THE LION OF JUDAH HATH PREVAILED
Little has been said in these pages about the private life of His Majesty the Emperor. Crowded though his day is, it would be wrong to think that his home and his family do not find their share of his time.
He has three sons and one surviving daughter, Princess Tenagne Worq, whose second husband is the Emperor’s representative in Eritrea. Her family by her first husband, Ras Desta, were all educated in England. Her eldest daughter is already married and has three children. Her only surviving son is a midshipman on H.M.S. Triumph. The Emperor’s two elder sons, the Crown Prince and the Duke of Harar, are both married, and the grandchildren and greatgrandchildren are constant visitors at the palace; in fact one house in the grounds is always reserved for them. The succession is safeguarded in the eighteen months’ old baby son of the Crown Prince. The Duke of Harar has also three young sons. It does not take long to find out that the Emperor is fond of children, and that children are natural and happy in his presence. I well remember that at a picnic in the forest given in honour of Lord Montgomery, after lunch the Emperor suggested a walk, waving his hand to the children. They immediately surged up and set off with him through the trees, laughing and chattering. His Christmas party is an eagerly expected event. When he visited the English school every child felt that he had somehow noticed each of them. Many photographs bear witness to this mutual enjoyment. I have seen him keep his own entourage waiting for a quarter of an hour, while he sat at a table talking to boys and girls at an educational exhibition. When he visits an exhibition or a sports event children are frequently standing at the back of his chair. Animals too, find a natural friend in him. His little dog accompanies him everywhere.
The first impression he gives is that of great natural dignity and charm of manner. You cannot mistake but that he is the Emperor descended from a long line of kings, and he himself never forgets it. At the same time he is charming and courteous as host, always giving you the feeling that you are welcome; or as guest putting you at your ease and interested and appreciative of what you have to show. With his sons he spent a day last year on a second visit to our farm. The pleasure he gave was unalloyed.
Amongst his own people he moves freely and is very approachable. He drives, except on ceremonial occasions, without escort and, as has been said, drops in without warning in a friendly way on hospitals, schools, and other institutions in which he is interested.
You hear on all sides of little acts of kindness and thoughtfulness. An amateur photographer will tell you how she was trying to get a snapshot and was not expert enough to seize the opportunity, and how the Emperor, seeing her difficulty, stopped and posed for her. Schoolmasters will tell of presents of grapes sent to his boys from the Emperor’s gardens. My husband recalls how during the campaign he arrived at the Emperor’s camp long after midnight to make a report to the Emperor, and after he had done this he found the Emperor’s spare bed prepared for him, and, on his leaving again at dawn an English breakfast set ready for him under a tree.
If your duties or opportunities bring you into closer contact with him, you find the Emperor easy to approach, receptive of new ideas and willing to listen to your point of view. You hear that, if he thinks they are doing their best, he is patient with his officials and helpful to them in their difficulties; but that he can be very severe in cases of what he believes to be wilful negligence. Once the Emperor has given his confidence to one of his ministers or assistants he is slow to withdraw it; and it is noticeable that changes in his staff are infrequent. They return this treatment by great personal devotion to him, and this is apparent in particular in the case of his foreign advisers.
Whether you have lived in Ethiopia for a long time or are merely a visitor, you soon become aware of the fact that in matters of importance the initiative is seldom, if ever, taken except by the Emperor, and that nothing is ever carried to a conclusion without the necessary push being given by him. It is true to say then that the changes that have been wrought in Ethiopia in the last twenty-five years are to a very large extent his work. Of course the circumstances of the times have compelled change—the Italian aggression and occupation and the consequent impact of world convulsions all breaking down Ethiopian isolation and letting in a flood of new experiences and new ideas-—but events and the inrush of ideas had necessarily to be guided or moulded to form the ultimate pattern of change, and the brain and hands that did this were Haile Selassie’s.
In twenty-five years the whole system of government has been changed from a feudal one to a constitutional centralized administration, based—if not yet fully realized—on democratic ideas; this central authority is obeyed and public security maintained as never before; the national church has gained its independence from outside control and its new leaders recognize the need for spiritual revival; education of the masses starting from zero is now well under way; health services are spreading; communications of all sorts are opening up the country; the national economy has developed on modern lines to an astonishing extent, and still more strangely is balanced and healthy. The list could be lengthened. All this spells revolution and each of the changes was fraught with its own dangers. But it has been a peaceful revolution; and its inspirer and leader was the ruler himself!
His record shows Haile Selassie to be a statesman of a high order, and a most astute negotiator. He is very tenacious of his own point of view and will never give way on what he feels is a matter of principle; but at the same time he will not let non-essentials stand in the way of agreement. He is quick at getting to the heart of a discussion, to separate the essentials from the non-essentials.
When in America last year he was asked to address the Foreign Policy Association. This speech shows so well the clarity of his thinking, and his attitude toward international problems, that it is quoted in extenso.
Patience, perseverance, and steadfastness are the keynotes of his character—and they have stood him in good stead. But they alone would not have been enough to see him through. They are backed up by a deep faith in the power and goodness of God. Through all the ups and downs of his life this faith has not faltered and it is coupled to a great thankfulness for God’s mercies to him. This impression on those few who saw him slip away from the pomp and ceremony of his reception on the top of the Entotto mountain on the day of his return, and were privileged to enter with him the Church of Mariam overlooking the city and see him prostrate himself before the Sanctuary, in passionate adoration and thankfulness, is indelible. ‘The Lion of Judah hath prevailed.’
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December 10, 2019