Prempeh I (Otumfuo Nana Prempeh I, 18 December 1870 – 12 May 1931) was the thirteenth king ruler of the Asante state of the Kingdom of Ashanti and the Asante Oyoko Abohyen Dynasty. King Asantehene Prempeh I ruled from March 26, 1888 until his death in 1931, and fought an Ashanti war against Britain in 1893.
Early life and family
King Asantehene Prempeh I’s original throne name was Prince Kwaku Dua III Asamu of the Kingdom of Ashanti. Prempeh I’s mother, Queen Asantehemaa Yaa Akyaa, was queen mother of the Kingdom of Ashanti from 1880 to 1917. Through strategic political marriages she built the military power to secure the Golden Stool for her son Prince Prempeh.
Accession to the throne
In 1888 Prince Prempeh ascended to throne, enthroned 16-year-old King Asantehene Prempeh I of the Kingdom of Ashanti, as king of the Kingdom of Ashanti King Asantehene Prempeh I assumed the throne name Kwaku Dua III as King Asantehene Prempeh I’s kingship was beset by difficulties from the very onset of his reign. King Asantehene Prempeh I of the Kingdom of Ashanti began the defending of Asante from Britain and when Prempeh I was asked by Britain to accept a protectorate over his state Kingdom of Ashanti, King Asantehene Prempeh I rejected it and stated in his reply that Britain had miscalculated.
King Asantehene Prempeh I began an active campaign of the Asante sovereignty. The British offered to take the Kingdom of Ashanti under their protection, but King Asantehene Prempeh I of the Kingdom of Ashanti refused each request.
Ashanti Kingdom and Britain
In December 1895, the British left Cape Coast with an expeditionary force. It arrived in Kumasi in January 1896 under the command of Robert Baden-Powell. The Asantehene directed the Ashanti to not resist, as he feared a genocide. Shortly thereafter, Governor William Maxwell arrived in Kumasi as well.
Britain annexed the territories of the Ashanti and the Fanti, even though the British and Fante were allies during this time, they still did it. Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh was deposed and arrested, and he and other Ashanti leaders were sent into exile in the Seychelles. The Asante Union was dissolved. The British formally declared the state of the Ashanti Kingdom and the coastal regions to be the Gold Coast colony. A British Resident was permanently placed in the city of Kumasi, and soon after a British fort was built there.
Eleven years later, Baden-Powell published “Scouting for Boys”. Eventually Prempeh was released, and subsequently he became Chief Scout of the Gold Coast.
The Telegraph Battalion of the Royal Engineers (predecessor of the Royal Corps of Signals) played a prominent part in the Ashanti Campaign; men of the Telegraph Battalion hacked a path for an overhead line from the Coast to Prahsu, covering 72 miles through the jungle. These troops then staggered out of the jungle, confronted King Prempeh and accepted the surrender of his army. King Prempeh’s throne is now displayed in the Royal Signals Museum at Blandford.
In 1900, a request that the Ashanti people turn over the “golden stool” – the very symbol of Ashanti absolute monarchy governance to the Ashanti people. The Kingdom of Ashanti gave no resistance and became semi-autonomous members of the British Empire. The Ashanti did later rebel against the British to fight the War of the Golden Stool (also known as the Yaa Asantewaa War) in 1900-01. In the end, the British were victorious; they exiled Asantewaa and other Asante leaders to the Seychelles to join Asante King Prempeh I. In January 1902, Britain finally designated Asanteman as a protectorate. Asanteman was restored to independence on 31 January 1935.
Prempeh I spent time in his villa on Mahe from repatriation, the largest of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, the villa was formerly a huge plantation, covered with coconut trees, mango, breadfruit and orange trees as well as a two-story villa. Prempeh I villa, and 16 new wooden houses with sandy floors and roofed with corrugated iron-sheets were built in Seychelles and allocated for the various Asante nobles. Prempeh made an effort to educate himself in English and to make certain that the children received education.
The King Asantehene Prempeh I once stated, “My Kingdom of Ashanti will never commit itself to any such policy of protection; Ashanti people and the Kingdom of Ashanti must remain an independent sovereign state as of old, and at the same time be friends with all white men”.
Upon Prempeh’s death on 12 May 1931 he was succeeded by his heir apparent Prempeh II of the Kingdom of Ashanti. He is buried in Kumasi.