Haile Selassie I - Life and Works



“During the course of the State Visit of His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, October 1 and 2, 1963, the Emperor and President John F. Kennedy discussed important aspects of world peace and economic progress, as well as African problems and aspirations in these vital areas. The two leaders expressed their satisfaction at the friendship which has for so long existed between Ethiopia and the United States, and reaffirmed their desire to continue closer cooperation and collaboration in fields of mutual interest.

Against the backdrop of the emergence of 28 new nations in Africa since the visit of the Emperor to the United States in 1954, the two leaders discussed current problems of the Continent. They reiterated their belief in the right of the still dependent territories to freedom and independence, and expressed the fervent hope that the final steps in the transition to freedom in Africa can be taken and implemented within the framework provided by the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity.

Noting the historical dedication of the Emperor to the principle of collective security, the President expressed particular appreciation of the significant contribution of Ethiopia to the establishment of unity and peace in the Congo. The Emperor and the President reaffirmed their faith in the United Nations, and deplored any action which would tend to weaken the Organization or the principles embodied in the Charter. The Emperor and the President also endorsed the principle of the Charter of the Organization of African Unity which called for ‘respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each state and for its inalienable right to independent existence.’

The President assured the Emperor of the continuance of the interest of the United States in Ethiopia’s economic development and security. In separate discussions, officials of the two governments discussed various aspects of Ethiopia’s Five Year Plan and considered possible methods of financing the accomplishments of its programs. The United States agreed to examine Ethiopian requests for United States assistance for economic development projects and to give careful consideration to assistance in the financing of agreed projects by means of long-term loans.

The Emperor extended an invitation to the President to visit Ethiopia. The President indicated his appreciation and expressed his desire to arrange such a visit as soon as his schedule permitted.”

Haile Selassie I - Life and Works

Princess Asfa Yilma 1936 – The Daily Life of the Emperor


There is probably no ruler in the world who has so hard a task as the Emperor Haile Selassie. He is the head executive of every department in the State, one of the few rulers who can say with truth: L’Etat, c’est Moi ! Many observers have born witness to his constant devotion to duty and have pictured him in time of peace working a sixteen hour day, while in time of war he goes frequently for forty-eight hours or more without sleep. Lately, indeed, some of those close to him have been afraid that he was overtaxing his endurance, but his sleep, though scanty, is of satisfying depth and he rises after only a few hours completely refreshed.

This is a gift of special interest since many great administrators have possessed it. So also is the fact of his extreme frugality at table. The food which is served is of the highest quality, but the Emperor is always sparing, especially in the consumption of meat dishes, while as far as wine is concerned although he has a cultivated palate and a very respectable cellar he is moderate to a degree. His mind, which he he works to its utmost, is never clouded; his eye is always clear, his hand always steady. At heart he is a lover of ease, meditation, and aesthetic pleasures; but he is unswerving in his devotion to duty.

Between the hours of four and five in the morning he is called by his personal servant, who ofter finds the Emperor already awakened and in prayer. Having completed his devotions he passes at once to his study where the Ministers of State attend him. The first consideration is news. There are reports from every seat of government which is connected to the capital by telegraph; there are the verbal messages of runners who have been sent by faithful chiefs who are watching the Emperor’s interests in the more isolated districts; and there are confidential reports of happenings in and around Addis Ababa. Any replies which may be necessary are at once dictated, the Emperor glancing through the completed drafts and sometimes making additions and alterations in his own neat hand. (…) He has made himself as it were the centre of a sensitive network of nerves. When anything happens he feels it. Pain is transmitted. Then later comes the knowledge of what caused the pain. That is perhaps the best way to describe a state of affairs rather puzzling to the European mind. (…)

But to return to the Emperor’s study. The orders for the day are given. There is now an interval while the Emperor drinks coffee, consumes bread and fruit and glances at the latest issue of his newspaper ‘Light and Peace’, the leading article of which is possibly his own handiwork, written with scrupulous weighing of words last night after a day of exacting duties. (…)

One of the sights on which the visitors never fail to remark is the lions of which there are many round about the palace. Often the Emperor strolls in his gardens accompanied by two playful cubs. (…)

Early in the afternoon the Emperor lunches sparingly, perhaps entertaining European visitors, and they enjoys a deserved rest. This respite is usually brief, however, for there is an endless round of inspections awaiting him. His troops, his schools, his hospitals – all these need his personal attention. Though he has twenty ministers they are really secretaries rather than executives. The Emperor is active head of every department.

Those who know him are surprised at his varied knowledge. Books come to him from Europe on every subject and he never ceases to amass facts. Before the war cut short all his civic endeavours he had begun to study botany in search of methods by which the productivity of his country might be increased. (…)

During the eary evening he consults with his financial advisers, comparing the records of tax returns and enquiring the cause of fluctuations. He has rapidly absorbed the principles of sound economics and understand very well the theory of taxation. In his early years as ruler he did not sufficiently oppose the principle of taxing imports, especially luxuries, as much as possible. It was the old tradition of ‘squeeze’. In the years prior to the war a very great change was observed by those familiar with the country. While the need of money still necessitated the imposition of dues the Emperor’s enquiries were directed to schemes by which these might be lessened and in private conversation he revealed himself as a Free Trader, saying that it was the ceaseless erection of barriers to trade by governments who should rather bend their efforts to removing them that had caused the world slump.

Dinner may be a ceremonial meal with many visitors and elaborate courses or a comparatively brief affair if the Emperor is not entertaining and has work to do. In the event of a State banquet, or even entertainment on a much less scale, all the conventions of Europe are strictly observed. Invitation cards of plain design but excellent quality all bearing the royal crest in gold are delivered with due formality well in advance. The menu is printed sometimes in Amharic only, but often with the normal French names with which the European is perfectly at home. The guests assemble in a long anteroom and when all are present the Emperor appears to head the procession to the table having first received the salutations of the party and having spoken a few words of welcome to the guests.

The Swiss chef is a master of his art. It is his duty to taste all the food which comes to the royal table. The imperial family are not often together but when the only remaining princess dines with her father she wears a simple Paris gown in the most perfect taste. (…)

For all State occasions the gold plate purchased during the visit to England is used. Champagne is the wine most in favour, but though it is plentifully supplied by tall footmen in red coats and white breeches who are trained to perfection and stand behind every chair, the Emperor’s glass is not often refilled. Frequently when the banquet is ended he goes straight to his study, lights the large reading lamp which stands upon his desk, and works there till morning guarded only by a single servant who stands outside the door.

The Emperor is air-minded. When he first visited Aden in 1923 he asked to be allowed to make a flight and did so in a seaplane while his suite held their breath. (…)

No one who has given the Emperor frank and disinterested advice has ever been forgotten by him. It may be some time before the opportunity offers, but always there is kindly and adequate recognition of the help received.

The Emperor has always been very accessible to foreigners and journalists have never had any cause to complain of his treatment of them. (…)

His relations with the Empress Manen are an index to his simple, unchanging character. He married her twenty years ago before he began his struggle for the throne and has never had cause to regret his choice. Sha has been a loyal helpmate in countless ways of which the outside world knows little, and it is perhaps most to her credit that where she could not help she has not hindered. (…)

The Emperor shows her great respect, and by his considerate treatment of his wife and his high moral standards has set a fine example to his people. Even those who like him least can have no ground for criticism in his marital life. In the midst of pressing affairs Haile Selassie would always give priority to a letter from his wife and he would deal with her requests with generosity and with scrupulous attention to detail. (…)

The Emperor loves clocks. He knows that they measure the most important thing in life. He knows – and to his cost – that he is almost the only man in Ethiopia aware of that fact. He realises, too, the importance of training everybody to the use of the clock. In modern Ethiopia time is money. (…)

That is the great personal tragedy of the Emperor – he can foresee so many consequences to which his lighthearted warriors are blind, and he cannot explain to them the reasons for his actions.

(Taken from “Haile Selassie Emperor of Ethiopia”, Princess Asfa Yilma, London 1936)


Haile Selassie I - Life and Works

From the Official Introduction to the Selected Speeches of H.I.M. – 1967

“The history of modern Ethiopia is being compiled by the activities and events that take place each day in the nation’s supreme and sustained drive for progress in all fields. As Head of State, the prime mover and the driving force in this drama, the public utterances of His Imperial Majesty are, in many respects, a mirror of these activities and or the events that determine the course and tempo of Ethiopia’s development.
On the 75th Anniversary of his birth, it seems proper and fitting to record some of the most important of these utterances made on the many occasions that merited public statements from His Majesty the Emperor during his lengthy, brilliant and devoted service to his country and people.
It is impossible to include all of the Emperor’s pronouncements in one volume. It is hoped, however, that through those reproduced herein, the reader will get a fair picture of His Majesty’s thoughts and ideas that have provided the centrifugal force of his thirty-seven years as Head of State and of the preceding years of, his early appearance on the scene as national leader of Ethiopia.
These speeches, some of them excerpted, in the variety of occasions for which they were intended, as well as in the many subjects on which they deal, portray the breadth of the Emperor’s vision. They detail the persistence, the determination and the unflagging drive with which he pursued the application of “modern Ethiopianism” to which history cannot fail to testify.
The Emperor’s idealism, coupled with his insistence on transforming his country, both on the domestic and international fronts, his courage in the face of adversity, his unchallenged perspicacity, his keen sense in evaluating world events, his unfailing respect for principles, and his abiding faith in humanity – aspects of all of which are found in his public utterances – should make this volume a ready-reference to certain phases of the history of modern Ethiopia.
As the central figure in the renaissance of the nation after its five years of trials in the late I930s, His Imperial Majesty’s vital and indispensable leadership has played a distinctive and decisive role. His appearance before the League of Nations and his impassioned plea for justice for Ethiopia and all small nations and for international morality still remain a classic example both of the breadth of his vision and of a profound comprehension of the foibles of international life. Subsequently, despite the failure of the League of Nations to live up to its covenant and the gruelling distress that both the Emperor and his country suffered as a result, Ethiopia, under his leadership, was among the first nations which, at San Francisco in 1945, built the United Nations on the ashes of its predecessor, the defunct League of Nations.
In these pages will be found expressions of the spirit and the faith that animated the Emperor in this lofty role in international politics.
His primary motivation – that of raising the standard of living of the Ethiopian people and restoring the ancient stature and glory of his nation – runs through the theme of the majority of his public utterances. In them can be clearly seen the inseparable impulse of his whole career. This dedication was amply exposed as he spoke to his people and the world in the speeches contained in this book.
Although an ardent reformer, Emperor Haile Selassie is no iconoclast. Thus, he has advanced the policy of ‘modern Ethiopianism’ a philosophy which he has put into practice from the earliest years of his public career. The Emperor, addressing the nation on the 24th Anniversary of Ethiopia’s victory over aggression, said: ‘Ethiopia is an ancient land and her civilization is the result of the harmonious alchemy of the past and the present and upon which we confidently build for the future. This heritage is the bed-rock of modern Ethiopia. In it the people have chosen to distil from the past that which is useful and enduring, to adapt those worth-while attributes of our present-day world and to fashion this modern Ethiopianism – the foundation of our social order that has served so admirably the purpose of the nation’s steady advance’.
An absorbing interest in youth has characterized the Emperor’s entire public career; and is infinitely more than just a formal, enlightened paternalism. It is grounded in the fact, so frequently expressed by him, that his Ethiopia is built around the future. Haile Selassie I will go down in history as a leader whose concern for posterity has been both avid and constant. He has always kept close to the people and in particular to the nation’s youth in whom, as the speeches herein illustrate, he places immeasurable faith and confidence.
His Imperial Majesty’s constructive influence has been particularly effective in Africa’s political emancipation. Recalling the days when Africa was a sea of colonialism to the emergence of the Organization of African Unity, Haile Selassie I has been both a symbol and a pillar of strength to Africa as its people fought progressively for their ultimate liberation from colonialism. Today he still stands four-square behind the cause of the complete freedom of the continent in which Ethiopia is the oldest sovereign state.
His Imperial Majesty’s faith in divine providence is a built-in factor in his personal armory. Institutionally, he is ‘Defender of the Faith’, and history will most certainly assess his era as the one in which the Ethiopian Church succeeded in, winning its independence and autonomy after centuries of tutelage under the Alexandrian Patriachate. In times, good or bad, the Emperor’s abiding faith in the Almighty seems to have been both harbinger and fortress, it being rare for him to make any public utterance without calling on divine guidance and acknowledging publicly his thanks for God’s beneficence.”
Haile Selassie I - Life and Works

The Grave of Lulu, Beloved Dog of God

The grave of Lulu, the beloved dog of His Majesty: He ordered to build this monument in his memory. Over it, there was written:

“Born 5 May 1959 Died 23 July 1969, beloved companion of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Whom he faithfully accompanied on his journeys to and within the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America.”