Ana II of Matamba

The kingdoms of Matamba and Ndonga. Image Credit:

By Holly Marsden

Matamba was an early modern kingdom located along the Kwango River valley in what is now Angola. Established by Kimbundu-speaking people sometime before the sixteenth century, Matamba was firstly mentioned as a powerful kingdom in 1530. It was often ruled by queens.

Alfonso I reigned until 1741, preceding the ascension of Queen Ana II Guterres da Silva Ngola Kanini in 1742. Ruling until 1756, Ana was regnant of Matamba and neighbouring kingdom Ndongo. Portuguese forces and missionaries had begun to infiltrate the kingdoms in the 1560s.

After many resulting invasions and a 1657 peace treaty, Matamba and Ndongo faced another conflict with Portugal under Ana in 1744, the Luso-Matamba war. This was due to Matamba resistance to a trade alliance with the Portuguese of Angola. The Matamba army defeated the Portuguese.

Despite this, some of the Portuguese army managed to reach the capital of the Kingdom.  Ana was then forced to sign a treaty of vassalage to Portugal so they would leave the capital. This meant the kingdoms were an official vassal of Portugal, opening them up to Portuguese trade.

Ana aimed to spread Catholicism amongst her subjects, writing to missionaries to establish permanent bases in Matamba and Ndongo. Like other female rulers of kingdoms in the area, Ana exercised power through upholding a pious reputation, central to her royal image.

Ana died in 1756. She was succeeded by Verónica II, known as Ana’s daughter but thought to be the daughter of her sister, Juliana. Although little is known about Queen Ana II, she belongs to a legacy of female matriarchs which also includes her grandmother Queen Verónica I.

Recommended Reading

Anne Hilton, “The Jaga Reconsidered,” The Journal of African History 22.2 (1981): 191-202

Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Encyclopaedia of Africa, Volume 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

John K. Thornton, “Elite Women in the Kingdom of Kongo: Historical Perspectives on Women’s Political Power,” The Journal of African History 47.3 (2006): 437-460.

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