he became worried that the Christians were seeking to take his throne, and he feared that the Christians would want a woman on the throne, as there was a queen ruling Great Britain. So in 1888, Princess Clara was clubbed to death, allegedly on the orders of her own brother.

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Changing Horizons is a tour company which specialises in travel to sites of historical interest in East Africa.

Our tours take you to places that are identified with past events and experiences, such as sites of great discovery, like the source of the Nile, or sites of great sacrifice, like the shrine of the Christian martyrs.

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