When he proposed to Miss Sylvia Nagginda Luswata, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi became only the fifth king of Buganda to ask for a lady’s hand in marriage.
There have been only four other such instances when in the history of Buganda, when the king had to get out of his way to woo a girl. The four royal Romeos were Mulondo, Juuko, Kyabaggu and Mutesa II.
As a general rule, however, Baganda kings acquired wives through a system that worked on the assumption that everyone and everything in the kingdom, sometimes even beyond, belonged to the Kabaka.
After the death of a reigning king, some of the attractive young widows would be selected and put aside as future wives of the new monarch. Then soon after the accession of the new king, chiefs, heads of clans and prominent landlords throughout the kingdom would hold marriage councils, to select a bevy of virgin girls between twelve and seventeen, to present to the new king.
Sometimes royal wives took with them young relatives and if they were beautiful, a king would choose wives form them. When a king desired a woman who was already married to one of his chiefs, he would just go ahead and get her. It was considered good manners for the aggrieved husband to turn a blind eye on the whole affair.
Then he would stand a good chance of getting compensated with some estate, or in case of a chief, a promotion.
Sometimes, however, especially if the husband of the woman the king desired happened to be an influential chief, the diplomatic option was never given. The king would just send out a plundering squad to loot the estates of the particular chief, including his wives, the most beautiful of whom would then be taken by the king.
Kanyage, as the name suggests, who was the mother of Ssuuna II , was obtained in this fashion. His chiefs, in atonement also offered Young virgins to the king for offences committed against him.
But not all the girls presented to the king became his wives. According to Sir Apollo Kaggwa, the famous Buganda Prime Minister and author of Kings of Buganda, a chronicle of Buganda kings, and Empisa za Baganda , the Kabaka’s wives were divided into categories.
Wives of the first ranks were the only ones called Abakyala (Ladies) the most important of whom were the Kaddulubaale , the Nnabagereka, the Kabejja, the Nassaza and Nanzigu. The non-titled ones were called Abasebeyi. The third category consisted of the lower division – daughters of unimportant chiefs or peasants, or even war captives. It was usually out of the third category that kings gave women to their chiefs and personal servants.
Wives of the first rank had tremendous power and prestige and their privileges extended to their families and clans. But risks were similarly extended to a wife’s family or clan if she fell out of favour. The majority of the chiefs including the Prime Minister were in one way or another responsible to the top wives.