Emperor Menelik II was crowned as Emperor on November 3rd, 1889. He was crowned at St. Mary’s Church on Mt. Entoto by Abune Mattiwos who now assumed the senior possition in relation to Abune Petros who had crowned Emperor Yohannis and remained in northern Ethiopia. Two days later, Emperor Menelik crowned his wife as Empress Taitu, “Light of Ethiopia”. The celebrations were magnificent, and thousands assembled to pay their respects to the new monarchs. Ethiopia was not trouble free however. Ras Mangasha and Ras Alula still refused to accept Menelik as Emperor. A huge epidemic among the cattle in the Empire had decimated not only the sources of beef and mutton, but also the animals used for transporting food and plowing fields, resulting in widespread famine. In December of 1889 Menelik marched north to impose order on Tigrai and recieve recognition from the still rebellious Ras Mangasha and Ras Alula. On arriving in Tigrai, he found that the Italians had advanced much further than the boundry set down in the Treaty of Wuchale, and that on January 29th, 1990, the Italians under the command of General Orero had occupied both Adowa and Axum. Ras Mangasha and Ras Alula, greatly weakened by the famine and the infighting with the other Tigrean lords were helpless to stop them. Nevertheless, Emperor Menelik marched into Mekelle and on February 23rd, he presided over a ceremony of submission in which the nobility of Tigrai came forward to pay him homage and recognize him as the legitimate Solomonic Emperor of all Ethiopia. Ras Mangasha sent messengers saying he would submit in 20 days. Menelik agreed to allow him time, aknowledging that Ras Mangasha was entitled to a seperate ceremony as he was the son of an Emperor. His primary concern at the moment was his anger over the occupation of Adowa and Axum by General Orero. The general sent messages assuring the Emperor that his occupation of these towns was to bring stability and feed the starving masses, not to conquer territory. The Emperor was somewhat appeased by the arrival of Dejazmatch Makonnen from Italy, with a fresh and large supply of weapons purchased from Rome. It was at this point that Makonnen told the Emperor of the convention that he had signed in Rome that had fixed the borders to the position the Italian army held at October 1st. Much to the horror of Menelik and his officials, it was learned from the Tigreans that the Italians had advanced far beyond the boundry set down in the Treaty of Wuchale by that date, and that in all likelyhood, they had played a nasty trick on Makonnen. The Tigreans were especially angry, and many in Menelik’s circle were upset with Makonnen and gossiped about bribery. The Emperor however knew Makonnen much better, and did not hesitate to elivate him to the title of Ras, and enlarge his governorate of Harrarge. The Italians withdrew from Adowa and Axum, but did not move back further than their lines as they were on October 1st. They agreed to discuss the issue of the borders further. Count Antonelli had returned to Ethiopia with Ras Makonnen, and tried to convince the Emperor of the need to accomodate the Italian desires as far as the borders in the interests of keeping the Tigreans pacified. Menelik returned to Shewa with Antonelli continuing to make a case for the Italian side. Menelik was not very convinced. Antonelli also announced the appointment of a new Italian representative in Ethiopia that would be replacing him. He was Count Augusto Salimbeni, a gossipy Italian aristocrat and engineer who had worked for some years building a bridge and other projects for King Tekle Haimanot in Gojjam. His tenure would be disasterous from the very start. Just before his official ceremony of presenting his credentials at Menelik’s palace at Entoto, he was thrown from his mule after having donned his official diplomatic court atire. He arrived shaken and soiled, and much to his anger, recieved a rather casual informal reception, which may have been a calculated display of royal disfavor at recent Italian actions on the border. The count was not even offered the customary glass of Tej (honey wine). No large army awaited him to march him up to the palace, no great fanfare, no beating of drums or blowing of trumpets. In relation to the elaborate ceremony and pomp that usually surounded the reception of the representatives of foriegn monarchs, this reception seemed unusually frugal. Salimbeni called the reception “disgusting”. Nevertheless, Salimbeni agressively promoted the Italian desires for the border between Ethiopia and the new Eritrean colony. He was busy with these arguments and almost as an after thought, handed over letters that he had brought with him from Europe that had been sent to Emperor Menelik from Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, Queen Victoria of Great Britain, King Umberto and Queen Margarita of Italy, as well as Prime Minister Crispi and Signor Pisani. The European leaders were following what the Italians had informed them about the Treaty of Wuchale, and were carrying out their contacts through the Italian representative. It was Queen Victoria’s letter that would take the trouble over the Treaty of Wuchale over the brink. In her letter, the British Queen acknowledged the accession to the Ethiopian throne of Menelik, and his desire to send representatives to England and France. However, she also noted that as the Emperor of Ethiopia had consented to “avail himself of the government of Italy” for all his contacts with foriegn governments according to the Treaty of Wuchale, she had sent “..our friend, the King of Italy, copies of Your Majesty’s letter and of Our reply.” This letter, once translated a few days later, caused a reaction of such fury on the part of the Ethiopian monarch that it took Salimbeni and his staff quite by suprise. Unlike the departed Antonelli, Salimbeni was completely unaware of the differences between the Amharic and Italian versions of Article 17, and was bewildered. Menelik wanted to know what this meant. He had never agreed to give Italy control over his relations with other governments. With the Tigrean/Eritrean border question added on to this issue of Italian assumption of a Protectorate, tempers had risen considerably. Empress Taitu is said to have asked her husband in anger “How is it that Emperor Yohannes never gave up a handful of our soil, fought the Italians and the Egyptians for it, even died for it, and you, with him for an example, want to sell your country! What will history say of you?” Emperor Menelik II of course had no intention of selling anything. He summoned the Italian diplomat and said to Salimbeni “This country is mine and no other nation can have it. I thought we had settled everything….you asked for more and I gave you all of Hamasein. Now you want more?”. Things were about to get uglier. Hours of attempted discussion on the matter turned into days, into weeks and into months. When the Italians realized that they were running up against a brick wall they began to look for other alternatives or potential leverage. In the north, General Orero attempted to make a seperate deal with Ras Mengesha Yohannis in Tigrai over the border. Once he had submited to Menelik however, Ras Mengesha informed General Orero that it was not his place to give what belonged to the Emperor of Ethiopia, and that he had naturally informed His Imperial Majesty of all that had been discussed between him and the Italians. Around the same time, in an attempt to foment sympathy for Italy among the muslims of Ethiopia, an Italian regiment occupied Ausa to “forestall the French” who they claimed were considering occupying the Afar sultanate. The Emperor quietly and simply, but very angrily stated “Ausa is mine!” to Salimbeni. Salimbeni notified his superiors in Rome of the disintigration of his situation. Labled an “alarmist” and “inept”, Salimbeni’s image with the Italian Foriegn ministry took a beating. The fact was however that the Italians could not manipulate Menelik to do as they disired, and this was not Salimbeni’s fault. As the beaurocrats in Rome saw it, Salimbeni was a failure because he couldn’t manage to handle matters with what they regarded as a state of savages run by savages. As things were taking a turn for the worse as far as Ethio-Italian relations, it was decided in Rome that the only one that could salvage this disaster that was increasingly being blamed on Salimbeni’s inept handling, would be Count Pietro Antonelli. Antonelli arrived at Entoto on December 17th, 1890 with letters from King Umberto that tried to appease the Emperor in very patronizing terms. Antonelli tried to blame the mistranslation of Article 17 on the Ethiopian translator, Yosef Niguse. He offered to undo the jist of the article if the Emperor promised not to accept the protection of any other power. When asked to put this in writing, Antonelli came up with “..in the event that Ethiopia might ask for a protectorate, she would give preference to Italy” which Menelik found unacceptable and angered Empress Taitu even more. Emperor Menelik proposed the wording “Italy makes it known that the Empire of Ethiopia is not its protectorate, and the Emperor will refuse to any other power such a declaration.” Menelik also set down what he believed would be an acceptable border on a map. Antonelli was increasingly frantic. He canceled the cost of the freight on weapons that Menelik had purchased from Italy, and agreed to pay for the import of grain for the starving people in Tigrai that Menelik had requested. He gave in on several points on the border question, recognizing that Digsa and Gura would be firmly on the Ethiopian side of the border, and Ethiopian sovreignity over the monastery of Debre Bizen and all affiliated monasteries in Eritrea with their estates and land holdings. This was all done in hopes of molifying the Emperor into accepting Article 17, and Italy’s prefered border. Empress Taitu proved to be his biggest obstacle as far as Article 17. She stuck by the demand to have it completely abolished from the treaty, even as her husband considered freezing it as it was in Italian and Amharic for five years until the treaty was due for review. Antonelli argued that the Italian text could not be changed without Italy losing dignity. The Empress coldly replied “..we too must maintain our dignity!” Antonelli then handed a letter of recall to Salimbeni basically fireing him, as if the whole fiasco was completely Salimbeni’s fault. He also anounced his own intention to leave with Count Salimbeni, signaling the offence he had taken personally and on behalf of his King and country. Menelik suddenly became concerned and concilliatory. He said he had decided to agree to some Italian demands in order to save his freindship with Italy. Antonelli withdrew his threat of departure and withdrew the dismissal of Salimbeni. Menelik then sent over a letter in Amharic for Antonelli to sign. He assured Antonelli that the two texts of Article 17 could remain as they were for five years, and that Ethiopia would certainly call on Italian assistance in foriegn affairs “out of friendship” but not out of force. During these discussions, Count Antonelli may have used the Amharic word “Yikir” meaning “let it remain” but which can also mean “leave it out” which may have been misinterpreted either intentionally or mistakenly by the Ethiopians as applying to article 17. Count Antonelli happily signed the letter thinking he had pulled a major diplomatic coup. He boastfully commented to his staff that the only way to deal with “these people” was with firmness. When the Imperial translator, Gebriel Gobena failed to provide a timely Italian translation, Salimbeni decided to attempt a translation of the new Amharic agreement into Italian himself. Much to his horror he found that Count Antonelli had signed a document that said that Article 17 was canceled and abrogated (left out ie, “yikir”) instead of left as it was till the time of renewal. It looked like Menelik’s payback for being tricked into signing a clause in Italian that handed over his Empire into Italian protection, and indeed, it may very well have been. Antonelli went into a towering rage. He stormed to the Palace and demanded and audience. The Imperial couple were at lunch with Ras Makonnen and Ras Mengesha Atikem of Agew Midir, and it was Ras Makonnen who came out to see what was wrong. Antonelli ranted at Ras Makonnen against “such treachery”. Ras Makonnen asked him for the letter to show the Emperor. Before handing him the letter, Antonelli tore off his signature, and in the process, tore the Emperor’s seal off as well. This act angered the Ethiopians as childish behaviour, and Ras Makonnen was visibly furious at seeing the Italian tear off the seal of the Emperor of Ethiopia. Entering the presence of the Monarchs and Ras Mengesha Atikem in Makonnen’s wake, Antonelli demanded justice, holding up the torn letter. Menelik coldly informed him that the letter was identical to thier discussions which Antonelli denied. He then began to heap abuse on the Imperial translator, Gebriel Gobena, but was curtly interupted by the Empress who told him he had no right to scold the translator, as Gebriel “…is our servant, so it is our place to punish him if he is in the wrong, not yours!” The Empress then asked Antonelli to show her where in the Amharic version of Article 17 of the Treaty of Wuchale the establishment of Italian Protectorate over Ethiopia was. As he could not, Ras Makonnen (who had also been tricked into signing an agreement in Rome on the borders) tartly informed him that the Amharic note that he had been sent and that he had signed meant exactly what it said, that Article 17 was abolished and canceled. The Italian diplomats realized that the Ethiopians had just given them a taste of their own medicine. Antonelli demanded back the map that he and Menelik had made notations on about the border. Menelik stated that he would return it to the Italian government. Antonelli replied that in Ethiopia, he was the government, and that if they weren’t returned to him, he would consider the maps stolen. The Italians stormed out in a huff, and decided that they should suspend talks and withdraw. The Ethiopians at court were aghast at their display of bad manners. Antonelli wrote an official letter of goodbye and announced that they were all leaving. He sent messengers to various other official Italians in the Empire to assemble together as they would all be leaving with him. Ras Makonnen informed them that they were behaving like children. Antonelli returned to the Palace for his departure audience and was recieved by the Emperor. He pomposly declaired that Italian troops would remain at the border lines that they were on as of October 1st, that no financial concessions on Ethiopia’s debt to Italy would be made, and that Italy would uphold and defend Article 17. Emperor Menelik responded quietly “Gidyelem”, which translates roughly to “No worries! So be it.” The Italians withdrew on February 11th, 1891. Emperor Menelik then issued a proclamation asking the people of the Empire to contribute what they could towards paying back the financial debt to Italy. The response was emense. During the years of horrendous famine, Menelik had forgiven debts and ordered the suspension of tax collection in hard hit areas. The public had started saying that Menelik was less like the stern father-figure monarch, and more like a compassionate mother, and had started refering to him as “Immiye Menelik” which was a nick name that translates as “Beloved Mother Menelik”. It was a reputation for mercy and compassion that would spread and strengthen, and Menelik is still popularly refered to as “Immiye” to this day. People donated from what little they had to make sure that their Emperor was not degraded before foriegn princes. Much to the Italians discomfort, a year later, in 1892, the debt had been paid back in full along with all interest owed. Again the Italians tried to foment trouble by negotiating secret agreements with Mengesha Yohannis, encouraging his pretentions to the throne. On December 8th, 1891, Mengesha met General Gandolfi at the Mereb river and swore oaths on a bible and cross to “love each other’s friends and hate each other’s enemies”. General Gandolfi and the other Italian colonial officials in Eritrea saw Mengesha Yohannis as the key to fomenting disunity in the Empire. However, the officials in the Foriegn Ministry in Rome still sought to court Menelik. In order to try to win back some of Menelik’s trust, the Italian Foriegn ministry notified him of Mengesha’s secret meetings with Gandolfi and the oaths. They thought that this would win them favor with Menelik while at the same time encourage disunity by angering him against Ras Mengesha. Menelik decided that two could play at devide and conquer, so he notified Ras Mengesha that the Italians had violated their Christian oaths and betrayed him. They had revealed all the details of his agreements with them, that they could never be trusted, that they were the enemies of Ethiopia, of his late father Emperor Yohannis, and of Mengesha himself. Ras Mengesha was horrified at the fact that the Italians had betrayed him to Menelik in such a manner. Instead of getting the two to fight each other, the Italians had brought them closer together, and in fact had made in Ras Mengesha, a permanent enemy. Dr. Traversi, a long time Italian medical practioner in Ethiopia returned twice in 1891 and 1892 to Ethiopia to try and revive talks. Salimbeni returned in 1892 to Harrar to discuss the loan repayments with Ras Makonnen, and try to weaken the prince’s ties to Menelik, which predictably failed. The Italians sent sizable bribes and gifts to various nobles and chiefs in the Empire trying to buy them off and set them against Menelik. Little did they know that these nobles were informing the Emperor of all their communications with the Italians. The Emperor had instructed them to continue recieving the bribes and gifts, but to inform him of everything. In June, 1894, Dr. Traversi was due to leave permanently and the Italian government sent Colonel Federico Piano to replace him. He arrived at the Great Guibi Palace in Addis Ababa to present his credentials to Emperor Menelik. The Emperor recieved him with the lower part of his face covered under his cape(a sign of great displeasure). After Piano was presented and made his elaborate bow before the Emperor, the first thing Menelik asked him was “When will you be leaving?” When Piano replied “When your Majesty wishes it.” the Emperor then coldly suggested “Why not leave with Dr. Traversi tomorrow then.” Relations with Italy were thus severed. Traversi would return in 1894 with the last shipment of ammunition that Ethiopia had purchased from Italy. He recieved a very cold reception, and did not stay very long.
The Origins of the Imperial House of Ethiopia, also known as the Solomonic Dynasty, can be found in the Ethiopian book Kibre Negest (Glory of Kings). This book is often regarded as legend, but is accepted as factual by many Ethiopians as well as the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. In it, Makeda, Queen of Sheba, (Who the Biblical book of Kings says visited King Solomon in Jerusalem) is said to have greatly impressed the Hebrew king with her grace and beauty. She is said to have been seduced by the king, as well as was a servant girl of hers. Both returned from ancient Israel to the kingdom of Sheba pregnant with King Solomon’s childlen. The child of Makeda the Queen was named Dawit (David) after his paternal grandfather. Dawit was sent to Jerusalem by his mother when he came of age so that he could meet his father. According to the Kibre Negest, the nobles of ancient Israel resented this son of their king as an interloper, and urged the King to send him back to his mother. As Dawit’s feelings seem to also have been to return to his own land, Solomon is said to have decided that he would not be alone in suffering the loss of his first born son. He ordered all the noble and all the priestly families of Israel to send their eldest sons back to Sheba to be advisors to Dawit when he ascended the throne of his mother. It is these people who are said to be the ancestors of the modern day Bete Israel or Falasha Jews who have recently immigrated to Israel. King Solomon also arranged for a replica of the Ark of the Covenant to be made to be taken back with Dawit so as to spread the worship of the one true God in his realm. However, the Kibre Negest relates that the son of Zadok the High Priest, when told he was to accompany a replica ark to a foriegn land was very unhappy. This is probably unsurprising as this man had been raised to succeed his father as High Priest in service before the true Ark and not a mere replica. Therefore, on the night before their departure, the son of Zadok snuck into the Temple and stole the took the true Ark of the Covenant, replacing it with the replica. By the time the switch was noticed, Dawit and his entourage were long gone. The Ark was kept on an Island on lake Tana, called Tana Kirkos where there is a small monastery today, but it eventually was moved to Axum where it is kept at the Cathedral Shrine of St. Mary of Zion. Dawit would eventually inherit his mother’s throne, but would ascend it not as King of Sheba, but as Emperor Menelik I, the first King of Kings (Niguse Negest)of Ethiopia. The dynasty he would establish would rule the country with a few notable interuptions until the revolution of 1974. The Imperial Family of Ethiopia is often refered to as the Solomonic Dynasty, or the House of Solomon (Bete Solomon)for this reason. In Ethiopian tradition however the family has no surname, unlike the Royal and Imperial Houses of Europe (eg. Windsors, Hapsburgs, Hohenzollerns,Romanovs,Bourbons,etc..).The Zagwe dynasty would claim to be the decendants of the child of the servant girl fathered by Solomon as well.
This 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 www.angelfire.com/ny/ethiocrown/
A Statement by the Crown Council of Ethiopia (a non-political and non-partisan body) – 11 November 2005