Haile Selassie I (born Tafari Makonnen) is the current Negus Negast (King of Kings) of Abyssinia, succeeding Empress Zauditu on April 2, 1930.

Haile Selassie I
Selassie restored

Born July 23, 1892 in Ejersa Goro, Ethiopia
Status Alive
Allegiance Flag-ETHEthiopia


Early Life

Haile Selassie I was born Tafari Makonnen from a mixed Oromo, Amhara and Gurage family on July 23, 1892, in the village of Ejersa Goro in the Harar province of Ethiopia. His mother was Woizero ("Lady") Yeshimebet Ali Abajifar. His father was Ras Makonnen Woldemikael Gudessa, the governor of Harar; Ras Makonnen served as a general in the Italo–Ethiopian War, playing a key role at the Battle of Adwa. He inherited his imperial blood through his paternal grandmother, Princess Tenagnework Sahle Selassie, who was an aunt of Emperor Menelik II, and as such could claim direct descent from Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of ancient Israel.


Tafari assumed the titular governorship of Selale in 1906, a realm of marginal importance, and in 1907 he was appointed governor over part of the province of Sidamo. In 1910 Tafari was made governor of Harar, where he proved his ability and competence.

Heir to the Throne

When Zauditu became Empress of Ethiopia in 1916 following the overthrown of Iyasu V, she was pushed by the progressive faction of the government to elevate Tafari to the rank of Ras and make him heir apparent to the throne. In the power arrangement that followed Tafari tried to obtain the control of the government but the country entry into the Weltkrieg on the side of Germany in 1918 and the subsequent annexation of Italian Somaliland and Eritrea increased the power of the conservative faction that supported Zauditu. Therefore Tafari, while mantaining his privileges as the appointed heir of throne, didn't have real power and was only marginally involved in the governement of the country.


Following the death of Zauditu on April 2 1930, Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia on November 2 1930 at Addis-Ababa's Cathedral of St. George and took the name Haile Selassie, meaning "Power of the Trinity". Haile Selassie's full title in office is "His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God".

Upon climbing the throne the new Emperor, eager to wield the power he had finally obtained, started a series of sweeping political reforms to bring Abyssinia ‘into the west’. In 1923 he toured Europe, inspecting schools, hospitals, factories, and churches, and the contact with the European way of life had greatly impressed him: his intentions were to modernise Abyssinia to the European standard. These reforms however were fiercely opposed by the powerful conservative elements of the nation and have been delayed by the economic problems affecting the Empire, especially the debt he inherited from Zewditu's reign, and the pervasive and invasive German economical influence

Personal Life

During his period as governor of the province of Sidamo, Tafari married Woizero Altayech; however she soon died in childbirth giving birth to their daughter Romanework Haile Selassie.

On August 3, 1911 Tafari married Menen Asfaw of Ambassel (born in March 1889), niece of heir to the throne Iyasu. She was a charitable and wise woman and proved to be Tafari's most trusted advisor, quietly offering advice on a whole range of issues. They had three sons and three daughters:

  • Princess Tenagnework Haile Selassie, born in Harrar on January 12, 1912, married with Desta Damtew on November 16, 1924 in Addis-Ababa
  • Prince Asfaw Wossen Taffari, born in Harrar on July 27, 1916 and married with Woizero Walatta Israel, daughter of Ras Seyum, in Addis-Ababa on May 9, 1932
  • Princess Tsehai Haile Selassie, born in Addis-Ababa on October 13, 1917
  • Princess Zenebework, born in Addis-Ababa on July 25, 1919, married with Haile Selassie Gugsa at Addis-Ababa on July 14, 1932 and died of childbirth at Mekelle on March 24, 1933
  • Prince Araya Yohannes Makonnen, born in Addis-Ababa on October 16, 1923
  • Prince Sahle Selassie, born in Addis-Ababa on February 27, 1931

The Emperor is also a honourary Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army.

See also

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