Emperor Tekle Giorgis II

Following the death of Emperor Tewodros and the withdrawal of the British forces from Magdalla, Wagshum Gobezze proclaimed himself Emperor of Ethiopia with the throne name of Tekle Giorgis II. He based his claim on both Solomonic lineage through his mother who was the sister of the Gondare Emperor Sahle Dingil, and also through his direct decent from the Zagwe dynasty through his paternal family, who were the Wagshums. His assumption of the throne was thus presented to the Empire as a restoration of both the Solomonic and Zagwe dynasties. Tekle Giorgis II was married to Empress Dinkinesh Mercha. She was the sister of Dejazmatch Kassa Mercha of Temben (the future Emperor Yohannis IV),who was a Solomonic rival to Tekle Giorgis with ambitions, and a large arsenal of weapons left to him by his British allies. Tekle Giorgis had sent messages of support to the British forces but had not provided any actuall aid, so the British had not given him weapons as they had to Kassa Mercha. Tekle Giorgis’s claims were also challenged by two other Solomonic princes, Dejazmatch Desta Gwalu of Gojjam and Menelik of Shewa. In addition, Ali Faris of Wollo and Ras Wolde Mariam of Beghemidir refused to acknowledge him as the legitimate Emperor. The House of Shewa in particular claimed direct decent from Libne Dingel in the Solomonic male line, while the Houses of Wag,Gojjam and Tigrai (Enderta) were in the female line of Succession to either Libne Dingel or his father Emperor Naod. The House of Shewa now claimed seniority over the other lines because of this uninterrupted male succession from Emperor Libne Dingel. Tekle Giorgis chose to first march into Gojjam and crush the forces of Desta Gwalu. He replaced Desta Gwalu as Prince of Gojjam with Balambaras Adal, another member of Gojjam’s branch of the Imperial dynasty, and a cousin of Desta. In an attempt to appease the other Solomonic princes, Tekle Giorgis negotiated new dynastic marriages with the Houses of Shewa and Gojjam to compliment his personal marriage tie to the House of Tigrai. His sister Laqech Gebre Medhin married Adal of Gojjam, whom Tekle Giorgis granted the title of Ras. With the Shewans, he arranged the marriage of his half-brother Hailu Wolde Kiros to the daughter of Ras Darge Sahle Selassie (Menelik of Shewa’s uncle), Woizero Tisseme Darge. Hailu and Tisseme would produce a son, Kassa Hailu, eventual heir to Ras Darge and senior Prince of the Blood during the reign of Haile Silassie I known as Ras Kassa Hailu, and father of Ras Asrate Medhin Kassa (Prince Asrate Kassa). With the West and South thus appeased, Tekle Giorgis then turned his attention to the north and marched into Wollo. He quickly routed the forces of Ali Faris, impossing his uncontested rule on all of Wollo, ending that challenge to his authority. Attention now turned on his brother-in-law, Dejazmatch Kassa Mercha. The death of Abune Sellamma II, and the absence of a new bishop from Egypt, prevented Tekle Giorgis II from being crowned. Efforts to convince the Echege to crown him were not successful as the cleric refused to do something he was not canonically permited to do. News had come that Kassa Mercha had entered into negotiations with the Patriarchate in Alexandria for the needed bishop to come, but that it was his intention to have this new bishop crown him instead of Tekle Giorgis. It was now imparative that Tekle Giorgis militarily defeat Kassa before any bishop could arrive in the country into Kassa’s custody. It is said that as Tekle Giorgis and his huge army marched through Simien on his way into western Tigrai, he decided to encamp at a place called Adi Arkai. Here a hermit monk named Gebre Mariam is said to have walked up to the Emperor’s tent and struck it with rocks. Angry soldiers, shocked at this act, are said to have seized him, brought him in front of Tekle Giorgis and demanded an explanation. He is said to have looked at Tekle Giorgis and said “What I did with rocks, Kassa will do with bullets.” It was a chilling prediction that angered the soldiers further. The soldiers were about to beat the hermit, when Tekle Giorgis II is said to have stopped them, sat in silence for a while, and then quietly told them to let the hermit go. Perhaps he decided to late the fates carry on with their course. Unfortunately for Tekle Giorgis II, his marriage ties to Kassa Mercha, and his superiority in numbers did not help him. Gebre Mariam’s prediction would come true. Kassa and his smaller but much better equiped army defeated Tekle Giorgis II at the Battle of Assam, just outside Adwa, on July 11, 1871, and deposed him. Dejazmatch Kassa was proclaimed Emperor Yohannis IV, and Tekle Giorgis II along with his sons was imprisoned on Amba Abba Gerima near Adwa. It is said that he was blinded to prevent further pretensions on his part. His wife, as sister of the new Emperor, was not imprisoned, but she chose to live at Amba Abba Gerima with her husband until his death. He died in his monastery prison in 1876. The widowed Empress Dinkinesh moved to Mekele and was later re-married to Dejazmatch Gebre Kidan. She retained the title of Empress for the duration of her life, and was close to her brother, the Emperor Yohannis IV.