|His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I
(a.k.a., "Holy Trinity" or "Power of The Trinity")
(July 23, 1892)
The last reigning Emperor (1930 - 1936; 1941 - 1974) of Ethiopia.
His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I was born in the town-village of
Ejersa Goro, Ethiopia, as Tafari Makonnen to father Ras Makonnen, the governor
of Harar and to mother Wezero (lady) Yeshimebet Ali. He didn't remember his
mother, who died on March 14, 1894.
In September 1916, an assembly of nobles with the agreement of the Ethiopian
Orthodox Church deposed Emperor Lij Iyasu (Iyasu V), the grandson and heir of
Emperor Menelik II, for suspected conversion to Islam. In his place they crowned
Menelik's daughter Zauditu as Empress of Ethiopia and her cousin Ras (Duke)
Tafari as Crown Prince and Regent. As Ras Tafari (Amharic Fearsome), he ruled
Ethiopia as Regent and Crown Prince (1916 - 1928) for his cousin the Empress
Zauditu, and as King (Negus) (1928 - 1930), assuming the title of Emperor upon
Zauditu's death (April 2, 1930). He was crowned Emperor November 2, 1930. He
was fully titled, His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion
of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, King of Kings of Ethiopia.
In 1911 he married Wayzaro Menen Asfaw, daughter of Jantirar Asfaw of
Ambassel and maternal granddaughter of King Mikael of Wolo. Emperor Haile
Selassie I and Empress Menen were the parents of six children, Princess
Tenagnework, Crown Prince Asfa Wossen, Princess Tsehai, Princess Zenebework,
Prince Makonnen Duke of Harar, and Prince Sahle Selassie. Emperor Haile
Selassie I had one child by a previous marriage; had a daughter, Princess
Emperor Haile Selassie I developed the policy of careful modernisation initiated
by Emperor Menelik II, securing Ethiopia's admission to the League of Nations in
1923 and enacting the country's first constitution in 1931. He also abolished
slavery in the Empire in 1923. The League's failure to stop the Second
Italo-Ethiopian War--Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935--led to five years in
exile, during which he was based at Bath in England.
Returning in 1941 after Italy's defeat in Ethiopia by British and Ethiopian
patriotic forces lead by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, he
introduced a revised constitution (November 1955) under which he retained
effective power while extending political participation. In 1963 he presided over
the establishment of the Organization of African Unity and convinced the new
organization to set up its headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Following an abortive coup attempt (December 1960) he pursued more
conservative policies, aligning Ethiopia with the West against more radical
African governments. His policies contributed to his deposition on September 12,
1974 following a military coup.
The media at the time reported that Selassie died in prison on August 27, 1975
following a prostate operation; however, it is widely believed by historians that
he was strangled and his remains buried beneath the president's personal office.
(On November 5th, 2000, the late Emperor was granted a formal funeral.)
Amongst followers of Rastafarianism, a religion which developed in the 1930s in
Jamaica under the influence of Marcus Mosiah Garvey's "Back to Africa"
movement, Haile Selassie I is regarded as the Black Messiah who will lead the
peoples of Africa and the African diaspora to freedom. Most Rastafarians
believe that Selassie is still alive, and that his widely reported death was part of a
conspiracy to discredit their religion.
The Emperor himself, a devout Christian, was opposed to the Rastafarians' belief
in him as messiah. A state visit to Jamaica in 1966, during which Haile Selassie I
was greeted by massive screaming crowds, was reportedly quite extraordinary
for the monarch. After the visit, the Emperor is said to have told Ethiopian
Orthodox Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq: "There is a problem in Jamaica.... Please,
help these people. They are misunderstanding, they do not understand our
culture.... They need a church... to be established and you are chosen to go." The
Ethiopian Orthodox Church was established in Jamaica to convert the
Rastafarians to Christianity.
The Emperor's seat as a Knight of the Garter in St. George's Chapel had the
unusual feature of a double-sided banner, one side representing the Emperor of
Ethiopia, and the other for the Lion of Judah. He had originally asked for two
|Our God and King
His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I