The Zulu Kingdom

The Kingdom of Zulu, also known as the Zulu Empire, was a monarchy located along the Indian Ocean coast of southern Africa, reaching from the Tugela River in the south to the Pongola River in the north.

The old Zulu kingdom begins to expand during the reign of Shaka, who was born around the year 1787 AD as the illegitimate son of Senzangakona, King of the Zulus. When Shaka Zulu was murdered in 1828, the kingdom covered 11,500 square miles and was home to an estimated 250,000 people.

The Kingdom of Zulu had a total of five rulers throughout the 19th century until it became a British protectorate in 1887.


Heads of State

• 1816–1828Shaka kaSenzangakhona
• 1828–1840Dingane kaSenzangakhona
• 1840–1856Mpande kaSenzangakhona
• 1856–1884Cetshwayo kaMpande
• 1884–1887Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo
• 1887–1897Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland


(This was the period when the Kingdom of Zulu was a protectorate of the United Kingdom.)

Dinuzulu’s son Solomon kaDinuzulu (b. 1891) was the king of the Zulu nation from 1913 until his death in 1933. He was not recognized by South African authorities as the Zulu king, only as a local chief, but the Zulu people at large, including many of the Zulu chiefs, recognized him as their king. He was succeeded by his son Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon.


Kwa-Bulawayo was the capital of the early Zulu Empire. It was established as the royal kraal of Shaka Zulu around 1820.

After the assassination of Shaka Zulu, his half-brother and successor Dingane Zulu moved the royal kraal to umGungundlovu, which became the capital of the Zulu Empire from 1829.

The rise of the Zulu Kingdom


The expansion of the Zulu kingdom started during the reign of Shaka Zulu (Shaka kaSenzangakhona) who ruled the kingdom in 1816-1828. As the illegitimate son of the Zulu king Senzangakona, Shaka was exiled and grew up with the Mthethwas. As a young man, he fought alongside the Mthethwas, and when his father died, Dingiswayo, the leader of the Mthethwas helped Shaka become king of the Zulus. When Dingiswayo was killed by the Ndwandwe king, around the year 1818, Shaka assumed leadership of the whole Methetwa alliance.

Shaka´s reign

Shaka pushed through several reforms and established a well-organized centralized Zulu state. Defeated clans were integrated into the Zulu, and it was possible for skilled individuals to climb high in the Zulu military ranks based on merit even if they were not born Zulus.

Under Shaka´s leadership, the Zulu defeated the Zwide and broke up the Ndwandwe alliance. This set in motion a series of events that lead to a massive number of deaths and the mass-migrations of many tribes, which in turn resulted in a large region becoming nearly void of people.

By 1825, the Zulu Empire encompassed roughly 11,500 square miles.

In 1828, Shaka was murdered by Mbopa, who had been conspiring with Shaka´s half-brothers Mhlangana and Dingane. Dingane then killed Mhlangana and assumed the throne.