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Queen Iden of Benin Kingdom was the faithful and beloved wife of Oba Ewuakpe of the great of Benin Kingdom. She was the pride and embodiment of love, strength, courage, brevity, African beauty and femininity.
Ewuakpe became Oba (king) in the ancient Benin kingdom at about 1700 A.D. He was the 26th monarch of the hereditary title of Benin dynasty.
Meanwhile, many years before Ewuakpe became king, precisely between 1440-1473 AD, Oba Ewuare had prophesied that there would be a time when Benin Kingdom would experience bad times. This came to pass during the reign of Oba Ewuakpe.
Now, after Oba Ewuakpe’s coronation, he married a beautiful girl called Iden. She lived with him in the royal palace built with red soil mixed with palm oil instead of water.
Ewuakpe’s reign was characterized by a series of setbacks during the early period, to the extent that all subjects in the kingdom revolted against him.
The fundamental cause of the revolt was to protest against the monarch’s high handedness and his flagrant disrespect of human lives, which culminated in the mass killing of his subjects at Uselu during the funeral of his demised mother, Queen Ewebonoza in about 17.15 A.D.
When it became apparent that the elders and the citizens of the Kingdom could no longer accommodate the excesses of the King, they were compelled to severe connections with him.
Therefore, they suspended all meetings at the palace. Social services were also grounded!This uprising also affected all his wives (Olois), the royal slaves (ovien) and other palace attendants, who all left!
The Oba would have been left all alone, except for Queen Iden, who demonstrated her loyalty and love for her husband by staying with him. With time, life in the palace became unbearable for Oba Ewuakpe and he decided to go to his mother’s town, Ikoka. But he wasn’t well treated there.
When he arrived, he wasn’t received with open arms. He was treated unkindly. For instance, they ordered him to join the youths of the town to clear the road path leading to the community well, in preparation for the rainy season.
He was angered by their disrespect for his esteemed position, that he had to place a curse on the people and the town of Ikoka. In his sad state of mind, he came back to Benin.
During this devastating and isolatory period, Queen Iden became the only friend and comforter of Oba Ewuakpe, as she made herself present as the king’s only hope in time of great calamity.
In her quest to find a solution to her husband’s debacle, Queen Iden decided to do something about it, by consulting an oracle on behalf of her husband Oba Ewuakpe. She believed that the oracle would give instructions and a solution on what should be done about the calamity facing the ancient kingdom and its monarch.
After thorough divination by the oracle, he concluded and told Queen Iden that what was needed for the peace of the kingdom and the restoration of Oba Ewuakpe’s throne, was a human being as sacrificial lamb to appease the gods.
Immediately after finding out the solution to the problem from the oracle, she headed for the palace to give the message of the gods to his majesty the King in their empty harem.
The message from the diviner seemed to aggravate matters for Oba Ewuakpe because there was no other human being in his palace, free or bonded, besides his dear wife, Queen Iden, who incidentally was the conveyor of this report.
Consequently, the possibility of getting somebody else for the human sacrifice became remote for the royal couple.
In the absence of any other person Queen Iden volunteered to be used as the sacrificial lamb needed by the gods for the restoration of the kingdom and his royalty.
As soon as QUEEN IDEN of Benin suggested to her husband that she would submit herself for the supreme price, as demanded by the ancestors, Oba Ewuakpe became nervously bitter, as he could not comprehend the possibility of himself killing his dear wife, who had stood with him in times of trouble, in order to atone for the sins she had not committed. But the determined Queen encouraged the royal hands to shed her blood, if only that would appease the ancestral spirits of the land of Benin, so as to put aside the upheaval in the kingdom.
When it became glaring to Oba Ewuakpe that there was no other way out of the predicament, he conceded reluctantly, to the pressure mounted by his faithful lover and Queen, to be sacrificed to the gods…
Eventually, he buried her alive on the spot near the Oba market in the heart of Benin metropolis.
Before Queen Iden voluntarily offered herself as an atonement to the gods, she requested one favour from the king, that he should make sure her grave side is kept clean at all times.In addition, she cautioned against any person treading on her grave, or else, such trespasser should be killed on the spot as a mark of respect for her blessed memory.
Consequently her desire was strictly adhered to, until the bloody invasion by the British forces in 1897, the historic Benin Massacre!
Queen Iden was therefore a woman of faithful worthiness, faithful to give her life and died for her husband, Oba Ewuakpe to thrive and for Benin Kingdom to regain peace and unity.
As soon as Oba Ewuakpe finished the sacrificial rituals, some of the prominent chiefs of the kingdom, called for a truce between the throne and its aggrieved subjects. Other Benin Chiefs started paying homage to the Benin monarch again and pledge their loyalty to the bereaved Oba Ewuakpe. And truly, when peace, unity and prosperity returned to the kingdom, she was not a part of it. What a demonstration of true love!
Then, all other Binis came in the same spirit, to pledge their allegiance to Oba Ewuakpa’s authority over them as their king. Consequently, the entire kingdom was reconciled back to the king and remained loyal to the royal majesty till the end of his reign.
Since it was necessary to celebrate such re-unions, the subjects came together at the palace and rolled out drums to make the occasion a memorable one.
During this happy mood, the people were taken back to see their king weeping profusely in the midst of merriment, instead of being happy for the reunion. This made his subjects to enquire from the Oba why he was weeping at the time of celebration.
The Oba replied that the motive behind his tears was because of his desire to mourn the sacrificial demise of his dear wife, Queen Iden.
He went further to narrate the ordeal they both went through in the palace, at the time the kingdom fell apart, which resulted in the untimely exit of his best friend and beloved Queen.
Queen Iden is the only person, be it man or woman, born of a human father and mother, that has demonstrated true love for her husband and kingdom.
Retrospectively therefore, in view of what transpired in the Benin Kingdom during the reign of Oba Ewuakpe about 500 years ago and the role played by a woman; in the person of Queen Iden to ensure the continued existence of Benin Kingdom and monarchy, this is a testimony to the fact that she is the greatest heroine of all time