Haile Selassie: A Glamorous and Decorated Emperor

Haile Selassie was crowned the Emperor of Ethiopia on this day, 2 November 1930.

He was born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael, the son of the noted general Ras Mokonnen and the grandnephew of Emperor Menelik II. Selassie became Ethiopia’s 225th and last emperor in 1974 after he was deposed by a military coup. A brilliant student, he became a favourite of Menelik, who made him a provincial governor at 14. As a Coptic Christian, Tafari opposed Menelik’s grandson and successor, Lij Yasu, who became a Muslim convert, and in 1916 compelled his deposition and established Menelik’s daughter Zauditu as empress. Tafari was regent from 1916 to 1930 and after the empress’ mysterious death, he became emperor (1930-1974) and took the name of Haile Selassie (‘Might of the Trinity’), claiming to be a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. As a result of this, many believed he was the promised messiah hence the emergence of the Rastafarian movement.

Emperor Haile Selassie at the Long March To Freedom, Fountains Valley Resort in Pretoria.

Selassie was a highly decorated emperor as is seen in his flamboyant style of dress and the many badges that he wore. It comes as no surprise that his coronation on 2 November 1930 was a very glamorous affair. It was attended by royals and dignitaries from all over the world. One newspaper report suggested that the celebration may have incurred a cost in excess of $3,000,000 in today’s terms. Many of those in attendance received lavish gifts and in one instance, the Christian emperor even sent a gold-encased bible to an American bishop who had not attended the coronation, but who had dedicated a prayer to the emperor on the day of the coronation.

As the Commander of the armed forces he held the highest military order in Ethiopia which was that of the Sealed Marshall. After the end of World War II he ceased to wear any sort of Ethiopian ceremonial attire and although he would deviate without any particular reason he wore military attire in the main as he believed in militant resistance to colonisation and oppression. He would dress glamorously during official occasions with his many military badges, military swords, ribbons and a plummeted hat in accordance with his many Ethiopian orders. These included the Order of Solomon, Order of the Holy Trinity, Order of Menelik II, Order of the Star of Ethiopia. Grand Cordon, The Most Exalted Order of the Queen of Sheba Knight Grand Cross, The Imperial Order of the Holy Trinity Knight Grand Cross, The Imperial Order of Emperor Menelik II Negus (Knight Grand Cross), The Imperial Order of the Star of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie Medal of War, Eritrean Medal of Haile Selassie I among scores of others.

His sculpture at the Long March to Freedom procession at Fountains Valley is just as decorated as he was, courtesy of artist Izidro Duarte who worked hard to ensure that the statue represented the emperor as accurately as possible.

Follow these links to learn more about Selassie’s many medals and honours- http://gmic.co.uk/topic/15150-what-medals-did-emperor-haile-selassie-wear/?page=2#comment-368575

http://www.coleccionesmilitares.com/cintas/diario/haileselassie.pdf