1892: Born near Harar
1928: Ascends to throne of Shoa
1930: Ascends to Imperial Throne
1936: Exiled after Italian invasion
1941: Returns to Addis Ababa
1966: Visited Jamaica
1962: Attempted coup by son
1962: Wife, Empress Menen dies
1974: Deposed by Mengistu
1975: Dies while in custody
Haile Selassie was born Tafari Makonnen and is said to be a a descendent of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba who are from biblical time. He was the grandnephew of Emperor Menelik II and his father, Ras Makonnen was a general in the Ethiopian Army. His father was also the Emperor’s trusted adviser. Tafari also grew to gain the trust and respect of the Emperor.
Emperor Menelik II’s throne was succeeded on to his grandson Lij Yasu. His successor, Lij Yasu’s interest in Islam upset Ethiopians as they were a Christian majority nation. Tafari Makonnen deposed him in 1916 and placed Menelik II’s daughter, Zauditu on the throne. He was given the title Ras by Zauditu and would now be Ras Tafari. He served under Zauditu until 1928 when he became King. He was given the coronation name King Negus Negusta. He became Emperor in 1930 just after Zauditu died. It was at this point he was given the name Haile Selassie, which is Amharic for “Power of the Trinity”. He was also given the traditional title “King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah” which is given to all Ethiopian Kings.
Emperor Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen with their children and grandchildren at the time of the 20th Anniversary of their Coronation November 1950, all dressed in national costume.
Before he became 20 years of age, Haile Selassie married Woizero Menen Asfaw, a granddaughter of King Michael of Wollo.
During his reign as king he established numerous schools, hospitals, banks, an airline, abolished slavery in his country (March 31, 1924) and modernized the overall infrastructure of Ethiopia. During his reign, Ethopia was seen as a powerful civilized independent African nation. His contribution made his country known throughout the world as a powerful nation and was a model many African nations hoped to achieve. He is especially admired by these African nations because of his fight against the Italian colonial invasion in the 1930’s. He is also one of the founding fathers of the OAU.
Italy, in 1935, invaded the country. Led by Haile Selassie, the troops went to battle against the Italians. The Italians were too strong and defeated the Ethiopian army and Emperor Selassie was forced to go into exile.
The Emperor went before the League of Nations to appeal for help from the Italians. He gained some sympathies from the League but no one assisted him in his efforts to regain control of his country. He attracted worldwide sympathy, but failed to spur the League to action. Emperor Haile Selassie eventually regained power in 1941 with the help of Britain. Haile Selassie in battle – Artist Unknown
In 1974, Emperor Haile Selassie was detained and overthrown by the Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in a 1974 coup (In 1960 Selassie’s son, Asfa Wossan lead an unsuccessful coup against his father. His dad forgave him but all the other leaders of the coup are executed.)
He was detained by soldiers loyal to the new government in his palace and died a year later. The circumstances of his death were mysterious but many believe he was murdered by his captors. In 1992 after the Marxist government was overthrown, the remains of Emperor Haile Selassie were found buried under a toilet in the Imperial Palace. The body was exhumed and moved to a mausoleum in Addis Ababa.
H.I.M Haile Selassie’s Funeral
The Emperor Haile Selassie Foundation, pushed years for an officical burial for the Emperor Haile Selassie . This “push” came to an end when the remains of Emperor Haile Selassie were buried at Holy Trinity Church, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on November 5, 2000. This date is the anniversary of the late Emperor’s coronation date of 1928. What was supposed to be a final send off for the last King of Ethiopia was overshadowed by a statement made days before the funeral by the Ethiopian government denouncing him as a tyrant who exploited the people of Ethiopia and the “brutality and extreme oppression” of his reign.
Even though many Rastafarians condemned the funeral, a few attended. The most prominent Rastafarian to attend was Rita Marley. Many of Rastafarians who attended insisted their presence was to observe the proceedings and not to participate, as they did not think it was the body of Emperor Haile Selassie. Princess Tenagnework, his only surviving child, was present at the funeral, as were many of his grandchildren.
Rastafarians Belief In HIM Haile Selassie
Rastafarians belief of H.I.M. Haile Selassie I being the Messiah has not changed even though he and his family have denied it. Neither the coup, nor his death in a small room in his former palace, has deterred them from their belief. As with many religious sects the followers of Rastafari refuse to accept the death of Emperor Haile Selassie, they say that he has moved on to another “higher plane”. In various public statements made by Emperor Haile Selassie and his family, they state that they are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and followers of Jesus Christ. The church considers all Ethiopian kings to be direct descendants of King Solomon.
Many Ethiopians denounce the worship of Emperor Haile Selassie as God. Some despise the use of their flag as a symbol of Rastafari. Emperor Haile Selassie was a member of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as all past Kings in Ethiopia.
H.I.M Haile Selassie’s Gift of land to blacks
When Emperor Haile Selassie was restored to his throne he set aside 500 acres of his personal land in Shashemene, Ethiopia as a “thank you” gift. This gift was for blacks who either helped in the war against Italy or supported his efforts to rid his country of the invaders. Over 2200 blacks, mainly Rastafarians, accepted the offer and moved to Shashemene during the 1960’s. Poverty, a reluctance by the surrounding Ethiopian population to accept Rastafari belief of Emperor Haile Selassie being God and disputes with the govenment that overthrew HIM has caused that population to dwindle. Recent reports estimate the population at 250.
Image Sources: Imperial Ethiopia Home Page, Sound Judgment