Asantehene Prempeh I was the 13th monarch of the Ashanti Empire of the Gold Coast. When he ascended to the throne around age 16, he changed his name from Prince Kwaku Dua Asamu III to Prempeh I of the Kingdom of Ashanti.
His reign was volatile since it coincided with the British annexation and invasion of the Gold Coast. Put simply, he reigned as monarch of the Kingdom of Ashanti until the Gold Coast came under British dominion.
The Asante Empire, sometimes known as Asanteman, was an Akan empire that existed for about two centuries from 1701 to 1901 in the West African nation, Ghana. It grew from the Ashanti Region to encompass the Northern Region, parts of the Bono Region, Central, Eastern, and Western Regions of the West African country, as well as portions of Ivory Coast and Togo.
The Ashanti Empire engaged in several wars with the British Empire in a bid to prevent the latter’s expedition to the coastal lands. Between 1824 and 1900, the Ashanti Empire and the British Empire fought five wars.
The British government decided at the turn of the 19th century to formally establish its rule over the Gold Coast. An army was sent out to subjugate the Ashanti. They defeated the well-organized Ashanti only because their artillery and rifles were superior to Ashanti’s traditional muskets.
The British arrived in Kumasi, the capital, and promptly looted the royal palace before setting the city on fire.
The defeated Ashanti had already released their prisoners when they were compelled to sign a treaty that ended human sacrifice, ended their claims to coastal territories and required them to pay an enormous indemnity of 50,000 ounces of gold. This was referred to as the Wolseley expedition. So, the Gold Coast became a colony of the British crown.
The British now realized in 1894 that the Wolseley indemnity had never been paid, yet they were still apprehensive of the French in Ivory Coast and concerned about a resurgent Ashanti.
Nana Prempeh I attempted to address Queen Victoria directly and dispatched a delegation to London to make his case. However, the British administration put on yet another spectacular British army expedition to Kumasi while covertly refusing to grant Prempeh’s delegates an audience for nearly a year. The governor’s sole agenda was to request the gold he had previously pledged to Sir Garnet Wolseley.
Prempeh did not allow the Ashantis to engage the British army in battle but rather he received the British army diplomatically at his palace. He welcomed the troops respectfully as his guests. This was in January 1896 under the command of Robert Baden-Powell.
Meanwhile, Prempeh I could not afford to pay the full amount of the indemnification all at once, so he proposed making installment payments, beginning with 680 ounces. This request was denied, and much to the surprise of the Ashantis, the King and other of his top chiefs were taken into custody without provocation.
The home of Prempeh I was robbed. The Royal Signals Museum in Blandford, England, still has his throne on exhibit. Prempeh I, the kidnapped Asantehene, along with a few of his family members and advisors, were first taken to Elmina for about a year before being transferred to Freetown, Sierra Leone.
It was until 1900 during the Yaa Asantewa War that the British decided to move the royal members to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean out of fear for their safety.
After 24 years of exile in the Seychelles, the British enabled the Asantehene, Prempeh I, to come back to Kumasi as an ordinary citizen. According to the Ghanaian Museum, on September 13, 1924, Prempeh and 49 other people boarded the SS Karoa in Seychelles and headed to the Gold Coast.
To pacify the Ashanti, the British created Prempeh I the rank of Kumasehene in 1926, which he maintained until his death in Kumasi, Ghana, on May 12, 1931. His successor was Prempeh II of the Ashanti kingdom.