Haile Selassie I
Haile Selassie I

Full Name Haile Selassie
Titles Negus Negast
Born 23 July 1892

in Ejersa Goro, Ethiopia

Status Alive
Allegiance Flag-ETHEthiopia
Political Party Unaffiliated (House of Solomon)

Haile Selassie I (born Tafari Makonnen) is the current Negus Negast (King of Kings) of Abyssinia, succeeding Empress Zauditu on 2 April 1930.


Early Life

Haile Selassie I was born Tafari Makonnen from a mixed Oromo, Amhara, and Gurage family on 23 July 1892, in the village of Ejersa Goro in the Harar province of Ethiopia. His mother was Woizero ("Lady") Yeshimebet Ali Abajifar. His father was Ras Makonnen Woldemikael Gudessa, the governor of Harar; Ras Makonnen served as a general in the Italo–Ethiopian War, playing a vital role at the Battle of Adwa. He inherited his imperial blood through his paternal grandmother, Princess Tenagnework Sahle Selassie, who was an aunt of Emperor Menelik II, and as such could claim direct descent from Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of ancient Israel.


Tafari assumed the titular governorship of Selale in 1906, a realm of marginal importance, and in 1907 he was appointed governor over part of the province of Sidamo. In 1910 Tafari was made governor of Harar, where he proved his ability and competence.

Heir to the Throne

When Zauditu became Empress of Ethiopia in 1916 following the overthrown of Iyasu V, she was pushed by the progressive faction of the government to elevate Tafari to the rank of Ras and make him the heir apparent to the throne. In the power arrangement that followed Tafari tried to obtain the control of the government but the country entry into the Weltkrieg on the side of Germany in 1918 and the subsequent annexation of Italian Eritrea increased the power of the conservative faction that supported Zauditu. Therefore Tafari, while maintaining his privileges as the appointed heir to the throne, didn't have real power and was only marginally involved in the government of the country.


Following the death of Zauditu on 2 April 1930, Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia on 2 November 1930 at Addis Ababa's Cathedral of St. George and took the name Haile Selassie, meaning "Power of the Trinity". Haile Selassie's full title in office is "His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God".

Upon climbing the throne the new Emperor, eager to wield the power he had finally obtained, started a series of sweeping political reforms to bring Abyssinia ‘into the west’. In 1923 he toured Europe, inspecting schools, hospitals, factories, and churches, and the contact with the European way of life had greatly impressed him: he intended to modernise Abyssinia to the European standard. These reforms, however, were fiercely opposed by the powerful conservative elements of the nation and have been delayed by the economic problems affecting the Empire, especially the debt he inherited from Zewditu's reign, and the pervasive and invasive German economic influence

Personal Life

During his period as governor of the province of Sidamo, Tafari married Woizero Altayech; however, she soon died in childbirth giving birth to their daughter Romanework Haile Selassie.

On 3 August 1911 Tafari married Menen Asfaw of Ambassel (born in March 1889), niece of the heir to the throne Iyasu. She was a charitable and wise woman and proved to be Tafari's most trusted advisor, quietly offering advice on a whole range of issues. They had three sons and three daughters:

  • Princess Tenagnework Haile Selassie, born in Harrar on 12 January 1912, married with Desta Damtew on 16 November 1924 in Addis-Ababa
  • Prince Asfaw Wossen Taffari, born in Harrar on 27 July 1916 and married with Woizero Walatta Israel, daughter of Ras Seyum, in Addis-Ababa on 9 May 1932
  • Princess Tsehai Haile Selassie, born in Addis-Ababa on 13 October 1917
  • Princess Zenebework, born in Addis-Ababa on 25 July 1919, married with Haile Selassie Gugsa at Addis-Ababa on 14 July 1932 and died of childbirth at Mekelle on 24 March 1933
  • Prince Araya Yohannes Makonnen, born in Addis-Ababa on 16 October 1923
  • Prince Sahle Selassie, born in Addis-Ababa on 27 February 1931

The Emperor is also an honourary Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army.

See also