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Atse Tewodros II Atse Yohannse IV Atse Menelik I Atse Menelik II Lij Eyassu Zewditu Haile selasie I Haile selasie II Haile selasie III Dergue

Some Early Monarchs of the House of Solomon

Emperor Menelik II

Imperial Palaces and Residences of Ethiopia Maps of Ethiopia Across Time Coronation Traditions in Imperial Ethiopia The Imperial Churches Titles in the Empire of Ethiopia Family Trees sources

Their Imperial Majesties, Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu early in their reign. BIRTH AND ANCESTRY Emperor Menelik II was the son of King Haile Melekot of Shewa, and Woizero Ijigayehu. King Haile Melekot
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was the son of the first king of Shewa, King Sahle Selassie and his wife Bezabish. Woizero Ijigayehu was a woman in the service of Zenebework, the mother of King Sahle Selassie, and grandmother of King Haile Melekot. She is said to have been from Gondar, and may have been one of the people brought to Ankober, to help structure the Shewan court in accordance to the practices of the Gondar court, training young princesses in proper etiquette and behavior. Woizero Ijigayehu never married King Haile Melekot, but King Sahle Selassie legitimized Menelik by giving his recognition to Menelik being his grandson, and Haile Melekot, upon becoming King recognized Menelik as his heir. Until Menelik became King of Shewa, he was more commonly referred to by his baptismal name, which was Sahle Mariam. The royal family of Shewa was decended from Abeto Yaqob, the son of the 16th century Emperor Libne Dingel, who had taken refuge in Shewa during the religious wars of Ahmed Gragn. Yakob's son Geram Fasil was the father of Emperor Susneyos the Catholic, and the ancestor oftheGondar line of the Imperial dynasty. Abeto Yakob's other son, Segwe Qal was the one who would found the House of Shewa. Segwe Qal fathered Werede Qal, who fathered Libse Qal, who fathered Negassi (Negassi Christos), who was recognized as the first ruler of Shewa by the various Shewan nobles and the Emperor Eyasu the Great in Gondar. All of Negassi's ancestors had held the title of Abeto. Negassi's son Abeto Sibiste (Sebastian) succeeded his father, and declaired that he was to be refered to as Merid Azmatch, his new title. The rulers of Shewa bore the additional title of Ras. Sibiste was succeeded by Abuye, who was succeeded by his son Amhayes (Amha Yesus), who was succeeded by his son Asfaw Wossen, who was succeded by his son Wossen Seged. Wossen Seged's son however, did not assume the title of Merid Azmatch upon the death of his father, but instead proclaimed himself King Sahle Selassie of Shewa. He was succeded by his son King Haile Melekot, the father of Menelik. PATH TO THE THRONE Upon userping the throne from the hapless Emperor Yohannis III (the last Gondar Emperor), Emperor Tewodros II launched a campaign to reintegrate the various parts of the Empire under the direct rule of the Emperor and his central authority. Shewa was his prime target. Shortly after the Emperor's troops marched into Shewa however, the king, Haile Melekot, died of an illness he had been suffering from for quite some time. With the death of the king, all resistance began to fall appart. The Shewans tried to rally around Sahle Mariam (Menelik) who was only 9 years old at the time, but news arrived that the mother and grandmother of the late king, Bezabish and Zenebework, had both gone and made their submissions to the Emperor in order to save their
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property from being confiscated. Menelik and his mother Ijigayehu, along his step-mother Tidenekialesh (widow of King Haile Melekot) and his uncle Darge were all arrested and put in chains. When the chained prince was brought before the Emperor, it is said he was weeping bitterly. When Tewodros demanded to know if the boy was crying because he had lost his crown and his wealth, nine year old Menelik is said to have meekly replied "No, I weep for my father who I loved very much." Emperor Tewodros who was known as a particularly harsh man I times was so deeply touched by the little prince, that he ordered the chains removed from the Shewan royals, and permitted them to bury Haile Melekot with pomp. Tewodros was however mindful that Menelik was not only the heir to the Shewan throne, but had the Solomonic blood which allowed him to be a claimant of the Imperial throne itself. Therefore, Menelik, his mother, his Uncle Darge Sahle Selassie, and other Shewan royals and notables were taken to the fortress of Magdalla and imprisoned there, although comfortably. Tewodros II would grow to have a very deep affection for Menelik, and treated him as his own son. He would eventually marry Menelik to his own daughter, Alitash Tewodros. Of the three dowager queens of Shewa, Zenebework and Bezabish, were reinstated to their estates. The newly widowed queen Tidenekialesh was a very beautiful woman, and Tewodros ordered her toaccompany him back to Gondar. Tidenekialesh however asked him if he would first permit her to make a pilgrimage to St. Mary of Zion in Axum. The Emperor agreed, and she departed for Tigrai. Upon arrival at Axum however, after paying homage to the shrine, she promptly escaped to the coast, and with much difficulty, was able to secure passage to the Holy Land. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Tidenekialesh, exqueen of Shewa, widow of King Haile Melekot, and step-mother of the future Emperor of Ethiopia, entered the Ethiopian Monastery at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and lived out the rest of her life as a nun. Tewodros II, upon hearing of the escape of the former Queen of Shewa is said to have remarked amusedly, "Oh Haile Melekot, what an unusual man, His wife takes holy vows, while his mother demands titles." ("Ye meest menagn,Ye Inat shumet lemagn!") Usually in Ethiopia, it is the mothers who enter convents and widows that demand portions of their husbands estates and titles. Emperor Tewodros II, recognizing the loyalty of the Shewan population to the royal house, appointed Haile Michael Sahle Selassie to rule over Shewa, but with the restored title of Merid Azmatch rather than king. Merid Azmatch Haile Michael would dutifully carry out the orders of the Emperor for several years. As the brother of the late king, and son of King Sahle Selassie, most of the Shewan royals and nobles found him to be acceptable. However, Abeto Seyfu Sahle Selassie, another brother of the dead king refused to aknowledge Tewodros as Emperor, or accept his appointed administration in Shewa. He led a band of guerilla fighters that roamed the Shewan countryside for years,inciting the peasantry to rebellion. Merid Azmatch Haile
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Michael, although very meticulous in following the Emperor's directives and paying his tribute on time, never launched an agressive campaign against his brother, and his brother returned the favor by focusing his rebellion on the Emperor rather than on the Merid Azmatch. Menelik and other Shewan royals were taken to Magdala. Magdala was a mountain top fortress town, surrounded on all sides by steep cliffs. Tewodros used this place as his citadel as well as a prison for those he considered threats to his rule. His personal relations with Menelik and his uncle Darge were very warm however. Menelik was also close with Tewodros' son Dejazmatch Meshesha Tewodros, whom the Emperor did not favour. Menelik married Alitash Tewodros at Magdala, and met many other Ethiopian notables being held there. Tigreans, Wolloyes, Gondares, Yejjuye's, Lastas, Gojjames, virtually all the noble and princely figures from across the Empire were intered here after being replaced by Tewodros's loyalist commoners, and Menelik would grow up exposed to them all. He would also accompany Tewodros to Debre Tabor, and other traditional centers of power in the north, and establish contacts with many of the regions old nobility as well as the new Theodorean appointees. In 1865, news arrived that Menelik's uncle, Merid Azmatch Haile Michael had finally rebled against the Emperor. Tewodros was furious, and replaced the prince with a commoner as governor of Shewa, Ato Bezabih. The Shewan royals at Magdala were infuriated that their birthright had been given away. They began to plot their escape. In the mean time, Ato Bezabih also rebled against Tewodros and proclaimed himself "king" of Shewa. This brought matters to a head, and the Shewans made their move. A large feast was given by Menelik's loyal Shewan friend and fellow captive Germame Welde Hawariat at Magdala, and the guards were given pleanty to eat and drink. Once they began to collapse with drunkeness and over eating, Menelik, his mother and several others of his retinue stole out of the fortress. The gates were left open for them by none other that Dejazmatch Meshesha Tewodros himself, who was eager to help anyone against his father with whom he had quarelled often. Thus Menelik of Shewa and his retinue escaped from the fortress town of Magdalla on June 30th, 1865. The Shewans entered the nearby camp of the Wollo queen Werqitu, mother of the young Imam Amede Beshir, one of the two claimants to the leadership of the Weresek (Mammadoch) clan of Wollo. Tewodros had siezed Amede Beshir, had him baptised as his godson, and had fought the mother of the other claimant, the rival queen Mestawat. Although bitter rivals, both Mestawat and Werqitu were foes of the Emperor. Werqitu was not initially eager to help the Shewan prince even though his father had been a close ally. She intitially decided to send
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emissaries to the Emperor to inform him that the Shewans were in her camp, and that she would exchange them for her son. Tewodros however was extremely furious when he found out about the escape of the Shewans. In a towering rage, he declared that he could understand Menelik's desire to escape, and would probably have done the same thing himself. What truely angered him was that Menelik had abandoned his bride Alitash, and had not taken her with him. It was an insult that the Emperor could not forgive, as it implied that the Shewans didn't regard the daughter of a userper as being good enough for their king. Looking through a pair of field glasses, Tewodros saw that the Shewans had entered the nearby camp of his enemy Woizero Werqitu. Perhaps if he had not been in such a passionate mood, Tewodros might have realized that he could easily have exchanged the young Imam and his nobles for Menelik and his. Instead, he ordered the young boy and the other Wollo nobles brought before him. In an act of cruelty that was unusual even for him, Tewodros ordered all their hands and feet to be cut off, and each of them thrown off the edge of the cliffs around Magdala. Oddly enough, those Shewans who did not escape from Magdala, such as Darge Sahle Sellassie were not molested at all. The Wollo emissaries who had come to offer an exchange arrived too late, and returned with the news of the death of the young Imam. The death of her son and his nobles reached Werqitu, and her grief and anger knew no bounds. Untill the very end, she never stopped attacking Tewodros' army, and never held back aid from anyone who rebled against him. She recalled that she had been about to betray Menelik, but that her son had died before she could make the arrangements. She is said to have commented that Allah must indeed love Menelik very much. She ordered that the Shewans were to be given every help and assistance they might need to return to Shewa. Menelik mourned the death of the Wollo notables with her, and then proceded to Shewa, where the population rose up upon hearing of his return and began to flock to his banner. Although Bezabih tried despirately to muster an army to oppose the return of the Royals to Shewa, his soldiers began to desert en-masse to the banner of "the son of our master". Even as Bezabih marched his army out of Ankober to meet the royalist forces in battle, it is said a woman stood on a hill top and cried out to the passing soldiers,"What are you doing, where are you going, will you really march against the son of your kind master, the son of your good king?" It is said that many more soldiers began to desert after this incident, and Bezabih recognized that all was lost as rather than fighting agains him, the soldiers and people of Shewa were pouring into Menelik's camp, weeping and ulultating, beating drums and rejoicing at the return of the heir of Haile
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Melekot. Bezabih sent emmissaries humbly asking forgiveness and saying that he was "only keeping the throne safe for my king". Bezabih was deposed, and Menelik was proclaimed King of Shewa at Ankober in August 1865. Not long after his return to Shewa, Menelik established a liason with an older woman whom he refered to as his wife even though this "marriage" was not sanctioned by the church. His second wife was Woizero Bafena, a much married noblewoman from Merabete who was widely disliked and resented at court. Widely regarded as a plotting ambitious arriviste, Bafena earned the resentment of almost all of Menelik's relatives and followers. She would later act as a spy for Emperor Yohannis IV, and had ambitions for her sons by previous husbands. Menelik however also fathered a daughter Zewditu (destined to be the eventual Empress of Ethiopia) by a Woizero Abechi, and would raise Zewditu himself after her mother met an untimely death. Menelik would also father a second daughter, Shewaregga, mother of Lij Eyasu, his eventual heir. Shewaregga's mother was a woman named Desta who may very well have been a domestic servant in the service of Menelik's aunt Tenagnework or of his mother Ijigayehu. He is also reputed to have had two children by a Gurage woman named Wolete Selassie who did not survive to adulthood. Rumors persist to this day that Ras Birru Wolde Gabriel and Dejazmatch Kebede Tessema were also the Emperor's illigitimate sons, but they were never publicly aknowledged as such. Menelik did not aknowledge Shewaregga as his daughter till much later. She was first married to Wedajo Gobena and then to Ras Michael of Wollo and would bear Menelik three grandchildren, Wossen Seged Wodajo, Eyasu Michael and Zenebework Michael. In 1868, upon the defeat and death of Tewodros, it is said that there was celebration throughout Shewa, as Tewodros had become a hated oppressor in Shewa. Menelik did not join his subjects in their joy. It is said that he shut himself away in his rooms and wept for the man who inspite of being a political enemy, and been like a father to him. Menelik had sent messages of support to the British, but had not provided direct aid to them, so he did not benefit with gifts of weapons as Dejazmatch Kassa Mercha did. The most tangible benefit from the fall of Emperor Tewodros was the release from Magdalla of Menelik's much loved uncle, Darge Sahle Selassie. Menelik created Darge a Ras upon his return to Shewa. Of all the people at Menelik's court, Darge was the only one who would dare to rebuke or scold Menelik when he felt it was called for. He was always deeply respectful of Menelik as King, but he was also the stern yet affectionate uncle who could nag Menelik about paying his debts
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on time. He became the most influencial prince in the Shewan court. Upon news of the Emperors death at Magdalla, Menelik promptly claimed the Imperial throne for himself and began to use the title of "King of Kings". However, Wagshum Gobeze had proclaimed himself Emperor Tekle Giorgis III, and Dejazmatch Kassa Mercha refused to recognize either of them. Tekle Giorgis III began negotiations with the Shewan royals, and the other major branch of the Solomonic Dynasty, the royal family of Gojjam. He fought and removed Desta Gwalu of Gojjam, and replaced him by a rival member of the Gojjam branch of the dynasty, Balambaras Adal. In the final result, he gave the title of Ras to Adal, and also gave him his sister Laketch Gebre Medhin in marriage. With the Shewans, he arranged for the marriage of his half-brother Hailu Wolde-Kiros to the daughter of Ras Darge, Woizero Tisseme. Just as he was begining to feel secure that Shewa and Gojjam would come to accept his rule, Kassa Mercha of Tembien defeated Tekle Giorgis at Assam, and deposed him. Following the defeat of Tekle Giorgis, and the coronation of Kassa as Emperor Yohannis IV, Ras Adal found it wise to submit, and recognized the new Emperor. He was rewarded with the title of King of Gojjam and Kaffa, with the name Tekle Haimanot. Menelik set out to invade Gojjam in 1877 to challenge Tekle Haimanot's claim to Kaffa, but he had to turn back because of two attempts to dethrone him. First his paralyzed uncle, Merid Azmach Haile Michael declared himself king. The old Prince was able to march a force into Ankober and set the town on fire, but his rebellion was crushed by Menelik loyalists. Then much to his shock, Menelik hardly had recovered from this betrayal from within his family, when he was again betrayed, this time by his own wife, Woizero Bafena. She had used Menelik's seal to issue false dicrees, seized the treasure of the House of Shewa with many arms and transfered them to the fortress at Tamo. She also transfered a royal prisoner, Dejazmatch Meshesha Seyfu, Menelik's cousin and rival claimant to Tamo as well. Her intention was to put her own son from a previous marriage on the throne, removing any threat from Meshesha Seyfu as well. However, Dejazmatch Meshesha Seyfu was able to win the loyalty of the soldiers in Tamo, who turned on Bafena and ended her plot. It was suspected that Emperor Yohannis had a hand in encoraging these plots. Meshesha Seyfu and Menelik were reconciled and Bafena admitted her guilt, blaming her actions on jealousy aroused by Menelik's attentions to the lovely young Wolete Selassie who had become his mistress. Bafena, already widely hated at court was banished in disgrace. However, a temporary reconciliation between Menelik and his wife was arranged by her freinds. This attempt at reconciliation failed, largely because Menelik recognized that he needed an heir,
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and that Bafena was too old to produce more offspring. They were formaly separated. For a long time, when pretty young women were presented to the King, and people descreetly told him to consider candidates for his hand in marriage, or comment on the beauty of these ladies, Menelik would sadly say "You ask me to look at these women with the same eyes that once looked at Bafena?" which meant that after the beauty of Woizero Bafena, these girls paled in comparison. These happenings did not strengthen his hand against Yohannis IV. Finally, the Emperor at the head of a large army crossed into Shewa in January of 1878. Menelik decided further claims on the Imperial throne were unwise, so he decided to submit. A delegation of priests was sent to the Emperor to inform him, and a peace was quickly negotiated. The Submission of the King of Shewa took place in Wollo on March 26,1878. The details of the ceremony of the submission of the Shewan king was carefully worked out. The Emperor was seated on his throne wearing his crown, and the Shewan king and his leading nobles entered the hall carrying stones of repentance on their shoulders. They then fell before the Emperor and kissed the ground before him as guns fired in salute and the women of Yohannis's court ulultated. Then the Emperor placed a crown on the head of Menelik, confirming his title of King of Shewa for himself and his heirs. The Emperor also confirmed him as overlord of Wollo. In connection with this, Menelik promised to pay his annual tribute to the Empire, provide troops when needed, and eliminate all heretical teachings in his kingdom. This meant the immediate expullsion of all Roman Catholic clerics, including Menelik's good friend the Italian Father (later Cardinal)Massaia, and the French Father Taurin de Cahagne, and all Protestant missionaries. Emperor Yohannis also called a council of the Orthodox Church at Boru Meda to resolve the schisms developing in the national church. The Council of Boru Meda was convened in the presence of the Emperor of Ethiopia, the King of Shewa, the Archbishops Petros, Lukas and Matiwos, and the Echege of Debre Libanos. Emperor Tewodros had tried to stamp out the Sost Lidet doctrine by decree, but had failed, as the Shewans had returned to this creed upon the return of Menelik to his kingdom. The largely Shewan delegation of the followers of the Sost Lidet doctrine at Boru Meda held that Christ had three births, one from God the Father at Creation, the second from the Virgin at Christmas, and the third at the Baptism from the Holy Spirit. The official Tewahido doctrine held that Christ had only two births, from the Father at Creation and the Virgin Mother at the Nativity. The Baptism was a revelation of Divinity, not a Birth from the Holy Spirit they argued. The Sost Lidet they said, compromised the unity of the Holy Trinity, by implying that Christ was not
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fully Divine until after the baptism. This went against the teachings of Tewahido that argued that Christ had one nature that was a complete Union of the Divine and Human that was inseperable and undevidable. This was the argument that the Church had upheld since the council of Chalcedon, and which had caused the Oriental Orthodox to break with the rest of Christendom. The bishops confirmed that the Tewahido was the correct doctrine upheld by the Patriarch of Alexandria, so the Sost Lidet were ordered to recant their teachings. Those who failed to do so had their tongues cut out on the Emperor's orders "so that they may no longer poison the faithful with their heretical teachings".

Menelik as King of Shewa Menelik accepted all of these conditions, and returned to Shewa. However, he was not prepared to accept the designation of King Tekle Haimanot of Gojjam as king of Kaffa as well. He had long regarded the southern Oromo kingdoms, principalities and various other ethnic territories as part of his hegemonic sphere. He was determined that Shewan hegemony would continue in the south, so he marched on Gojjam. Menelik fought with Tekle Haimanot at Embabo and captured the King of Gojjam and two of his sons, bringing them back to his new capital at Entoto as his prisoners. During this time, Tekle Haimanot and Menelik for the first time speant significant time together and got to know one another. Menelik ordered that the Gojjam royals be treated appropriately with the same respect due to Shewan royals. Unexpectedly, King Tekle Haimanot and King Menelik got along famously, and formed a firm friendship that would last for the rest of their lives. Emperor Yohannis IV however, was furious. His two vassal kings had gone to war without submitting their quarrel to him first. They had fought over a royal title that he believed was his and only his to give. In anger, he ordered Menelik to bring his royal prisoners to Wollo, where he released them. He seized the weapons and booty that Menelik had captured
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from Tekle Haimanot and gave them back to the King of Gojjam. He also stripped Menelik of his overlordship of Wollo and granted it to his own son, Ras Araya Selassie. However, he was equally enraged with Tekle Haimanot, and in an insulting gesture, he returned the Crown of Gojjam, that Menelik had handed over, back to Tekle Haimanot in a bread basket. However, in a conciliatory gesture to the King of Shewa, he confirmed Menelik as King of Keffa, and arranged the marriage of his son Ras Araya Selassie Yohannis, to Menelik's daughter, Zewditu. This was supposed to appease Menelik somewhat for his loss of Wollo, as it was now to be ruled by his son-in-law and daughter. The two kings however were both resentful of the harsh treatment they had received from the Emperor, and began to secretly plot their eventual rebellion together.

King Tekle Haimanot of Gojjam OnApril 29th, 1883, at Easter Sunday midnight mass at the Church of Medhane Alem (Savior of the World) at Ankober, Menelik King of Shewa and Keffa married Taitu Bitul. Taitu was the daughter of Ras Bitul Haile Mariam, brother of Dejazmatch Wube Haile Mariam of Simien, who was the archenemy and rival of Emperor Tewodros II, and his eventual father-in-law. Taitu was thus the first cousin of the late Empress Tiruwork Wube. Her father was the direct decendant of a daughter of Emperor Susneyos the Catholic. She was thus of Imperial blood. Bitul's mother Hirut was the aunt of Ras Ali, the last Re'ese Mekwanint and Enderase of the Gondar period who was overthrown by Emperor Tewodros II. Taitu was thus a member of the Yejju Oromo dynasty that had
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ruled Ethiopia and controled the puppet Gondar Emperors during much of the Zemene Mesafint period. Emperor Tewodros II's first wife Tewabech was therefore also a cousin. Although twice an in-law of Emperor Tewodros, she was the daughter of two families with a deep seated hatered of the Emperor Tewodros, and she had suffered imprisonment at his hands. Taitu's mother was Woizero Yewubdar, a minor noblewoman from Gondar. Her brother Ras Wele Bitul would become ruler of Yejju and Semien. She had a sister Desta Bitul, and another brother Alula Bitul. Wele and Alula Bitul had been prisoners at Magdalla with Menelik, and had become his good friends there. They had often spoken of their beautiful sisters, and now that Menelik was the bachelor King of Shewa, they decided to introduce him to them. Initially it is said, they had thought to promote their sister Desta as a potential wife for the King. He was introduced to her first, and after commenting on her beauty, he was then introduced to Taitu. It is said Menelik turned to Wele and said, "Why did you keep back the most beautiful for last?" Although Taitu would never have any children, her siblings and cousins had many decendents that Taitu raised, and eventually married into most of the major noble and princely families in the Empire. She would become one of the most powerful and remarkable women in Ethiopian history. With such a history, it is not suprising that Taitu would have a reputation of being a proud haughty woman. She was the ultimate aristocrat, and her dynastic credentials were the equal of any, so her pride was not just based on being the wife of Menelik, but because she was Taitu of Simien and Yejju, daughter of Bitul. She was a devout daughter of the Orthodox church, and a woman of strong conservative views. Her admirers have called her a great nationalist, a superior diplomat and negotiator, a great strategist, and the decisive half of the partnership (Menelik being famous for taking his time with dicisions). Her detractors have called her a nepotist, power-hungry and xenophobic. That she would eventually become one of the most powerful consorts in Ethiopian history is not disputed. About the time of their marriage, the King and Queen of Shewa set about building a new church dedicated to the Holy Virgin on Mt.Entoto. Menelik built a new palace there, and then moved his official seat there from Ankober. The mountain top town was a strategic location, but it was cold, and as more people followed the court there, fire wood and water became scarce. The palace that Menelik built there was smaller and not nearly as imposing as the residence he vacated in Ankober, and was infact discribed as ramshackle by some visitors. The focus of the royal couples development plans was clearly the Church of St. Mary. It would serve as Shewa's capital only briefly. To the south of Entoto's mountainous peak was a broad hilly plateau, well wooded and intersected by the Finfine,
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Kebena and Akaki rivers. Near the Finfine river, were some hot springs that the Oromos had refered to as the "FinFine", a discription of the spraying action of the hot springs. These springs had given the nearby river and area their name. Taitu and her ladies began to frequently leave the cold of Mt.Entoto to bathe in the theraputic mineral springs. Her visits to this natural spa became so frequent, she built a house nearby, and was soon followed by other noblemen and women, and eventually their households. Their new houses were expanded and soon the little settlement had grown into a town as their servants and soldiers also built homes around their lords homes, and this attracted merchants. The climate was much more pleasant than frigid Entoto, wood was more widely available for fuel and building, and water was plentiful. Taitu named the new town she had founded (officially in 1887) "Addis Ababa" which translates to "New Flower". Addis Ababa would become Menelik's permantent capital, and it remains the capital of Ethiopia today. About the time of Menelik's marriage to Taitu, an Italian embassy arrived in Shewa to establish diplomatic ties with the King. Emperor Yohannis IV, in his very liberal and federal approach to Empire, allowed his vassal kings to recieve diplomatic missions, and to carry on correspondence with foriegn governments and crowned heads on their own. With his increasingly difficult relations with the Italians, Rome found it prudent to have good relations with the kings of Shewa and Gojjam, and perhaps cultivate them as potential allies against the Emperor. With this in mind, Marchese Antinori was sent to negotiate and sign a treaty with the King of Shewa, by the Italian government. The aged nobleman died in August 1882 before he could do so, so he was replaced by his deputy, Count Pietro Antonelli. Menelik and Antonelli negotiated a treaty that granted extraterritoriality to Italians living in Shewa (they would be subject to Italian rather than Shewan criminal law) except in cases involving subjects of both kingdoms where a joint Italian/Shewan commision would judge cases. The treaty also exempted Shewan goods from duty taxes at Assab, provided for an exchange of envoys, and respect for each others religion. Secretly, Menelik was engaged in negotiations to buy guns and ammunition from the Italians in preparation for his rebellion against the Emperor. The Italians gave him a sizable loan to buy these guns as well. It was about this time that Yohannis IV wrote Menelik to inform him that the Italians had occupied Massawa, and that the British had failed to hand the port over to Ethiopia as the Emperor had expected. Shocked, Menelik summoned Antonelli and demanded an explanation. Not aware that the port had been taken by Italy, the ambassador tried to appease the King of Shewa by saying that the Italians were preferable to the English or the French as masters of Massawa
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as they were freinds of Ethiopia, and that Menelik should try to convince the Emperor that Italy was an ally and that it would be to his benefit to have them as neighbors. Mindful of his own secret dealings with the Italians, Menelik tried half heartedly to do this, but the warm feelings he had once had for the Italians were now tinged with the beginings of suspicion. His wife on the other hand became fiercely hostile to the Italians from this point on and became a nightmare to Antonelli in her unwavering hostility to Italian designs in the region. The story of the Italian confrontation with Emperor Yohannis, and the rebellion of the Kings of Shewa and Gojjam against Emperor Yohannis IV is covered in the section dealing with that monarch, as well as the subsequent attack of the Mahdists and the death of the Emperor. Therefore, it will not be dealt with in this section. Never the less, Emperor Yohannis IV was killed at the Battle of Mettema, on March 11, 1889. Shortly before he died, the wounded Emperor had named his newly aknowledged son Mengesha as his heir. Northern Ethiopia exploded as various relatives of the dead Emperor began to vie among themselves for power, reaching for the Imperial throne, while refusing to aknowlege Ras Mengesha Yohannis as the new Emperor. Tigrai, Tigre, Hamasein, Akale Guzai, Serai and parts of Simien and Beghemidr were rent with disturbances and battles as the remnants of Yohannis IV's proud army disintigrated and scattered to the banners of various claimants and warlords. Of the great nobles and officials of Yohannis's court, only Ras Alula stead fastly clung to the wishes of the dead monarch and aknowledged Ras Mengesha as the legitimate monararch of the Empire.

An early photograph of Her Imperial Majesty Empress Taitu Bitul, Light of Ethiopia. Menelik of Shewa and his Queen were in Wuchale in Wello in the first week of April, 1889, when news of the death of the Emperor reached them. Count Pietro Antonelli had just arrived with a fresh shipment of weapons
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from Italy. Menelik saw that this was finaly his moment. Through Antonelli, Menelik formally asked the King of Italy and his government to sieze the town of Asmara and all of Hamasein to weaken Mengesha Yohannis and any other northern claimants. He then sent out messengers throughout the Empire, to Beghemidir, to Gojjam, to all of Wello and to Tigrai and the north, to Harrar, to Wellega, to Keffa and Sidamo, to Gemu Goffa, to Arsi, to Bale and Illubabur calling for oaths of loyalty to "Menelik II, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, King of Kings of Ethiopia. One by one the nobles, cheifs and lords of the Empire began to flock to his banner. Ras Michael of Wello was the most hesitant. He had been at Yohannis's side at Mettema and perhaps had qualms about deserting his son. He did finally decide to pledge alliegence to Menelik. King Tekle Haimanot of Gojjam also sent his messages of recognition, and in return, Menelik re-confirmed him as King of Gojjam and Damot. Quickly, Menelik signed a treaty with Italy, with Count Antonelli signing it for King Umberto. The Treaty of Wuchale gave recognition to an Italian Colony in the north that they intended to name Eritrea. The town of Keren was occupied on June 2nd, and Asmara on August 2nd. This was done to undercut the power base of Ras Mengesha. It was a decision by Emperor Menelik which would have dire reprecussions to this very day. There was the even more explosive bomb hidden in Article 17 of this same treaty.

Menelik, around the time that he was proclamed Emperor and King of Kings. Article 17 of the Treaty of Wuchale (or as the Italians spelled it "Uccialli") was to have huge consequences. In the amharic version, it stated that The Emperor of Ethiopia could avail himself of the services of the government of the King of Italy in his dealings with the powers of Europe if he so wished. A harmless clause. The Italian version of the same clause 17 stated that the Emperor of Ethiopia "consented" to use the government of the King of Italy for his contacts with the powers of Europe. This was phrased as a requirement that made it compulsary.
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It established an Italian protectorate over Ethiopia. At the time however, the Ethiopian side was unaware of this. It was an old trick used by colonialists to entrench themselves that had been used before elsewhere in Africa. Treaties were often signed by kings, chiefs and elders not realizing the legal ramifications. In Ethiopia though, due to the carefull court diplomacy that existed in the Empire for centuries, the deception of mistranslation was employed. Unaware of what had happened, the new Emperor prepared for his coronation, and duly notified the monarchs of Europe of his accession to the Throne of Solomon. Letters were sent to Queen Victoria of Great Britain, King Umberto of Italy, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and President Carnot of the FrenchRepublic. These letters would prove to be the time bomb that would explode in Antonelli's face. In the mean time, Menelik sent his cousin Dejazmatch Makonnen Wolde Michael(later Ras) to Rome to observe the Italian ratification of the treaty of Wuchale. Makonnen was the son of Woizero Tenagnework Sahle Selassie, daughter of King Sahle Selassie, sister of King Haile Melekot, and aunt of Emperor Menelik II. Athough there is a long tradition in Ethiopia of monarchs holding their close relatives in deep suspicion, Menelik never had any towards Makonnen. Makonnen grew up in Menelik's household, and was close to him. Menelik trusted him as he trusted few others, and treated him as a younger brother or son. Makonnen whole heartedly returned his cousin's affection, and would serve him loyaly for many years as his de facto Foriegn Minister, diplomat, domestic negotiator, and general. Ras Makonnen's son would eventually become Emperor Haile Selassie I. Dejazmatch Makonnen went to Italy and was treated to a tour that accentuated Italian might. He was given tours of military instalations, watched military drills, toured factories and munitions depots. He was recieved by the Premier Crispi, and by King Umberto and Queen Margarita as well. For his visit with the royal couple, he was taken from his hotel in a royal carriage to the VeneziaPalace. In the Ethiopian manner, he bowed to King Umberto from the door to the Throne Room, walked half way to the King and bowed again almost to the floor, and then went down on his knee and pressed his forhead to the floor when he reached the king. He was impressed with the granduer of the Palace, of Rome and Naples, and the strength and sophistication of the Italian military. Although he had met many Europeans in his life, Makonnen must have been overwhelmed by the technological advancement of Europe. However, the purpose of the visit was the Treaty of Wuchale, which came up before the Italian Parliament and was ratified. Before it was ratified, Ras Makonnen was persuaded to sign an additional convention to the Treaty on October 1st, 1889, at Naples, that fixed the boundry of the Italian territory as of the de facto position of Italian troops on that very day. What the Prince did not realize, but which the Italians knew very well, was that the Italian army, taking advantage of the weakness of Ras Mengesha and war torn Tigrai, had marched deep into Tigrai and occupied
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numerous localities that had never been ceded in the original treaty. He also didn't know that on October 11th, 1889, Prime Minister Crispi had officially notified, by letter, twelve European governments, and the United States, that as provided by Article 17 of the Treaty of Wuchale, "..in all matters dealing with other governments, the Empire of Ethiopia would be represented by the Kingdom of Italy." An Ethiopian student then residing in Rome named Afework Gebre Yesus (who would play a role in Itlian affairs in Ethiopia through 4 reigns) came to Makonnen's hotel suite and insisted on seeing the Prince. He then showed the Prince an article in an Italian newspaper that stated that Ethiopia had become an Italian protectorate. A suspicious Makonnen asked Count Antonelli who had traveled with him to explain this. Antonelli told the prince that Afework had a poor understanding of Italian. Ras Makonnen accepted this at face value. Unable to read or understand Italian, all he had before him was the Amharic version of the Treaty that did not establish a protectorate. Thinking all was well, Dejazmatch Makonnen returned to Ethiopia.

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Menelik II Part II: The Post Adowa Era


Atse Tewodros II Atse Yohannse IV Atse Menelik I Atse Menelik II Lij Eyassu Zewditu Haile selasie I Haile selasie II Haile selasie III Dergue

Some Early Monarchs of the House of Solomon


Imperial Palaces and Residences of Ethiopia Maps of Ethiopia Across Time Coronation Traditions in Imperial Ethiopia The Imperial Churches Titles in the Empire of Ethiopia Family Trees sources

Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu in Coronation Regalia, late in life.


The post Adowa era in Ethiopia was one of great change. Menelik II returned to his capital in a markedly stronger position than when he had left it. He returned the victorious military leader who had defended his country and his throne against a powerful technologically advanced foe. His empire was strongly united under his rule. The Great Powers of the world rushed to aknowledge Ethiopia as a legitimate independent state in Africa that they would have to deal with as a soveriegn entity. Soon permanent diplomatic missions were being established in Addis Ababa with resident ministers arriving to take up their new posts. The first to establish full permanent diplomatic representation in Addis Ababa was the French Republic. The Italians, British, Germans and Russians were not far behind. Soon Addis Ababa became a destination for European adventurers, fortune hunters, travelers and spies. Illustrous visitors began to drop in to meet Menelik, and explore this last remnant of independence in Africa. Among them, the Duke of Orleans, son of the ex-King of the French, Louis Phillipe. When the French Prince arrived to be recieved by the Emperor, he arrived wearing a saffari suit. Menelik II, took one look at the Duke d'Oleans and asked "Who is this man who does not know how to dress when appearing before a king?" The Duke was careful to be more appropriatly dressed when he returned later that day for dinner with the Imperial couple. Addis Ababa saw a huge explosion in technological advancement as the telephone, the telegraph, the automobile and the electric light bulb made their appearance for the first time in the country thanks largely to Emperor Menelik II. Inspite of resistance from the conservative clergy, these innovations were adopted and put to use rapidly. After much difficult negotiation and some false starts and stops, work was begun on the Addis Ababa Djibouti railway that would become the major artery of trade in Ethiopia. The railway would not reach Addis Ababa until well after the Emperor's death however. After a brief flirtation with moving the capital from Addis Ababa to the new town of Addis Alem to the west, Menelik decided to stay put. To replenish the depleted forests

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of the area however, Menelik had imported the quick growing Euculyptus trees that are today a major feature of Addis Ababa.

Abune Mattiwos, Coptic Archbishop of the Ethiopoian Orthodox Church During Reign of Menelik II

Emperor Menelik II was a man with a facination with modern developments and advances. He hungered to learn about the latest scientific discoveries, technological developments and artistic achievements. He had a huge interest in modern medical care as well. He dreamed of bringing western advancemnts to Ethiopia, and bringing his people to a level of development that existed at that time in Europe. Ras Makonnen who had traveled widely in Europe supported the Emperor enthusiastically in this endevour. He was not always supported in this by his court. Most of the nobility was very conservative and looked upon these things with a suspicious eye. Foriegn influence was regarded with distaste and suspicion. Among the most conservative was Menelik's own wife. Although Taitu was amused by the knick-knacks and inventions that were brought before her, she was suspicious of the motives of the Europeans who brought them. When running water and electricity were installed in the palace and spread through Addis Ababa, she was not displeased. She marveled at the phonograph recording of Queen Victoria that was brought to them in which the queen sent her warm greetings. Menelik and Taitu both recorded phonograph messages to be taken back to the Queen in return and were quite impressed. Menelik jumped at the oportunity to ride in the first Motor Car to make it to Addis Ababa, much to the distress of his entourage, but the Empress chose to only look down from a window at the Palace and declined a ride. Her worry was that these new items would create new needs in the populace, and she wanted to know how the government could possibly meet these new needs and demands. In discussions with the Emperor's good friend and close advisor, Swiss born Alfred Ilg, the railway project was brought up and the Empress continued to voice strong opposition. She argued that it was unnecissary, that it would be too costly, that it would put many merchants out of work and that it could even bring an invader into the heart of the Empire. Ilg replied cleverly, "Your Majesty, this train that you so strongly oppose might one day take you to Jerusalem and the Holy Places". Suddenly subdued and taken aback the deeply religious Empress is said to have quietly stated "This I want more than all things." Regardless, Taitu remained a strong opponent of European intrussion into the Empire in the name of spreading progress. The Europeans liked to paint her as an opponent of progress, but it was their political motives that she was an opponent of. There were others that were even more extreme. The Emperor recieved the first telephone aparatus in Ethiopia and ordered that a line be set up between his rooms and the house of his treasurer. Amazed to be having a conversation with his treasurer
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while both were at their own homes, Menelik ran outside to make sure that someone wasn't hiding under his windosill and answering his questions. However, the next day, the treasurer recieved and electric shock from his telephone and his confessor along with other priests proclaimed the phone the work of Satan and distroyed it. They went to the Palace, were joined with more priests and burned the phone that they found there as well. The Emperor was livid when he heard what happened, but it was too late. A while later, when a movie projector was presented to the Emperor by a foriegn visitor, he eagerly anticipated watching his first moving picture. However he was wary that the priests would definately declare this the work of the devil and distroy his projector too. However, the presenter of the gift had anticipated this, and the first film shown in Ethiopia was a film about the miracle of Christ walking on water. The priests could hardly protest this, so they remained silent. However, all these technological advances caught on and spread largely due to Emperor Menelik and his strong desire for modernization.

One of the Imperial Crowns of Emperor Menelik II

Emperor Menelik II was a "King of Kings" in the literal sense of the word. King Tekle Haimanot of Gojjam had been crowned Nigus of Gojjam by Emperor Yohannis, and Menelik had confirmed him. However, Menelik would refuse to create anymore kings in the Empire under him, and the eventually caused his rift with Ras Mengesha Yohannis who expected to be crowned King of Zion. Empress Taitu tried to reason with Mengesha stating that his arranged marriage to her niece Kefey had been intended to cement his relationship as the "son" of the Emperor and Empress, and a family member. She argued that Tigrai had never been ruled by a king, but by a Dejazmatch traditonaly, and that only Shewa and Gojjam had been given this dignity (although Gojjam had only recieved this recently during the previous reign and Shewan royal house had granted the dignity to itself rather than through Imperial sanction initially). She argued that Her uncle Wube and his own father Emperor Yohannis, when they had been rulers of Tigrai had only had the title of Dejazmatch, and that he as a Ras had superseded both of them and elevated the province. Mengesha however was adamant that his father had been "King of Zion" and that in gratitude for his stepping back from his claims on the Imperial throne, the Emperor Menelik owed him the title of King. Menelik was equally adamant, and so when a petulant Ras Mengesha rebelled yet again, Menelik decided

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that enough was enough. When Mengesha was persuaded to yet again submit, Menelik refused to be merciful yet again to this man who had never gotten over losing the Imperial throne to him. This time he ordered Ras Mengesha arrested and placed under house arrest in the old Palace at Ankober in Shewa, where he remained for the rest of his life. The province of Tigrai would temporarily be administered by Ras Makonnen. Eventually Tigrai was divided three ways between Dejazmatch Gebre Selassie Baria Gabr, Dejazmatch Abraha Hagos, and a son of Ras Sebhat. Later still, the sons of Ras Araya Selassie Yohannis and Ras Mengesha Yohannis would be granted half of Tigrai each. Ras Mengesha was not the only would be royal vasal that caused Menelik problems. Even before he became Emperor, as the King of Shewa, Menelik had gone about bringing the southern kingdoms and principalities to heel, and re-incorporated them into the Ethiopian Empire. A bloody and difficult war had to be fought in 1894 to bring the Kawa of Wollaita, Tona, to accept Menelik II as his liege lord. Tona would be the last King of Wollaita, his successors were given the title of Dejazmatch, and regarded as nobility in Ethiopia from then on rather than royalty. Another princeling that resisted the Emperor was the Tato of Keffa, Gaki Sherocho. He refused to submit even after his military defeat in 1897. After 5 months as a fugitive, he captured and was brought in captivity to Addis Ababa, and placed under house arrest in the Imperial Palace. He was allowed his own house on the grounds, and his own staff of servants and slaves came with him, but he was made to always wear long chains to symbolize his status as a prisoner. However, in deference to his royal birth, his chains were made of gold. They would not be removed until Lij Eyasu assumed the throne in 1912. The Oromo monarchies of the south and west fared better however. Kumsa Moreda of Leqa Nekemt not only submitted, but converted to Christianity and accepted the Orthodox faith. Renamed and titled Dejazmatch Gebregziabiher Moreda, he continued to rule his fief and was allowed to resume every royal dignity he had enjoyed before. Jote Tullu of Leqa Qellam also submitted to Menelik and the Church, and was given the title of Dejazmatch as well. These Wollega Oromo dynasties would shortly become a favored source of wives for the Imperial family and the highest Shewan aristocracy, as they were considered of lofty birth and position. The young Muslim Sultan of Jimma, Abba Jiffar II, had initially resisted submission in 1884, but he too eventually submitted, convinced by his mother that fighting the powerful Menelik was futile. Menelik was grateful, and decreed that Abba Jiffar II was to remain the fully empowered Sultan of Jimma, and that the only concession that Menelik expected was payment of an annual tribute to the Crown. Abba Jiffar would become a loyal vassal to Menelik, and even went on to fight for him against less co-operative princelings in the south such as the Kawa of Wollaita and the Tato of Keffa. The most difficult to re-incorporate into the Empire was Arsi. Suffa Kusso and Damu Usu, two of Arsi's leaders were persuaded to submit to the then King Menelik of Shewa in 1882 in exchange for autonomy. However they were not able to convince any other Arsi notables, and what resulted was a bloody and difficult war that lasted between 1882 and 1886. Ras Darge and Menelik himself both led campaigns through Arsi to gain the submission of the province, but it was a difficult time, and in fact Menelik barely escaped with his life on one occasion in 1883. Finally, Ras Darge was able to deal a crushing blow to the Arsi rebels at the Battle of Azule in September of 1886. With the Egyptian withdrawal from Harrar in 1885, and the restoration of Emir Abdulahi, Menelik decided it was high time that the City State be re-incorporated into the Empire. The weak forces of the Emir of Harrar met the much better armed and much larger force of the Emperor at Chelenqo on January 6th, 1887, Ethiopian Christmas-eve. After a very brief shootout that lasted a few minutes, the Harraris fled. Following the entry of Menelik into Harrar, and the end of the Emirate of Emir Abdulahi, the Emperor appointed his cousin and confidant Ras Makonnen Wolde Michael (father of Emperor Haile Selassie) as the governor there. Keffa was given to the Emperors cousin, Ras Wolde Giorgis Aboye (son of his aunt Ayahilush). Ras Tessema Nadew, son of his beloved former tutor, was given Illubabur. The eastern end of Wellega (excluding Leqa Nekemt and Leqa Qellam) was granted to Dejazmatch Demiss Nessibu, who had fought valliantly at Adowa. Another favored General of the Adowa campaign, Fitawrari Hapte Giorgis, was given not only Borena in the far south but also Jebat and Mecha in western Shewa. Dejazmatch Balcha Saffo was given Sidamo. Hapte Giorgis was of mixed Gurage and Oromo ancestry, while Balcha was also an Oromo. Both had been captured as boys by Menelik's army's during the campaigns to re-incorporate the south into the Empire when Menelik was still King of Shewa. However, both had been raised by him, and then elevated to high positions of military and political responsibility. Both would become fiercly loyal to Menelik and his interests even after he had died. Hapte Giorgis would become one of the most powerful people in the Empire and a kingmaker in the government. In 1887 Ras Makonnen, along with Dejazmatch Jote and Dejazmatch Gebregziabiher of the Wellegan states led a campaign to subdue the sheikdoms of Asosa (Aqoldi),Khomosha and Bela Shangul which had for some years owed allegience to the Mahadist regime in Khartoum. After some initial fighting, Sheikh Khojale Al Hassan of Assosa submitted, but Sheikh Abdel Rahman Khojale of Bela Shangul fought on fiercely, and was finally

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defeated at Fadogno in 1897. Sheik Khojale Al Hassan then joined the Imperial forces, and launched an attack on Mohammad Wad Mahmud of Khomosha and defeated him, handing him over to Ras Makonnen. However, Sheik Khojale was soon found to be in secret correspondence with the British who were reestablished in the Sudan, and he was arrested and brought to Addis Ababa along with the two other captive Sheiks. After all three had formally submitted to the Emperor, they were allowed to return to their lands to continue ruling them as before in all respects, except that annual tribute must be sent to the crown. Muhammad Wad Mahmud was granted the title of Fitawrari, and Abdel Rahman Khojale was made a Dejazmatch. Sheik Khojale Al Hassan however insisted on keeping his traditional title of Sheik and accepted no other title. Ethiopia was begining to assume her present borders.

Sheik Khojale Al Hassan of Assosa

Kawa (King) Tona, last King of the Wolaita

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Gaki Sherocho, last Tato (King) of Keffa The Tato is shown chained with gold chains because of his royal birth, and kept at the palace in Addis Ababa As the Emperor Menelik II had no aknowledged sons who lived to adulthood, the question as to who his heir would be was always open during much of his reign. He was said to personally favor his cousin Ras Makonnen, son of his paternal aunt, Woizero Tenagnework Sahle Selassie. Ras Makonnen had been a loyal and faithful subject, who had acted as the de-facto minister of foriegn affairs for many years. He had represented the Emperor at the coronation of King Edward VII in London, and had traveled extensively in Europe, including Italy where he had tried to negotiate a solution to the crises over the Treaty of Wuchale, which later resulted in the Battle of Adowa. He had also served at Adowa as a commander, shared most of the Emperor's progressive views, and was quite well respected and liked in court circles. His untimely death in March 1906 however, left the succession up for grabs as the Emperor aged and became increasingly frail. Other candidates for the throne included Dejazmatch Taye Gulilat, direct decentdant of Menelik's paternal uncle, Merid Azmatch Haile Michael Sahle Selassie. Another was Ras Wolde Giorgis Aboye, the son of Woizero Ayahilush Sahile Selassie, another aunt of the Emperor. Nevertheless, Lij Eyasu Michael was always a favorite candidate for the possition of heir apparent as Menelik's only grandson. Lij Eyasu was educated at the Imperial Palace in Addis Ababa, and also at the old Shewan capital, Ankober. He also traveled often to his father in Desse. He was taught at the modern Menelik II school with other young noblemen later on. From an early age, he was made aware of his proximity to the throne of Solomon. His step-grandmother, Empress Taitu seems to have had reservations about his position from the beginning. Even as a young boy, and increasingly as he grew older, the prince showed little regard for her, and the childless Empress did not relish the thought of being at his mercy one day. The roots of this may have been in the deep seated rivalry between the Mammadoch clan of his father, and the Empress's Werresheik clan of Yejju, both of whom claimed precidence in Wollo. Although relations between Ras Michael and Empress Taitu were always civil, her brother Ras Welle Bitul was an avowed enemy of Michael, and the two Rases often exasperated the Emperor with their constant feuding. Empress Taitu, in addition to her Yejju lineage, was also of Simien blood, and had Imperial ancestry in the Gondar line. As a thorough northerner, she was resented by the Shewan aristocrats as ambitious for her own family and their pretentions. Indeed, Taitu had managed to marry all her relatives into the major aristocratic houses of Shewa, Tigrai, and Gojjam. It was whispered, that the Empress would prefer Menelik's daughter Zewditu ascend the throne as Empress. As Zewditu was married to Taitu's nephew, Gugsa Welle, son of the aformentioned Ras Welle Bitul who was also of Imperial blood, it was said that she hoped that the couple would rule Ethiopia together, and return the capital to Gondar. Thus her Yejju-Gondar relatives would have unfettered influence at the expense of the Shewan aristocracy which surrounded Menelik and the non-Yejju Wollo nobles whose hopes were pinned to Eyasu. As it was, the Tigreans and the most of the Wollo shared the concerns of the Shewans as far as the ambitions of the Empress, and there was little likelyhood of her being able to carry out this plan. In October 1909, it was decided that Lij Eyasu should be betrothed to marry Romanework Mengesha, daughter of Ras Mengesha Yohannis, and grandaughter of Emperor Yohannis IV. She was also the daughter of Woizero Kefey Welle, and thus great-neice of Empress Taitu. It was a brilliant political match on several levels. This marriage was the second attempt at a union between the Houses of Tigrai and Shewa (the first being the marriage between Ras Araya Selassie Yohannis and Princess Zewditu which ended with the death of the Ras),and it

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had the added element of involving an alliance between Empress Taitu's family and that of Ras Michael. It was clearly a product of the Empress' policy of political marriage, and served her interests nicely. As the couple were still very young, the nuptuals were not consumated, pending their coming of age. Possibly, no one wanted to repeat the tragedy of Zenebework Michael. Zenebework Michael was Lij Eyasu's sister, and Menelik's granddaughter. At the age of twelve, she was married to the much older Bezabih Tekle Haimanot of Gojjam, son of King Tekle Haimanot. A year later, she was dead, probably because she was unable to carry out child birth at her young age. The death of Ras Makonnen at Kulibi in March 1906 eliminated the man in whom Menelik and many of his more progressive nobles had the most confidence, from the succession. Menelik was determined not to turn to Dejazmatch Taye Gulilat, who in fact after Menelik, was the next Shewan prince in the male line of succession. (Makonnen himself was in the female line). Taye Gulilat's grandfather, Merid Azmatch Haile Michael had claimed the Shewan crown for himself and rebled against his nephew Menelik many years before, and Menelik had never forgiven his uncle, and held his decendants in suspicion. His options had narrowed, and the situation was about to get more urgent. Not long after the death of his cousin Makonnen, Emperor Menelik collapsed while watching renovation work being done on the Church of St. Mary on Mt. Entoto where he had been crowned. Although he had recovered swiftly, and returned to the Palace, attempts to keep the incident quiet failed, and rumors of his ill health intensified. Menelik had actually suffered a stroke at Entoto. The visiting Italian governor Martini of Eritrea would state that signs of the stroke were apparent in the Emperor's eyes. Menelik suffered yet another stroke in August 1907, and although he endured the various celebrations of his 63rd birthday on August 19th, he looked unwell to all who saw him. On May 18, 1908, Emperor Menelik was again on Mt. Entoto, on his way north to Sellale with the Empress to attend the dedication of a church, when he suffered yet another stroke. This time, his right side was paralized temporarily, and he was greatly weakened. He could not return to Addis Ababa until the 10th of June. Immediately upon his return to the capital, Empress Taitu began to tightly regulate access to the Emperor and began to assume more and more executive power. The Emperor had become dependent on support to walk, and his speech was greatly affected. His physical decline was steady after that. Over the next year, all the nobles and the foriegn diplomats were informally notified that Lij Eyasu was the legitimate heir to the Emperor of Ethiopia. It had been generally assumed since the death of Ras Makonnen, but it took on a more formal existance now. Then in early May, 1909, the nobles were assembled before the Emperor, and Empress Taitu approached him and asked publicly who his successor should be. The weakened Emperor whispered in her ear and she turned to the assembly and said "He says Lij Eyasu". However, a few days later on May 15th, 1909, at Jan Meda (the Imperial parade ground), a proclamation of the Emperor was read to assembled throngs of nobles, diplomats and subjects. It read "My child (lij) will succeed me". There was no mention of Lij Eyasu's name, nor of any other person qualified to be called the Emperor's child. The proclamaition of the Archbishop anathamizing anyone who refused to accept the Emperor's choice of heir also did not mention the name of that heir. Some have said it may have been an attempt by elements of the Shewan aristocracy, most notably the governor of Ankober, Welde Tsadik, to put Taye Gulilat on the throne when Menelik died, or by Empress Taitu to place her nephew Ras Gugsa Welle on the throne, as he was married to Menelik's daughter Zewditu, and thus qualified to be called the Emperor's "child". It was at this point that Taitu arranged for her great-neice, Romanework Mengesha be betrothed to Lij Eyasu. Shortly after this betrothal, on October 30th, 1909, it was publicly and unabiguously proclaimed that the Heir to the Throne and Crown Prince of Ethiopia was indeed, Lij Eyasu Michael, grandson of Menelik II. The Emperor also had his chairman of the cabinet of ministers, Ras Tessema Nadew proclaimed Lij Eyasu's guardian and Lord Regent of the Empire, and that he would serve in this capacity if Menelik should die before Eyasu reached the age of majority. Menelik had chosen Ras Tessema for several reasons. Ras Tessema was the elderly head of the powerful aristocratic Adissge clan, and a man generaly respected by the nobility. He was a man who had long displayed little personal ambition and had served Menelik loyaly. His father, Ato Nadew, had been Menelik's much loved childhood tutor and advisor. This act however deeply hurt Menelik's surviving first cousin, Ras Wolde Giorgis Aboye, who as an elder member of the Imperial family had believed (along with many others) that he was the natural choice for the Regency. He retreated to his province of Keffa, clearly offended, and there were many who believed he was quite justified in his offence. Wolde Giorgis's marriage to Empress Taitu's cousin Yeshimebet may have undermined him with much of the Shewan nobility who were wary of increasing the Empresses influence. Menelik's health then deteriorated to the point where he became unresponsive, and Ras Tessema began to rule the Empire in trust for Lij Eyasu. However, Tessema was not the agressive autocratic type, whereas Empress Taitu

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very much was. She soon eclipsed him and continued to make decisions and issue edicts, make appointments and demotions at will. Soon her favorites, and her Yejju and Semien relatives were being appointed to all the posts of power and influence. This would displease the Shewans, the Tigreans, and the Wollo relatives of the heir. A showdown was inevitable. In particular, the Oromo and Gurage noble, Fitawrarri Hapte Giorgis Denagde, was unhappy with her appointments to high office. The old general of Menelik found all her appointments to be scandalously nepotistic, and approved only of the appointment of Dejazmatch Taffari Makonnen to Harrar in succession to his late brother Yilma, and his father Ras Makonnen. Taitu's conduct continued to irritate the Shewan nobility and angered the paternal relatives of the Heir to the Throne. When Ras Tessema and Fitawrari Hapte Giorgis urged the Empress to halt appointing only her relatives to office and causing alarm to the foreign diplomats in February of 1910, she angrily called Ras Tessema an imbecile and Fitawrari Hapte Giorgis an invalid. This was the last straw. The two men summoned several other notables to Hapte Giorgis'home and resolved to remove the Empress from state authority. The group included Dejazmatch Gebre Sellassie Baria-Gabr, ruler of Adowa and prominent Tigrean noble man, Dejazmatch Lul Seged (later Ras), Dejazmatch Demissew Nessibu, Dejazmatch Wesene Tirfe and Dejazmach Merid Hapte Mariam. The foriegn missions, particularly the French, British and Italian missions were active in encouraging this group against the Empress, as she was regarded as being anti-foriegner. Many secret communications took place encouraging the nobles to act. After ascertaining the support of the Army, these prominent nobles notified the Archbishop Abune Mattiwos of their intentions (the Archbishop was a long time foe of the Empress)and had sworn to him that they would not shed any blood. The Archbishop asked to go to the Empress to speak to her first and try to convince her to step aside peacefully and calmly. Taitu's informants however beat him to the chase. When he arrived at the Palace, the women of the Imperial household staff came running out and threw stones at the cleric, calling him a dog and a son of foreigners, telling him to go back to Egypt. The Empress sent out word that she didn't have time to see him. Archbishop angrily returned to his residence and sent the Empress a terse letter in which he stated that if she did not recieve him she would be turned over to soldiers. Taitu reluctantly agreed to recieve him, and after some tense discussion, agreed to recieve the conspirators in audience. The nobles arrived dressed in court dress, and made the proper bows to the Empress. Dejazmatch Gebre Selassie then stepped forward and politely asked Her Imperial Majesty to confine herself to the caring of the sovereign, her husband, and halt her involvement in the daily affairs of government which were the rightfull duties of the Regent of the Empire, Ras Tessema Nadew, in the name of the Heir, Lij Eyasu Michael. Although the Dejazmatch and the others had been meticulous in their etiquette, the Empress could not contain her rage. She berated Dejazmatch Gebre Selassie as a coarse and disgusting person, unrefined, and a mere shepherd. In a dig at her own Semien origins (Semien being known for it's sheep), the Dejazmatch elegantly replied "If not for Emperor Menelik, we might all be shepherds, but thanks to him we are all now shepherds of men." Exasperated, she then turned on Ras Tessema demanding to know what action she had ever taken without consulting him as regent, and asking him if it was not he who constantly involved her in state matters because of his insistance that she was far more experienced in these matters. His answer was considerably more feeble than the Dejazmatch's quick witty reply. He mumbled something about her constant interference in government, and appointment of her relatives to all offices. Ras Mengesha Atikem of Agew Midir, a man who had recently been recently agrieved by the Empress and was probably there to complain about being dispossesed of his province by her, and happened to be present at the scene. Although deeply agreived at the Empress, the Ras was never the less offended at this affront to the wife of his master, and he and Dejazmatch Nessibu came to fisticuffs. The two were bodily seperated and were calmed down by the Archbishop. The Empress then sat on her throne and haughtily looked away from the assembled nobles and in a sign of displeasure, refused to talk with them further. She had a spokesman read a statement from her that asked for permission to leave the capital and take the Emperor to Gondar, or if they insisted he remain in Shewa, either to the monastery of Debre Libanos, or her personal fief of Bulga. She would care for him there with her servants and go into seclusion as she was clearly not wanted in the capital. The nobles were startled. They had not expected such a reaction and were not pleased with the prospect of the public seeing them as ingrates who would drive the stricken Emperor and his wife from their home. They pleaded with her not to leave, and to remain in the city and care for the Emperor in the Palace where he and she rightly belonged as the reigning monarchs of the Empire. Her spokesman replied that Her Majesty would think about it. In the context of the significant political defeat she had just suffered, it was a small victory, but she must have savored it. She would ofcourse agree to stay. The woman who had ruled Ethiopia along

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with her husband, and probably the most powerful Empress-consort of Ethiopia ever, was thus deposed. The foriegn missions congradulated the nobles privately for the way they had carried out Taitu's deposing. Ras Tessema was now the de facto as well as the de jure ruler of Ethiopia, and all business would now be conducted in the name of the Heir to the Throne, Lij Eyasu, rather than in the name of Menelik, King of Kings. Empress Taitu retreated to the Imperial chambers and continued to nurse her stricken husband with the help of her step-daughter Zewditu and a host of servants. All officials were discouraged by the government from meeting the Empress for any reason. Even social visitors were discouraged. The staff was decreased little by little over time. Increasingly her only outside contacts were the doctors that treated Menelik. She herself became quite ill during 1912, and Menelik's cousin, Tsehaiwork Darge (daughter of Ras Darge) came from her fief in Sellale to nurse both the Emperor and Empress much to the grief of the palace staff which feared and disliked this particular Princess with a vengence. Cut off from the world, Taitu's staff was continually being reduced, untill the point that she only had a few women helping her and Zewditu. She would complain in writing to the Regent "Why am I being deprived of male servants? Am I to be forbidden from hearing male voices?" The Empress and the others who nursed the Emperor depended on male attendants to lift him and bathe him. It was becoming very difficult to care for him. On certain occasions she was asked to present the Emperor for inspection by the nobles to ascertain his continued incapacity to rule. The Regent and the cabinet of ministers, and all the highest nobles would file into the Imperial bedchamber and approach the bed where the King of Kings lay completely unresponsive and shrunken away to a faint image of his once robust self. The nobles would weep and sob openly for their stricken master, and Taitu, seated in a chair nearby would only look on in silence at the men she believed had betrayed her. She would slowly thus sink into isolation.

Dejazmatch Gebre Selassie Baria-Gabr, Prominent Tigrean Nobleman

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The Tomb of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia The Tomb on it's Right Contains the Remains of Empress Taitu his Wife The Tomb on it's Left Contains the Remains of his Daughter and eventual Successor, Empress Zewditu, Queen of Kings MORE OF PART 2 OF THE HISTORY OF EMPEROR MENELIK COMING SOON Back toHistory of Emperor Menelik II part 1 Back Home Page

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