The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I
About Our coronation as Emperor
On the 17th Maskaram 1909 (= 27th September 1916) I was chosen heir to the throne and regent, with Queen Zawditu occupying the throne; and when I had patiently carried out the work of government, for fourteen years, in my office of regent plenipotentiary, Queen Zawditu died on 24th Magabit 1922 (= 2nd April 1930) and, consequently, on the morrow I was proclaimed Emperor and assumed the throne.
As regards the succession to throne and crown, we have read in history that, at a time when Ethiopia lived in isolation and before she had established relations with foreign countries, the prevailing custom had been, at the demise of the Emperor, for his death often to remain carefully unannounced. They would then place his son and heir on the throne and crown him immediately that very day. Only after the son’s reign and coronation had been announced by proclamation, would they give a ceremonial burial to the dead King.
At other times again, at the demise of the Emperor, the officers of the royal household would take him clandestinely and bury him, before anyone could hear about it, and on the morrow they would place his son and heir on the throne; after they had conducted the royal installation service and crowned him, the death of the father and the new reign of the son would be announced by proclamation at the same time.
But now that Ethiopia had concluded treaties of commerce and friendship with twelve foreign governments, had entered the League of Nations, and had established firm friendly relations, We were convinced that it was proper—in accordance with the practice of the most civilized governments in the case of their coronations—to invite to Our coronation the countries which had set up legations and consulates in Ethiopia. But as it would require a long time to despatch the letters of invitation and to await the arrival of the delegates, as well as to make all the necessary preparations for the coronation, We arranged for the ceremony to be postponed for seven months.After this, letters of invitation were written and despatched to the kings and presidents whose names follow here:
Furthermore, the Polish Government had initiated conversations to conclude a treaty of commerce and friendship with the Ethiopian Government, but by the time Our coronation day came, these negotiations were still not completed. The Poles then demonstrated their good will by declaring: 'Although the treaty is not yet signed, we shall send an envoy to the coronation, since we have mutually manifested our thoughts of friendship.' We therefore informed the President, M. Moscicki that it was Our intention to receive their envoy with great pleasure.
This mark of friendship which the Polish Government had shown Us at that time remained forever engraved in Our heart.
Again, as We have explained before, since in earlier times the coronation was held on the very day the son and heir ascended the throne, there was no time to invite the princes and nobles of each region. But now that We had arranged for Our coronation to be postponed for seven months, letters of invitation were sent all over Ethiopia to princes and nobles and all the headmen, the priors of monasteries and the deans of cathedrals, that they should come and participate in Our joy. A letter of invitation was also written to Abba Amda Maryam, the Prior of Dabra Bizan which had remained well known and esteemed in its importance from early times when the Kings of Ethiopia had consecrated it as a monastery, although today it is within the Italian colony [of Eritrea].
As the following months were part of the rainy season, instructions were transmitted to all to stay put in order to prepare for the journey, to set out at the end of the month of Maskaram (early October), when the rainy season had passed, and to reach Addis Ababa towards the 20th of Teqemt (= 30th October).
After these invitations had been despatched to the foreign governments and to the great within Ethiopia, arrangements were made for the principal streets of Addis Ababa and the houses along each street to be repaired as well as for electric light to be installed along the main streets and in all the houses by which the guests would pass.
The imperial vestments, the crown and the orb, the imperial sceptre and the sword, the ring and all similar things were specially made of gold and diamonds.
Formerly the only distinctive mark of honour for princes had been their golden headgear. But now We arranged that the golden headgear should be for Rases who had been appointed by virtue of hard work and services, while for the Crown Prince and for princes of royal descent We had made a pearl-studded headgear (coronet), smaller than a crown but excelling the golden headgear in size and in beauty of workmanship; for the ladies of Our family and the wives of princes golden diadems, smaller than those for princes, and corresponding to their rank.
For military commanders (i.e. for Dejazmatches) vestments and headgear were made of lions' manes that were interlaced with gold and embroidered with velvet.
Furthermore, gold medals were manufactured in large quantities on which the effigies of myself and Empress Manan were engraved together and which were to be given as souvenirs to foreign guests coming to Our coronation, either by invitation or of their own volition, as well as to notables and important persons from within the country.
Subsequently, between Teqemt 8th and 20th (i.e. October 18th-30th), the foreign envoys who had been invited began to arrive at Addis Ababa, each in his turn.
Here follow the names of the envoys:
All these guests expressed to Us their pleasure at the ceremonial reception which We arranged for them upon their arrival.
Furthermore, We had caused to be set up, in the vicinity of the royal church of St. George, a statue of the great Emperor Menelik II. The work was eventually completed and it was then determined that it should be inaugurated on the eve of the coronation. Consequently, after all the guests who had come for Our coronation had arrived with much ceremonial to be present thereat, We made a lengthy speech explaining the propriety of erecting a statue to Menelik II. When We had finished, We gave the honour of uncovering the veil with which the statue had been wrapped to H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester. He approached the monument, removed the curtain, and when the statue was seen the joy in the hearts of Ethiopians was inestimable.
On this day, towards evening, the Bajerond (treasurer) placed the Imperial state vestments and the crown, the orb, the Imperial sceptre, the sword, and the diamond ring as well as the Empress’s state robes and crown and diamond ring on a chariot and took it in a great parade to the royal church of St. George where he consigned it to the Archbishop and where it remained all night to be prayed over.
We and the Empress, Our family and princes and nobles went to the church at midnight.
It had been arranged that Our foreign guests should only arrive at seven o’clock in the morning and they then took their seats which had been prepared on the right and on the left of the throne according to their rank. The seating order provided that Ethiopian princes and nobles should be interspersed among the foreign guests.
Before the ser'ata negs (the royal ritual) began, the Archbishop, Abuna Qerillos, approached with a gospel bound in gold and asked Us to complete the following words of the oath:
(1) That We should strengthen the orthodox faith which had remained steadfast in Ethiopia from the days of the holy kings Abreha and Asbeha and that We should keep, without disturbance, the laws and ordinances which the orthodox Church has laid down.
After We had completed the swearing-in ceremony, affirming Our willingness to maintain all that is laid down above, We appended Our signature thereto.
Subsequently, the Archbishop assigned to the six bishops their respective functions in the coronation service, and then prayers were begun. Of these bishops five were Ethiopians. The sixth was Abuna Yosab who had come from Egypt as the envoy of the Patriarch of Alexandria, Abuna Yohannes, to partake in the joy of Our coronation and to convey his blessing.
After the Archbishop and bishops had completed the service, performing readings and prayers, with the choir singing, the Archbishop approached and anointed Us with the oil of Kingship and placed the Imperial crown on Us. At this moment Our heir to the throne, H.H. Asfa Wassan, removed the coronet from his head and, when he knelt before Us, the Archbishop approached with a Gospel and asked him to take the following oath:
(1) that he would honour his father with his whole heart and be obedient to him;
After he had sworn to fulfil this, he appended his signature to it.
Subsequently the coronation service of the Empress commenced. The procedure for the enthronement of the Empress is today very different from what it used to be previously. According to Our historical study of the earlier practice, the Empress was not anointed with the oil of kingship on the grounds that she did not share in rulership with the Emperor. The crown, being merely symbolic, was very small. It was in the palace that the Emperor placed the crown on her head and not in church. This occurred on the third day, for it was not permitted for her to be crowned on the same day as the Emperor. But now it was determined after consultation, and was accordingly carried out, that, except for the regal anointing, the Archbishop should place the crown on her and put the diamond ring on her finger and that this should be on the same day jointly with the coronation of the Emperor.
Electronic edition created and published online by members of the
January 28, 2017