The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I
From Paris to London
On 30th Sane (= 7th July) We set out from Paris and travelled to London. When We reached Calais, We boarded a British ship; and as We began the journey two warships, bedecked with the Ethiopian and British flags, sailed to the right and left of our boat. Having crossed the sea We reached Dover and a twenty-one gun salute was fired.
From Dover We travelled by train, and when We reached Victoria Railway Station in London the son of His Majesty King George (now himself king but at that time styled Duke of York), together with many officers and guards of honour, bade Us a distinguished welcome in the name of his father. From there We went to the residence which had been prepared for Us in a house called ‘Albert Gate’ near Hyde Park and Knightsbridge.
On the morrow, 1st Hamle (= 8th July), so H.H. the Duke of York informed Us, was to be the audience granted by His Majesty King George; and at the appointed hour We went to the meeting.
I delivered to His Majesty the following speech:
When I had finished speaking, His Majesty replied with the following speech:
He thus concluded his speech. We subsequently returned to Albert Gate and, about two hours later, His Majesty came to Albert Gate on a return visit.
On the 4th of Hamle (= 11th July) an appointment was arranged to discuss some governmental affairs with the Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, and at the appointed hour we met at the Foreign Office.
After Mr. MacDonald had spoken at length about the disturbances which had occurred at the frontiers between the subjects of the two governments, We replied to him as follows:
‘The border settlement has been made on paper only, and the engineers selected by the governments of both sides according to the provisions of the treaty have not delimited the frontiers by a visit on the spot and no marks have been put in the ground; this is the reason why Our subjects and yours have come to blows at the borders; it would, therefore, be better if in future we carried out what is required as soon as possible, i.e. determining the frontier and marking it properly.'
We told him that there could be no doubt that, once this had been carried out, the two sides would observe their boundaries. Mr. MacDonald agreed with this proposal and said that he would arrange that the matter of the frontier determination be begun at once. When We got back, We saw to it that the work of border delimitation was carried out.
The second matter is concerned with the Lake Tana barrage. Mr. MacDonald asked that the Ethiopian Government should grant permission to the British Government to construct the Lake Tana dam. We replied to him as follows: We ourselves shall cause the Lake Tana barrage to be built; we can, however, talk about the setting up of a company. Once we had completed the construction of the dam, We told him that we would then lease the water to the Government of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
We concluded by saying that we should transmit details to each other in writing, as we had agreed about the proposal in principle.
After this, having asked permission to point out some difficulties on our part, We submitted to him the following requests:
In the past, in Emperor Menelik’s reign, a treaty had been concluded that the Ethiopian Government, having purchased the arms it considers necessary for itself, should not be impeded conveying those arms to the country. But now, since the Great European War, We were prevented carrying arms which we had purchased, and We asked the Prime Minister to permit us the purchase and conveyance of arms as of old. He replied that the British Government were unable to resolve the matter on their own, unless they settled this position on the arms embargo in conjunction with the French and Italian Governments; and that after consultation among the three governments about this they would let us know the answer.
Secondly, We had experienced great difficulty because the Ethiopian Government did not possess a sea-port which would bring about contact with foreign countries. It is a fact that skill and wealth are acquired when trade expands as one nation meets and encounters others by sea and by land. The entire object of the Ethiopian Government for the future is to get very close to foreign countries by undertaking the tasks of civilization. Indeed, our accession to the League of Nations last year proves our intention to work for civilization and to develop our country. Therefore, if the British Government were to give the Ethiopian Government a sea-port as patrimony, there would be eternal and unshakable friendship. Hence I said to the Prime Minister that it would give Us pleasure if he would let Us have a definite answer before Our departure from London.
Mr. MacDonald replied: ‘I had not heard about this matter until now; I am not able to give you the answer immediately, since this has not been debated and determined by Parliament, and I on my own am not in a position to decide this. I shall, however, see to it that the matter be submitted to Parliament at the appropriate time, so that its advice can be obtained.'
On the same day the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Randall Davidson, gave a dinner party for Us, and We left Albert Gate at 7 o'clock to go to Lambeth Palace. After a very pleasant banquet in Our honour the Archbishop made the following speech:
He concluded by saying: ‘With cordial friendship and high hopes we wish that everything for which you have come here may prosper.’
On the 5th of Hamle (= 12th July), as the official visit ended, We went to Buckingham Palace and took leave of H.M. the King and H.M. the Queen. During the farewell visit H.M. King George made the following speech:
Although the capture of Emperor Theodore’s crown and its removal to England in no way affected Ethiopia’s independence, yet to have it said ‘this crown was the crown of an Ethiopian Emperor’ and to have it appear in a foreign country did not please me. Hence H.M. King George’s gracious permission that this crown of Emperor Theodore now be returned to Ethiopia was, I was convinced, a great mark of friendship; and since I felt very pleased, I expressed to the king my profoundly sincere gratitude.
On 11th Hamle (= 18th July) We departed from London at 4 o’clock in the morning (= 10 a.m.) to visit Cambridge University. Before coming to London, while We were still at Rome, the Vice-Chancellor had asked Us in writing to be gracious enough to visit the University. After We had reached London, he informed Us of his proposal through the Foreign Office, and We, therefore, went to carry out this engagement.
After all the professors of the University had given Us a respectful welcome, the University’s Vice-Chancellor approached and said: ‘Your Highness! As we have heard of your initiative and perseverance in leading your country Ethiopia in wisdom and knowledge, we bestow upon you the honorary degree of Doctor of Law.' He then gave me the appropriate robes.
Immediately afterwards they arranged for Us a great luncheon banquet. At the banquet the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. E. C. Pearce, made the following speech:
He ended by saying: ‘We therefore make known to all of you here Ethiopia’s great Crown Prince and Regent, H.H. Tafari Makonnen, the hope of Ethiopia, who is descended from ancient kings.’We replied with the following speech to that delivered by the University’s Vice-Chancellor:
Upon completing my speech, we took our leave and returned to London.
Everything I saw in London was truly amazing. The following sights are a perpetual memory engraved in my heart: Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, St. Thomas’s Hospital, the Houses of Parliament, the Zoological Garden in which many different wild animals can be seen, the High Courts of Justice, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Wembley Exhibition, the Foreign Office, Lambeth Palace, the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Bank of England, and Windsor Castle.
There remains with me a great admiration for the goodness of the people in terms of innate character and habit rather than political motivation. Afterwards, on 14th Hamle (= 21st July), We returned from London to Paris.
Subsequently, having come as far as Europe, I felt I could not return to my country without seeing Geneva where the League of Nations, on which world peace is founded, was established and of which we had become members. So, on 21st Hamle (= 28th July) I went from Paris to Geneva. But as this was the holiday season, the Secretary General was not there, and therefore the Secretaries who were there at the time received Us with pleasure and showed Us all the offices with their various departments. From there We visited the Swiss capital, Berne, and then returned to Paris.
While it was my determined wish to visit Berlin, the capital of Germany, privately and quite unofficially, I was sad at my inability to go to Berlin in view of the approach of the time at which I had to return to my country. I therefore arranged that Dejazmatch Hayla Sellasse, Sahle Tsadalu, and Tasfaye Tagagn, among the officials who were with me, should go to Berlin, taking with them a letter of friendship and, after meeting the President, Marshal Hindenburg, they were to return.
In the treaty with the Franco-Ethiopian Railway Company there were, in some passages, matters which at times gave rise to dispute; We, therefore, had friendly discussions and agreed, without difficulty, on nine paragraphs and had much pleasure in putting Our signature to it together with that of the President of the Company, M. Maxime Getten.
While We had indicated to M. Poincare, the Foreign Minister, during the period when We first came to Paris, the need to find a free access point to the sea at Jibuti, it so happened that there occurred ministerial changes in the presidency and the Foreign Ministry. Yet M. Poincare had given Us hope explaining that they would let Us have the reply at another time; and when We asked that they should give Us the answer, as We were now returning to Our country, the following letter was written to Us by the Foreign Ministry:
Although the draft agreement remained unwritten for the time being, yet We were glad when We read this letter, for its wording gave hope that an accord would be concluded within the near future. Since We were convinced that the time was approaching when We had to return to Our country, We gave orders that the new medal, called Menelik II medal, be struck and also that the Menelik II statue be constructed and sent to Addis Ababa, that the new stamps, with the effigy of Queen Zawditu and Ourselves, be printed, and that the books required for the ministerial departments be purchased.
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November 26, 2016