The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I
About Our journey from Paris to Rome
We left Paris on 9th Sane (= 16th June) and reached Rome on the 11th (= 18th June). The King of Italy, H.M. Victor Emmanuel, and the leader of the government, Signor Mussolini, with a guard of army officers, received Us with honour at the railway station, thus causing much pleasure. It was in the Quirinale, previously the Pope’s palace, in which His Majesty lived that accommodation had been prepared for Us; and We proceeded there.
When We appeared together with the King standing on the upper balcony to salute the people, all the crowd assembled in the square began shouting with one voice joyfully: ‘Long live Italy! Long live Ethiopia! Long live H.H. Crown Prince Tafari!' (When they think of this today, how extraordinary must this appear to them?!).
At the banquet H.M. the King of Italy delivered the following speech:
He then concluded by saying: ‘I pray that God’s blessing may descend upon Ethiopia.' I then delivered the following speech:
We Ethiopians consider the speech of the king of a great country to be like a pledge given under oath, and the words spoken by H.M. the King of Italy (as cited here above) seemed to Us to augur a stable peace and amity between the two governments; and it did not appear to Us a matter of deceit.
On 12th Sane (= 19th June) We paid a visit to the leader of the government, Signor Mussolini, having requested an appointment to discuss, in a friendly manner, a number of matters. The subject which We planned to discuss was concerned with the amicable granting to Ethiopia of a gateway to the northern parts of the country from the port of Assab which had originally been under Ethiopian rule and was now an Italian colony.
After we had met at the appointed hour, I said to him that it would give Us pleasure if he were willing to discuss the amicable cession to us by the Italian government of a part of the port of Assab as a free zone.
After Signor Mussolini had listened attentively to this request, he said that he was willing to discuss the matter and that, after conversations with the Director of Political Affairs, Contarini, the latter would let me know the answer. Contarini having been summoned immediately, we were introduced to each other.
After We had had meetings and lengthy discussions with him (Contarini), he told me that he would report to Signor Mussolini everything that we had spoken about and that the reply would reach me tomorrow by the hands of Conte Colli; we then parted.
On the morrow, Conte Colli, the Italian Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Ethiopia, came and submitted to Us a draft treaty, explaining that this was his government’s proposal concerning my request as regards the port of Assab. The following is the text of the draft treaty:
After We had studied this draft treaty, We became convinced of the need to inform the Council upon Our return to Addis Ababa; We therefore told Conte Colli to inform Signor Mussolini of this Our intention. But for a variety of reasons the draft treaty never came into force.
On 14th Sane (= 21st June) We had been given an appointment to visit the Pope of Rome, Pius XI, and at the appointed hour We met at the Vatican Palace. The Pope spoke expressing his pleasure at the fact that Catholic missions were now residing in Ethiopia in peace and security and that religious freedom was now permitted in Ethiopia, contrary to earlier practice. When we came to take leave of each other, he pronounced a prayer: ‘May God bless the land of Ethiopia, its kings and its people.'
When We emerged from there, We entered the church of St. Peter and paid homage at the sepulchre; after We had seen the beauty of the church, We went to inspect the near-by monastery of St. Stephen which had been given to the Ethiopian monks. From the earliest times Ethiopian monks possessed a strong desire to see and to pay homage at Our Lord’s sepulchre at Golgotha and the sepulchre of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome; but when they came to Rome from Ethiopia, they had difficulty in finding lodgings, and it is said that when the Pope who reigned in 1464 saw their plight he gave them this monastery saying: ‘This monastery of St. Stephen shall be a resting place for Ethiopian monks.'
As We toured every corner of the church in this monastery, We saw the hewn stones on which the names of the seven Ethiopian monks had been incised. When We were seated in one of the rooms in the monastery, the seven Ethiopians who had come here to study approached and expressed their joy to Us by referring to the antiquity of Ethiopia and the strength of her kings and by rendering thanks to Us.
The following are some of the recollections that have remained in Our heart of what We saw at Rome and in the provinces during Our stay there: the Quirinale Palace, the mausoleum of the kings, the motor-cycle races, the Rome Municipality, the Vatican and the church of St. Peter, the convent of St. Stephen where Ethiopian boys are studying, the church of St. Paul and St. John, the church of Our Lady Mary and of Jesus, the palace of the ancient Caesars, the theatre in which the ancient Caesars made Christians fight with wild beasts and slaves fight each other, the Victor Emmanuel II Monument, the military parade at Centocelle, the Rome museums, the cannon-firing at Bracciano, the military hospital called Celio, the ships at Spezia, the city of Turin, the Fiat car factory, and the royal mausoleum at Turin.
When the days of the official visit were over, We thanked H.M. King Victor Emmanuel for the friendly reception he had arranged for Us, took Our leave, and returned to Paris on 25th Sane (= 2nd July).
Electronic edition created and published online by members of the
November 19, 2016