Imperial Ethiopia

Imperial EthiopiaThis site commemorates the Ethiopian Monarchy and the Imperial House of the Ethiopian Empire. The Solomonic Dynasty of Ethiopia reigned with few interruptions from it’s founding by Menelik I, son of the Biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, until the fall of Haile Selassie I in 1974. This site is not directly affiliated with any political or monarchist organization, nor is it connected to any religious or ethnic group or party. It is meant simply as a point of interest for those looking for information on the Ethiopian monarchy. It is not the official webpage of the Imperial Family of Ethiopia or any of it’s members.

All contents in this site are transferred from the original site


The Imperial Ethiopia Website was created by Solomon Kibriye, an Ethiopian resident of New York NY. U.S.A.

 Ye Ityopia Tarik ke Atse Libne Dingel iske Atse Tewodros (Ethiopian History from Emperor Libne Dingel to Emperor Tewodros) Author: Tekle Tsadik Mekuria, Birhan Ina Selam Press, Addis Ababa 1966 (4th Edition)

Ityopia Astedader Ina Poleticawi Hidet (Ethiopia: Governance and Political Path) Author: Yohannis Meshesha 1996

Atse Tewodros Ina ye Ityopia Andinet (Emperor Tewodros andEthiopian Unity) Author: Tekle Tsadik Mekuria ,Kuraz Publishing Co.,Addis Ababa 1990

Atse Yohannis Ina ye Ityopia Andinet (Emperor Yohannis andEthiopian Unity) Author: Tekle Tsadik Mekuria,Kuraz Publishing Co.,Addis Ababa 1990

Atse Menelik Ina ye Ityopia Andinet (Emperor Menelik andEthiopian Unity) Author: Tekle Tsadik Mekuria,Kuraz Publishing Co.,Addis Ababa 1990

1500th Anniversary Pamphlet of the Yeka St. Michael Church of Addis Ababa, Chronology of Heads of State of Ethiopia, Patriarchate of the Ethiopian Orthodox Chruch,(1989)

Ye Atse Haile Silassie Tarik (History of EmperorHaile Silassie) Author: Berihun Kebede, Artistic Publishing Co.,Addis Ababa, 2000

Atse Menelik (Emperor Menelik) Author: Paulos NgoNgo, Bole Publishing (Second Edition 1990)


A History of Modern Ethiopia 1855-1974 Author: Bahru Zewde,Addis Ababa University Press,1991

Empress Taytu and Menilek II Ethiopia 1883-1910 Author: Chris Prouty, Red Sea Press, 1986

Special thanks to the Ethiopian Crown Council for their gracious permission to display the Imperial Coat of Arms of the House of Solomon on the main page, and to the President of the Crown Council, H.I.H. Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie for his kind words of encouragement.

Thanks also to Mr. Edward L. King of the Freedom Broadcasting Network for providing a copy of the 1955 Imperial Constitution which is included in this site.

A special thanks to Her Imperial Majesty, Farah Pahlavi, Empress of Iran, for providing a photograph posted in part 3 of the History of EmperorHaile Selassie, and for her gracious and prompt response to my request.

A special thanks to Mr. George Burett for providing the interior pictures of the crypt of Ta-eka Negest Ba’eta Le Mariam Monastery and his gracious permission to use them on my site.

Also special thanks to the many people who have rendered advice and encouragement, and offered their personal knowledge.

Individuals used as sources of personal and other knowledge, with my deepest thanks

  • His Eminence, Abune Aregawi, Archbishop of North Gondar (Ethiopian Orthodox)
  • Ms. Mimi Ishete Gedda
  • Mr. Mekonnen K. Yifru
  • Mr. Edward L. King of the Freedom Broadcasting Network
  • Mr. Teum Teklehaimanot, of Ethiotreasures website for his invaluable advice on web design


Some Medieval Emperors

  • Emperor Yigba Tsion

    Upon the death of Yekonu Amlak, he was succeeded by his son Yigba Tsion who speant much of his reign fighting various sons and grandsons of Yekonu Amlak for the succession. After a brief reign that ended with his death in 1294, the fighting intensified among his brothers and nephews until 1300 or so when it was decided to return to the old custom of imprisoning all male heirs of the House of Solomon to prevent wars of succession. Instead of the old royal prison on Debre Damo monastery, they royal men were taken to the new monastery prison built on Amba Gishen.

  • Emperor Amde Tsion

Amde Tsion was crowned in 1313 and brought all the Christian districts of the northern highlands under his firm control. He expanded his power deeper into Shewa, Gojjam, Damot and Agew Midir. He established stronger control of the Lake Tana area, establishing a strong base on the Zegey peninsula where he built the beautiful St. Mary’s church which still stands today with it’s magnificent murals. He also expanded deep into the south into Hadiya, which is in modern Sidama (Sidamo), and spread Christianity throughout the south. He strengthened the monarchy and established a more stable system of government. Emperor Amde Tsion died in 1344.

During the reign of Emperor Tekle Giorgis I, in an attempt at consolidating declining Imperial power, the Emperor proclaimed the imposition of new taxes on the population of Beghemidir, (in particular a tax on honey produced) the Province in which the capital, Gondar, was located. The nobles of the province appealed to the Emperor, stating that they had long been exempt from such taxes. He refused to accommodate them. The “Enderase” was a noble who was appointed to serve as a type of Grand Vizier or PrimeMinister. At this time, it was the Yejju Oromo nobleman, Ras Gugsa the Great. The nobles assembled at Debre Tabor, and summoned him to them. They told him that they no longer wanted to be ruled by the Emperor, and if he stood with them, and agreed to act only in consultation with them, he could assume power and relegate the monarch to a powerless symbolic role confined to the Castle compound in Gondar. The Enderase swiftly agreed. Emperor Tekle Giorgis I was informed that he was to refrain from participating in affairs of state, and symply reign from his thone as the supreme source of legitimacy, and a symbol of sovreignity, but devoid of all power. Stripped of all their traditional power, the Emperors became mere puppets of whomever could assume the Enderaseship. The people contemptuously refered to the successive monarchs as Our Ladies the Castle Keepers (Woizazir Ye Gimb Tebakioch). The loss of Imperial prestiege had begun with the murder of Eyasu the Great by his son Tekle Haimanot I, but probably the greatest blow to Imperial power was the killing of Emperor Eyoas I on the orders of the Enderase, Ras Michael Sihul. The emasculating of Tekle Giorgis I’s power was simply the final straw. The Emperors struggled to maintain their role, but Tekle Giorgis I was the last of the elder Gondar branch of the Imperial dynasty to excersize any real authority. The era that followed was the Zemene Mesafint (Era of the Princes) in which regional leaders governed with little oversight from the capital. They fought each other for power and territory, and struggled to sieze the position of Enderase for themselves. Athough others did manage to sieze the Enderaseship from time to time, it was usually held by members of Ras Gugsa the Great’s family, a noble family of Oromo origin from Yejju and Wollo. Each Enderase would choose a prince of the Imperial House and place him on the throne as his puppet, but when another Enderase seized power, or the incumbent monarch displeased the Enderase, the puppet Emperor would be replaced by another. Some monarchs would be deposed and restored several times in their lifetimes. Although they held the strings of power and authority the House of Yejju never presumed to seize the throne for themselves, always aknowledging the right of the House of Solomon to occupy the Imperial throne even if only symbolically. Often referred to by foriegnors as princes, the Yejju rulers of Ethiopia were in fact nobles and not princes. The following is a list of the monarchs of this era who had no power, but were legitimate monarchs in whose names the nation was ruled by its many warlords. Many were contemporaries of each other, and found themselves switched on and off the throne at the whim of the Enderase. They followed Emperor Tekle Giorgis I.
  • Emperor Eyasu III
  • Emperor Hizkias
  • Emperor Beide Mariam II
  • Emperor Solomon II
  • Emperor Yonas Emperor
  • Dimitros Emperor Igwale Tsion (Gwalu)
  • Emperor Eyoas II
  • Emperor Gigar
  • Emperor Beide Mariam III
  • Emperor Eyasu IV
  • Emperor Gebre Christos
  • Emperor Sahle Dingil
  • Emperor Yohannis III

With the deposing of Emperor Yohannis III in 1851 by Kassa of Kwara, who usurped the throne as Tewodros II, the elder line of the Solomonic Dynasty, the Gondar Branch, came came to an end. Emperor Yohannis III was deposed and expelled from the Palace compound in Gondar and went to live in another house in the city. He apparently fell on hard times, and would write a pitiful letter to Emperor Napoleon III of France, pleading for funds because he had become destitute. There are stories that he converted to Catholicism. Following Tewodros II’s death, three branches of the dynasty, the Tigrai Branch, the Gojjam Branch, and the Shewa Branch became the leading representatives of the House of Solomon. They were challenged by Wagshum Gobeze who set forth claims as both the Zagwe heir, and also by virtue of Solomonic blood on his mother’s side. Emperor Yohannis IV was the only member of the Tigrai Branch to reign, but his decendants were recognized as the hereditary princes of Tigrai. The Shewan Branch eventually became the reigning branch of the family, and recognized as the senior one of the three lines. The head of the Gojjam Branch became King Tekle Haimanot of Gojjam, and his decendents ruled Gojjam as it’s princes for many decades afterwards. The family trees are extensive.

The Zagwe Dynasty

Following the fall of the Solomonic Dynasty, the throne was assumed by a new royal house known as the Zagwe Dynasty, founded by Emperor Mara Tekle Haimanot. These Emperors were said to have been of Agew origin, and the name Zagwe is believed to be derived from the words Ze Agew (which means “of Agew”). Although what is known as Agew Midir (land of the Agews) is located in modern day Gojjam, the Agew are known to have occupied a much wider area in earlier times, and been a major ethnic group in the Empire. Over the centuries, they have assimilated more and more into the Amhara ethnicity which surrounded them and are now indistinguishable for the most part, except for the very few remaining Agew who still speak their distinct language. The new dynasty from it’s origins had difficulties with establishing it’s legitimacy. It is said to have claimed decent from King Solomon through the maid servant of the Queen of Sheba who according to the Kibre Negest was also impregnated by the Israelite king at the same time. They also claimed an even older lineage by claiming decent from Moses through his Ethiopian wife. None the less, they seem to have always suffered from a perception of a lack of legitimacy, especially since the Solomonic descendants of the Axumite Emperors continued in existence in Shewa. The Zagwe’s moved the capital of the Empire from Axum to the south, into the district of Lasta, to a town called Roha. This town would be renamed for the greatest of the Zagwe Emperors, Lalibella, who would build the great rock hewn churches that are still in use today as places of worship and pilgrimage. Below is a list of the Zagwe Emperors, and the dates of their reigns. Several of them would later be canonized by the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches.
  • Emperor Mara Tekle Haimanot, reigned 916 – 919
  • Emperor Tatadim, reigned 919 – 959
  • Emperor Jan Seiyoum, reigned 959 – 999
  • Emperor Germa Seiyoum, reigned 999 – 1039
  • Saint and Emperor Yemrehana Christos, reigned 1039 – 1079
  • Saint and Emperor Harbe, reigned 1079 – 1119
  • Saint and Emperor Lalibela, reigned 1119 – 1159
  • Saint and Emperor Na’akuto Le’Ab, reigned 1159 – 1207
  • Emperor Yetbarek, reigned 1207 – 1247
  • Emperor Mairari, reigned 1247 – 1262 Emperor Harbe II, reigned 1262 – 1270

The Solomonic Dynasty was restored in 1270 when the founding Abbot of Debre Libanos Monastery, Saint Tekle Haimanot, convinced Harbe II to step aside and allow the Solomonic heir, Yekonu Amlak, to assume the Imperial Throne rather than face a humiliating military defeat. Legend states that Harbe II took religious vows and became a monk, and his heir was the one who received the settlement from the new Emperor and became the first Wagshum, with the district of Wag as his hereditary fief. The descendants of the Zagwe Emperors bore the title of Wagshum from the year 1270 right up to the revolution of 1974. The Abdication Settlement not only granted the district of Wag and the hereditary title of Wagshum, but also granted the Wagshums the right to be seated on a silver throne one step bellow the golden throne of the Emperor. They were entitled to have the great negarit drum beaten for them in salute on great occasions, and also during military campaigns just like the Emperor. They were also granted the privilege of being seated in the Imperial presence, so long as the Emperor was also seated. They were treated with princely deference by all, and deeply revered in Lasta and Wag. The Solomonic Emperors honored this agreement until the fall of the Ethiopian monarchy 804 years later.

Saint & Emperor Lalibela of the Zagwe Dynasty.

Some Early Monarchs of the House of Solomon

Menelik I –  First Solomonic King of Kings of Ethiopia Menelik I was the son of Makeda, Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Israel. He was the founder of the Solomonic Dynasty in Ethiopia, and is said to be the first monarch to use the title of King of Kings of Ethiopia. Makeda, according to the Kebre Negest, returned from her biblical visit to Jerusalem pregnant with Solomon’s son, as did one of her servants. (The Zagwe dynasty would later claim to be the descendants of the servant). When her son was born, she raised him as her heir, and then sent him to meet his father in Jerusalem when he came of age. After meeting his father, Menelik returned to his homeland. When Menelik returned, Solomon arranged for a copy of the Ark of the Covenant to be made for him to take with him, and ordered the eldest sons of all his nobels and priests to go with Menelik. The son of Zadok the High Priest, apparently reluctant to go off to a strange land with just a copy of the Ark, crept into the temple and exchanged the replica with the real Ark, and brought the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia. It is kept at the Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion to this day, in a special sanctuary Chapel that only one guardian monk is permitted to enter.

Emperor Ezana (Abraha) – First Christian Emperor Ezana was the son of Emperor Ella Amida. During his fathers reign, two Syrian youths were shipwrecked on the Red Sea Coast and brought to the Imperial Court. One of them, Adesius, became the trusted cup bearer and food taster for the Emperor, while the other, Fermentius, became his secretary. Upon the death of the Emperor Ella Amida, the widowed Empress begged the two Syrian Christians to remain in the country and help her rule until her son came of age. Fermentius remained, and assisted the Empress as well as becoming the tutor to the young boy Emperor. Fermentius converted Emperor Ezana to Christianity, and when the Emperor came of age, he replaced his coins that bore an emblem of the sun and moon along with his image, with new coins that bore the Holy Cross. They are the first coins in the world to bear the Christian emblem. Fermentius went to Alexandira to request that the Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, who at the time was St. Athnathius himself, to appoint the first Bishop of Ethiopia. Patriarch Athnathius sent Fermentius himself back as the first Bishop, with the new name of Abune Selamma. This bishop is known to the west as St. Fermentius of the Ethiopians. Ever since this event in the fourth century, Ethiopia has been identified as a Christian state in Africa, and one of the oldest Christian states in the world. Ethiopian tradition maintains that Ezana’s brother Shezana also served as a co-ruler with his brother, and the brothers are known in Ethiopia commonly as Abraha and Atsbeha. The brothers recieved a letter from the Byzantine Emperor Constantius that instructed them to expell the bishop Abune Salamma as he did not subscribe to the Arian doctrine supported by the Byzantine Emperor, and was a supporter of St. Athenathius, Patriarch of Alexandria who was the leading opponent of Arianism. The Ethiopian monarchs refused, and heald fast to the Orthodox doctrine supported by St. Athnathius. Ezana was a significantly successful soldier, whose military victories are recorded in numerous inscriptions at Axum. He is also credited with having brought the Ark of the Covenant from the island of Tana Kirkos in lake Tana, to the Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion which he built, removing it from the custody of the Bete Israel Jews (Falashas) and placing it in the hands of Ethiopia’s Christians.

Emperor and Saint Gebre Meskel During the reign of this monarch –  St. Yared developed and composed the liturgical music and chants of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as well as a unique 5 note system and notation system for Ethiopian music. Emperor Gebre Meskel is said to have been so mesmerized by Yared’s music, that he accidentally pierced St. Yared’s food with his spear while listening to a recital by Yared. Gebre Meskel was a particularly pious Emperor who was himself eventually declared a saint of the Ethiopian Church.

Emperor Kaleb the Great

Emperor Armah – Welcomer of first Muslims The Emperor Armah is the Ethiopian monarch who was the first ruler to give sanctuary to the first Muslims. Soon after the Prophet Mohammed began his teaching in Arabia, the Kings of the region began to ruthlessly suppress and persecute his followers. Many fled across the Red Sea to the Axumite Empire, including members of the Prophet’s family. When the pagan Arab kings heard that many Moslem refugees had fled to Ethiopia, they sent messengers to Armah offering a large bounty for the return of these fugitives to them. The Axumite Emperor, hesitant and unsure of the nature of these exiles had them investigated by his officials, and was told that they were simple people who believed in one God, and were mostly poor women and children who had thrown themselves at his mercy. After seeing this for himself, he is said to have replied to the Arab Kings, “Even if you were to pay me a mountain of gold, I could not in good conscience betray these people and send them to you.” This act was possibly a key event in the survival of the young Islamic religion, and the Prophet deeply appreciated this act of compassion. He explicitly instructed his followers to leave the Ethiopians in peace, and exempted Ethiopia from Jihad. This in turn allowed Ethiopian Christianity to survive intact as the Nubian Christian kingdoms and the Christians in Egypt succumbed to eventual Muslim conquest. When news that Emperor Armah had died reached the Prophet Mohammed in Mecca, it is said that he wept and mourned for him. Muslims and Christians have lived side by side in Ethiopia ever since. Relations have not always been smooth, but there has been very little deep seated hatred or religious atrocity outside of the Gragn era and it’s aftermath. Muslims refer to Armah as Najashi (a variation of Negasi or Nigus, which means King).

Emperor Anbassa Widim and the Fall of the Axumite Empire – A Brief history of each of the preceding monarchs is being worked on. During the long reign of Anbassa Widim, a Jewish (Falasha or Bete Israel) woman named Yodit led an uprising that swept much of the land and fought to eliminate Christian hegemony and regain custody of the Ark of the Covenant for the Ethiopian Jews. Upon the death of Yodit, Anbassa Widim was restored breifly, but following his death, the weakened dynasty fell, and were replaced by the Zagwe dynasty.

Emperor Yekonu Amlak

His Imperial Majesty Emperor Yekonu Amlak
His Imperial Majesty Emperor Yekonu Amlak

In the year 1270 Ethiopia went through a monumental change. After a brief war, the last of the Zagwe Emperors, Harbe II, was convinced by St. Tekle Haimanot, the founder of Debre Libanos Monastery (thus the first Echege of the Ethiopian OrthodoxChurch) to relinquish the throne in favor of Yekonu Amlak, a direct descendant of the last Axumite Emperor Anbassa Widim. Yekonu Amlak had raised an ever increasing army, and large sections of the country were rallying to the Solomonic banner. The Church recognized the legitimacy of the Solomonic claimant, and yet did not want to see humiliation and harm come to the Zagwe Emperor. The Zagwes had been regarded as saintly and pious children of the Church, so the Church wished to protect them. Emperor Harbe II was convinced by St. Tekle Haimanot to relinquish the throne, and retired to a monastery. The Solomonic dynasty was thus restored. In the act of settlement, Yekonu Amlak agreed to grant the title of Wagshum and rule over the district of Wag to the heirs of the Zagwe Emperors. The Wagshums were guaranteed the right to be seated in the presence of the Emperor (provided he himself was seated), the right to have a silver throne a step below the Emperor’s gold throne, and the right to have the negarit war drum beaten for them just as it was beaten for the Solomonic Emperor. Yekonu Amlak was crownedat Debre Birhan in Shewa, and was based there. His relationship with the Church was very close due to the role of Saint Tekle Haimanot in convincing Harbe II to abdicate in his favor. Yekonu Amlak handed over to the church, vast land holdings, starting a tradtion continued by his decendents that ended up making the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church the largest single land owner in the Empire. He consolidated his rule over the northern highlands and enforced Imperial hegemony over the emerging Islamic ministates in the Empire and the surrounding lowlands. Chief among these, he ssubjugatedthe Sultanate of Ifat. Yekonu Amlak died in 1285.

Debre Libanos Monastery
The Debre Libanos Monastery as it appears today

St. Tekle Haimanot who founded this Monastery was the moving force behind the Solomonic Restoration, and the assumption of the throne by Yekonu Amlak.

Emperor Yacob

Upon the death of Emperor Sertse Dingel in 1597, a crises of succession occurred. The Emperor did not have any sons with is legal wife, Empress Mariam Senna, only daughters. However, he did have a surviving 7 year old son Yacob by his concubine, Emebet Harego (an older son by Harego, named Abeto Ze Christos had died a few years earlier, and they had two younger sons Abeto Kifle Mariam and Abeto Meteko). Emebet Harego was not just any royal concubine. She was the sister of Gedewon, the hereditary Prince of the Ethiopian Jews, the Falasha. Empress Mariam Senna together with the husbands of her daughters, Ras Atnasios of Beghemidir and Ras Kifle Wahid of Tigre placed this child on the throne as Emperor Yacob. Ras Atnasios was declaired guardian of the Emperor, and the Empress and Ras Kifle Wahid joined him and the powerful Dejazmatch Ze Silassie on a regency council. Emperor Sertse Dingel’s nephew Ze Dingel had been considered the most likely heir since he was fully grown, and had considerable support from the nobility, and Susneyos had been considered the most likely alternative to Ze Dingel. With this coup engineered by the Empress however, both princes were greatly endangered. She knew that she and her sons-in-law could rule as they pleased with a child Emperor, something that they could not hope to do with the grown princes. Abeto Ze Dingel was siezed and imprisoned on an island on lake Tana. He would soon escape and flee to Gojjam where he went into hiding. Abeto Susneyos escaped and fled to the south where he took refuge with the Oromo people. However, Emebet Harego, mother of the Emperor and concubine of the late Sertse Dingel resented the control over affairs that the Empress and her cliquehad, and is said to have whispered advice in her son’s ear over the next few years. Emperor Yacob began to exert himself against the regents as he grew older. First he announced the elevation of Dejazmatch Ze Silassie to Lord of his home province Enaria, and sent him back to his home province. Although it was announced as an elevation to high office, it was actually a banishment, and caused panic among the other regents. The regents began whispering that it was not right that such a young boy should be crowned to begin with, and that he was not old enough to be Emperor. They also spread a rumor that the boy had gone insane. They recieved a sympathetic ear among the Roman Catholic clergy who regarded Emebet Harego’s status as an Imperial concubine, and Jewish ancestry, as beneith contempt, and questioned the validity of her sons being inheritors of Sertse Dengel’s throne. Soon both the nobility and the army were in foment, and the Emperor tried to flee to his mother’s native Simien, but was captured and taken along with his brothers in chains to Enaria in the custody of Dejazmatch Ze Silassie who was elevated to Ras. Empress Mariam Senna then sent out an aggressive search for Abeto Ze Dingel, the nephew of her late husband, found him in Gojjam, and brought him back to court at Danqaz. She had him crowned Emperor Ze Dingel with the additional name of Atnaf Seged. However, his close relations with the Catholic clergy cause the new Emperor to make an enemy of the Orthodox Archbishop Abune Petros. Soon rumors were rife that the new Emperor had converted to Catholicism, and Abune Petros finally anathemized anyone who obeyed Emperor Ze Dingel and regarded him as the legitimate Emperor. The ambitious Ras Ze Selassie took this opportunity to rebel against Ze Dingel, and marched from Enaria against the Emperor. He defeated the Emperor and watched as the army mutilated Ze Dingel by poking out his eyes, cutting off his fingers to get at his jeweled rings, and then trampeling his body under the hooves of a herd of horses. Ze Selassie entered Danqaz in triumph. Realizing that he could not assume the throne himself due to his humble birth, he then announced, that his long time prisoner, the now adult ex-Emperor Yacob had been duly restored to his rightful throne. Dowager Empress Mariam Senna, the architect of the previous declarations of new monarchs, quietly accepted this turn of events. Abeto Susneyos, great-grandson of Libne Dingel, who was living among his Oromo allies in Shewa did not. Susneyos was still considered a reble ever since he had fled Empress Mariam Senna upon the first enthronement of Yacob. However, having grown up together with Ze Dingel, it is said that Susneyos and Ze Dingel had loved each other as brothers, and Susneyos never directly challenged Ze Dingel’s enthronement, staying in quiet exile while his cousin reigned. Now with news of Ze Dingel’s brutal death, Susneyos was enraged and fired with the need for vengance. He gathered the forces of the Oromos and Amharas of Shewa and marched into Beghemider. Arriving in Beghemidir, he called the former regent and ruler of Beghemidir, Ras Atnasios, to appear before him and pay homage. The Ras, resentfull of the ascendancy of Ras Ze Silassie obeyed, and submitted to Susneyos, promptly entering his service. He was followed by numerous nobles and the bulk of the Portuguese and Spanish community in Ethiopia as well as their Ethiopian allies. Abune Petros theCoptic Archbishop and the anti-Catholic party rallied to Emperor Yacob. The Emperor Yacob is said to have offered Susneyos half of Amhara, all of Shewa and Wellega to end his rebellion. Susneyos refused by sending the Emperor a message that said “All of Ethiopia has been given me by God, so I refuse this sort of offer from you.” Ras Ze Selassie tried to engage Susneyos in battle, but he failed miserably, his army anahilated. After barely escaping with his life and ever wary of the direction the wind was blowing, Ras Ze Selassie sued for peace, and submitted to Susneyos and also entered Susneyos’ service. Abandoned by most of his nobles, Yacob marched forth to fight for his throne. The forces of Emperor Yacob and Abeto Susneyos then met in battle, probably at Checheho Ber. Susneyos himself is said to have fired the bullet that killed Emperor Yacob. Susneyos must have expected the Emperor’s forces to disintegrate upon the death of the Emperor. Instead much to his shock, the fighting intensified. Command was now assumed by none other than the Coptic Archbishop, Abune Petros, who raised his cross in his hand and ordered a new charge. As the battle intensified, a snipper (many say an arab)shot and killed the Archbishop, upon which the army of Emperor Yacob collapsed and fled. Many of the cavalry are said to have riden their horses over a cliff by accident in the dark and plunged to their deaths. Susneyos quickly captured Yacob’s son, Abeto Gelawdiwos, and had him strangled to death immediately. The younger son of Yacob, Abeto Tsega Christos fled to Sennar in the Sudan. The Emperor’s brothers, Kifle Mariam and Meteko fled to Simien and joined forces with their uncle, Gedewon of the Falashas. Gedewon promplty proclaimed Abeto Kifle Mariam as Emperor, but Susneyous was able to capture both Abetos Kifle Maram and Meteko and had both princes beheaded. In the mean time, Abeto Tsega Christos, son of Yacob had arrived in Sennar and the local ruler had offered the prince the hand of his daughter in marriage, but the alliance was never to be. Abeto Tsega Christos raised an army instead, and led an attack on Susneyos, which failed several years later. Wounded, and utterly defeated, Abeto Tsega Christos and 40 nobles loyal to Emperor Yacob fled to Egypt. The local Turkish governor and the Patriarch of Alexandria gave the prince and his entourage a grand welcome, treating him with all the deference due the son of a king. After a few months in Egypt, Tsega Christos made his way to the Holy land where much to the horor of his entourage, he stood up in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth and proclaimed his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. His entourage were greatly angered as they had followed him into exile for a cause that included the anti-Catholicism of his father and Abune Petros. The Catholics were jubilant however, and the Pope extended a special invitation to the Prince to visit him in Rome. After stoping briefly in Corfu and Naples, Abeto Tsega Christosarrived in Rome and paid homage to the Pope. Everywhere he was treated with the honor and dignity of a son of an Emperor. The Pope and the European monarchs probably thought it useful to have a Roman Catholic claimant of the Ethiopian throne close at hand for future use. Tsega Christos moved to France where he was supported by the Regent Cardinal Richeleu and died in Paris in 1648, the first exiled Ethiopian Prince to live in Europe. The line of Sertse Dengel thus faded away.

Princes in the Official Named Line of Succession to the Imperial Throne in Order of Presidence (Part 2)

Prince Taffari (Phillip) Makonnen


His Imperial Highness Prince Taffari Makonnen is the fourth son of the late Prince Makonnen Duke of Harrar and her Imperial Highness Princess Sara Gizaw Duchess of Harrar. He was born in 1954 at Addis Ababa. His Imperial Highness was imprissoned by the Derg from 1974 until 1989. Prince Taffari Makonnen is currently the Grand Master of the Imperial Ethiopian Order of Saint Mary of Zion and is sixth in lne to the Imperial Throne. His Imperial Highness is the father of two sons by his first wife, and a daughter by his second wife, and his sons are seventh and eighth in the line of succession. (Their names have not been published in official sources). They are Princes with the dignity of Imperial Highness.

Prince Be’ede Mariam Makonnen

His Imperial Highness Prince Be’ede Mariam Makonnen is the youngest son of the late Prince Makonnen Duke of Harrar and Her Imperial Highness Princess Sara Gizaw. Prince Be’ede Mariam was born in 1957. The Prince is a graduate of Addis Ababa University and has done post-graduate work in Canada. He is married to Princess Mahelete Zewdineh, and is the father of two daughters. His Imperial Highness is nineth in line to the Imperial throne, and serves as Chief Executive of Internal Affairs of the Imperial Crown Council of Ethiopia. His Imperial Highness was imprissoned by the Derg from 1974 until 1989.

Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie

His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie President of the Crown Council
His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie
President of the Crown Council

Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, is the only son of the late Prince Sahle Selassie and Her Imperial Highness Princess Mahisente Habte Mariam, and was born in 1960. He is thus the grandson of both Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and also of Dejazmach Habte Mariam Gebre Igziabiher, the heir to the former Welega kingdom of Leqa Naqamte. His Imperial Higness is currently tenth in line to the Imperial Throne. Prince Ermias is the President of the Crown Council of Ethiopia, the body that represents the Ethiopian Crown in exile, and which advises the Emperor of Ethiopia when one is enthroned. As such, Prince Ermias is probably the most visible and well known member of the Imperial Family today. The Crown Council currently pursues a cultural and humanitarian role. Prince Ermias is also patron of the Haile Selassie Fund for Ethiopia’s Children, Inc. a US-based non-profit charitable trust which raises funds for causes which aid Ethiopian children and which sponsored student scholarships for needy Ethiopian students abroad. His Imperial Highness is also patron and founder of the St. George of Lalibela Foundation.Prince Ermias is on the Board of Directors for Tuition Credit Exchange Inc., a US-based organisation which helps facilitate education. He is also Chairman of the Advisory Board of Bezant Corporation. His Imperial Highness is also patron for Africa for the Flying Hospital charity. Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie is the Sovereign Grand Master and Captain-General of the Ethiopian Order of St Anthony, Grand Master of the Order of the Ethiopian Lion, and Joint Grand Master of the Orders of the Seal of Solomon, Queen of Seba, Holy Trinity, Menelik II, Haile Selassie, and the Star of Ethiopia, and the Grand Collar and Chain of the Order of Solomon. He also bears the Grand Cross of the Order of Francis I of the Two Sicilies, and the Medal of Merit (South Carolina, USA). In 1997, Prince Ermias was named recipient of the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA) Silver Star Award for Outstanding Contributions to Strategic Progress Through Humanitarian Achievement, for his work for Ethiopian refugees in Africa. His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias was married to Gelila Fiseha, the daughter of a former Ethiopian Supreme Court Justice, and is the father of twin sons, Prince Sahle Selassie Ermias (informally known as Prince Christian), and Prince Fisseha Tsion (known as Prince Rufael). Prince Ermias and his wife are currently separated. His sons Princes Sahle Selassie Ermias and Prince Fisseha Tsion Ermias are respectivly eleventh and twelfth in line to the Imperial throne.

Links to Imperial Family Websites and to Subjects Related to Them.

Part 1

Princes in the Official Named Line of Succession to the Imperial Throne in Order of Presidence (Part 1)

Crown Prince Zera Yacob

His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Zera Yacob Amha Selassie
His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Zera Yacob Amha Selassie

Crown Prince Zera Yacob was born in 1953 in Addis Ababa, to his parents, then Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen Haile Selassie, and Crown Princess Medferiashwork Abebe Damtew. He was the youngest child, and only son of the then Crown Prince. Prince Zera Yacob attended and graduated from Eton College and Cambridge University in Great Britain. He was named “Acting Crown Prince” and Heir Presumptive to the Imperial throne of Ethiopia in 1974 by his grandfather Emperor Haile Selassie, following his father Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen’s severe stroke a year earlier. It had been feared that the Crown Prince would not live long, and so the line of succession was clarified by this act. Following the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974, and the murder of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1975, Prince Zera Yacob remained Heir Presumptive, and his father Heir Apparent. Neither Prince recognized the Derg’s proclamation of Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen as “King Designate” in 1974. Prince Zera Yacob was named Heir Apparent by his father when the Crown Prince assumed the title and name of Emperor Amha Selassie I, in exile, in April of 1989. Following the fall of the Ethiopian monarchy, Prince Zera Yacob completed his studies at Cambridge in the mid-seventies and went on to work as a banker in the United States. He returned to London to be closer to his parents in the early seventies when the Imperial Family was under great stress due to the deploying of assasins by the Derg to hunt them down. He was later married to former Princess Nunu Getaneh, and had a daughter, Her Imprial Highness Princess Lideta Zera Yacob, but was subsequently separated and divorced from his wife. Prince Zera Yacob accompanied his father Emperor Amha Selassie when he moved to Virginia in 1989, but later returned to England and resided for a time in Manchester. He has since returned to Ethiopia permanently. Crown Prince Zera Yacob has been regarded as head of the Imperial Family of Ethiopia since the death of his father in February 1997. He is first in line to succeed to the Imperial Throne. His Imperial Highness is the Soveriegn of Ethiopia’s old Imperial Orders, and is the founder and Soveriegn of the Imperial Ethiopian Order of Saint Mary of Zion.

Duke of Harrar

His Imperial Highness Prince Wossen Seged Makonnen (informally known as Prince Paul) is the eldest son of the late Prince Makonnen Haile Selassie Duke of Harrar, and Her Imperial Highness Princess Sara Gizaw Duchess of Harrar. He was born in 1947 in Addis Ababa. Prince Wossen Seged has been titular Duke of Harrar since the death of his father, Prince Makonnen in 1958. His Imperial Highness is currently Heir Presumptive of his cousin Crown Prince Zera Yacob, and second in line to the Ethiopian throne. His Imperial Highness was imprisoned by the Derg from 1974 until 1989.

Prince Mikael Makonnen (Made Yesus)

His Imperial Highness Prince Mikael Makonnen is the second son of the late Prince Makonnen Haile Selassie Duke of Harrar, and Her Imperial Highness Princess Sara Gizaw Duchess of Harrar. He is married to Princess Asrat Amha. His Imperial Highness is third in line to the Imperial Throne. His Imperial Highness was imprissoned by the Derg from 1974 until 1989.

Prince Yokshan Dawit and Prince Joel Dawit

Their Imperial Highnesses Prince Yokshan Dawit and Prince Joel Dawit are the elder and younger sons respectively, of the late Prince Dawit (Makonnen)Makonnen and his wife Her Imperial Highness Princess Adey Abeba Imiru Zeleke. Their father Prince Dawit was the third son of the late Prince Makonnen Duke of Harrar, and Her Imperial Highness Princess Sara Gizaw Duchess of Harrar. He died in exile in 1989. Prince Yokshan (born in 1978) is the fourth in line for the Imperial throne, and Prince Joel (born in 1982) is fifth in line.

Part 2

Emperor Susenyos the Catholic (part 4)

Emperor Susenyos
Emperor Susenyos gives an Imperial reception to the Papal Legate, Archbishop Alfonso Mendez.

During period, a man said to be named Amdo, arrived at the Monastery of Debre Bizen (in modern day Eritrea), his face covered in bandages, claiming to have been severly wounded in the face during a great battle. When the monks continued to quiz him, he announced that he was in fact the Emperor Yacob, who had been wounded in battle against Susenyos, but who had been miraculously saved and brought to Debre Bizen by the protection of the Lord. Soon news of this man who claimed to be Emperor Yacob spread like wildfire across the north, and a rebellios army was raised in Simein on his behalf. Susenyos’ brother Sahle Christos, who was governing Tigrai crushed the rebellion and imprisoned the “false Yacob”. The claimant however escaped and fled to Hamasein to raise yet another rebellion when the Emperor and his brother had marched south to fight an Oromo uprising. Having looted the district of Shire, he was attacked and killed by those left by Sahle Christos to protect Tigrai. The false Yacob was then revealed to have actually been an adventurer from Egypt. Then a new threat came in the person of Ras Ze Selassie. The Ras had been a regent, and a man who had come close to seizing full power at times. It is said the only thing keeping him from seizing the throne itself was his lack of royal blood. Ras Ze Selassie was overheard during a drinking binge to say “Just as I have brought Yacob and Ze Dingel down from the throne, so shall I bring Susenyos down!” This comment earned him immediate arrest and imprisonment on Amba Urey. Ras Ze Selassie escaped and led a marauding band of rebles in Gojjam for a few months. However, he was assasinated by a band of Oromo tribes men loyal to the Emperor, and his head was cut off and presented by them to Susenyos. This was not the end of the rebellions against Susenyos. Shortly after his formal coronation at Axum, the Emperor took ill. Rumors began to spread that Susenyos was dead. Therefore, the governor of Wegera, Melke Tsedek, anounced that he was raising the flag of rebellion on behalf of Abeto Arzon, a grandson of Emperor Minas, whom he proclaimed Emperor. After several intial successes, Melke Tsedek and Arzon were defeated by Susenyos’ brother Ras Yemane Christos and were both executed. Behind all these rebellions, Emperor Susenyos and his supporters saw the hands of the Orthodox Church heirarchy, and determined to break the power of the Orthodox clergy once and for all. He suspected the Orthodox clergy in engaging in a whispering campaign against him and giving support and comfort first to Ras Ze Selassie, and then to Melke Tsedek of Wegera and the pretender to the throne, Abeto Arzon. He even suspected them of possibly causing his brief illness through poisoning.

Parts: 123 – 4

Emperor Susenyos the Catholic (part 3)

Susenyos was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia at Keranio(Calvary) Medhane Alem (Church of the Savior of the World) in Gojjam with the additional name of Siltan Seged around 1507. Almost immediately, the new Emperor had a huge public relations problem. He was widely regarded as responsible for the death of the Archbishop Abune Petros. In an attempt to win over some of his opponents, the Emperor sent messages to the Dowager Empress Mariam Senna, asking for forgiveness for any wrongs he might have committed against her. She is said to have replied “Did you not grow up in my house just as Ze Dingel and Yacob grew up in my house? Of course I forgive you, but only if you promise to leave the nobles of Yacob in peace with their properties and their titles, and if you promise to bury me at the Monastery of Mahdere Mariam which I have built, upon my death.” Emperor Susenyos agreed to do as she asked. Emperor Yacob’s loyalists then submitted to Susenyos. The Emperor then had the long neglected bones of his beloved cousin, Emperor Ze Dingel brought in state to the island monastery of Daga Estifanos on lake Tana and buried him with great pomp. Although this won the Emperor new friends, and he was reconciled with the Dowager Empress, it did not change the fact that the clergy and most of the country regarded Susenyos as the murderer of the Archbishop, a crime unequaled in the history of the Christian Empire in their eyes. To strengthen his hold on the heart of the Empire, the new Emperor summoned many prominent Oromo allies from Shewa and elsewhere to come and settle in Gojjam, Beghemidir and Amhara, granting them estates and property, granting them titles and access to his court and the halls of power. Most shocking to the court and the clergy was his granting to his new Oromo friends, lands that had previously been granted to the Monastery of Debre Semaitat (House of Martyrs) by Emperor Gelawdiwos, and to Mahidere Mariam Monastery by Empress Silus Haila.

The Emperor became increasingly close to the Spanish and Portuguese clerics and missionaries at his court. He granted them land to build a church in Dembia. From the established Catholic monastery at Fremona, he summoned the renouned Portuguese priest, Father Pero Paez, and had him settle at the new Imperial Palace that was established at Danqaz. The Emperor even took Paez and a delegation of the Catholic clergy with him to Axum when he went for his formal coronation as Emperor. Paez was a Jesuit priest, and the members of the Society of Jesus were very active in seeking converts among the highest nobility and the Imperial family itself. Because of Paez’s closeness to the Emperor, the Jesuits now enjoyed a level of access and influence at court that was causing pause to the Orthodox clergy. As the King of Spain had succeeded to the Portuguese throne as well, the Emperor of Ethiopia now decided to send a letter of freindship to King Phillip III and to Pope Paul V. The letters were sent in the care of none other than the Emperor’s good friend, the Roman Catholic Father Pero Paez. The letter asked for additional military aide, and may have also stated a wish for closer ties with the Roman Catholic Church.

Parts: 12 – 3 – 4