In October 1963, Jackie Onassis's stand-in hostess Rose Kennedy entertained Emperor Haile Selassie at a White House state dinner. Jackie earlier flew to Greece on a 2-week vacation aboard the 'Christina' yatch. Some 120 guests gathered in the State Dining Room. It was the 15th and last state dinner of JFK administration. Jackie did greet Haile Selassie on arrival at the Union Station ceremonies. Rose discovered they were born within a day of each other. Haile Selassie last visited the United States in 1954. 

Haile Selassie was said to mean "Power of the Holy Trinity". Ras Tafari inherited the title when he assumed partial power of Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia). Ethiopia was said to be a Greek word meaning "sun burned faces". He became Emperor in 1930. Haile Selassie was a Coptic Christian. Haile Selassie "was directly descended from King Soloman and the Queen of Sheba. His roots go back to Genesis and according to Biblical history to Adam and Eve, representing the longest direct line of ancestry in the history of mankind." Haile Selassie was the 225th in the line of Abyssinian emperors. 

As Haile Selassie, he was also known as Elect of God, Conquering Lion of Judah, King of Kings. At 5 foot 2, Haile Selassie was a "little monarch with the Old Testament face." In 1935, Haile Selassie fled Abyssinia after Benito Mussolini invaded his kingdom. The invasion took place because of borders dispute between Abyssinia and the Italian colony of Somaliland, Eritrea and the French colony of Somaliland. It was reported Mussolini's campaign of occupation in east Africa cost Italy over 20 million lire (about $1.6 million in 1935). At stake, gold, platinum, iron, coal and potash. Between 1875 and 1896, Abyssinia also came under attack during Emperor Menelik's reign. Italy reportedly paid Menelik 10 million gold lira after the defeat which was kept in a secret war fund.

In 1936, Haile Selassie called on the League of Nations for military aid. It wasn't until 7 years later, in 1941, Haile Selassie returned to the "ancient land of feuding chieftains." In February 1974, Haile Selassie was ousted in a "coup by degrees" led by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. He was deposed as Emperor 7 months later. The Colonel's Marxist military government lasted until 1991. The fall of Haile Selassie marked the world's last absolute monarchies and a history dating back 3000 years. Haile Selassie was stripped of his wealth and charged with depositing about $10 billion including $133 million worth of gold (some 887,000 ounces taken from Adola fields) in "Swiss and other banks abroad using numbered accounts and the names of other persons." 

Smith Hempstone reported in 1974: "When Haile Selassie was born in 1892, Abyssinia, unified for only 3 years, was much like Tudor England. The Emperor Menelik, through a combination of political guile and military genius, defeated the invading Italians, played off the powerful barons and the Church against each other and kept the country's pagan-Moslem majority under control. Haile Selassie was Menelik’s great-nephew but not his heir. When Menelik died in 1908, he proclaimed his 12-year-old grandson, Lij Yasu, to be his successor." 

Some 7 years later, war broke out when Lij Yasu "proclaimed himself a Moslem, an unspeakable heresy in Christian Abyssinia." It was understood during those 7 years, Lij Yasu, his aunt Princess Zauditu, Hapta Giorgis and Haile Selassie were embroiled in a power struggle. 

Smith Hempstone continued, "Haile Selassie, armed with the Church's curse against Lij Yasu and his followers, calling down upon them 'the wrath of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, of the 12 Apostles and of the 318 Fathers of the Council of Nicaea, the curse of Arius and the approbation of Judas', took the field. Lij Yasu was defeated and chained in fetters of gold, as befitted his rank, with Princess Zauditu becoming Empress and Haile Selassie regent and heir. When she died, Haile Selassie was crowned Emperor in 1930." 

As absolute monarch, the Ethiopian Constitution "declares his person to be 'sacred', his dignity 'inviolable' and his power 'indisputable.'" Haile Selassie was credited for moving Abyssinia into the 20th century by "limiting the power of the Church and the nobles, expanded education, created a public health service, modernized the army and built a communications network." However "drought, inflation, the generation gap and the energy crisis have compounded the age-old problems of every Abyssinian Emperor; palace intrigue, tribal rivalries, religious animosities and foreign pressures." When Haile Selassie was toppled in 1974, he left behind his 25 million subjects who were all illiterate.

Blog Archive