“On the day when Ras Tafari was introduced to us as the emperor’s successor, I was standing behind the minister of war’s chair. Ras Tafari entered the room, dressed in his official robes and with a prince’s crown on his head. He walked up to the war minister and kissed his feet. To try and provoke Ras Tafari, I asked: ‘Do you really think those narrow shoulders of yours will be strong enough to support such a great land as Ethiopia?’ Ras Tafari just smiled benignly and replied; ‘I’ll find everything easy with masters like you to guide me.’.”
(from “Autobiography – Yehiwot Tarik”, Tekle Hawariat Tekle Mariam, Addis Ababa 2006, p.304)
“As a child, I found it hard to understand: on the one hand the emperor was part of our extended family – my grandfather, Ras Kassa Hailu, was his cousin and one of his most loyal companions from childhood to old age – yet at the same time he was unapproachable; he was the King of Kings, Abbaba Janhoy, the Great Father of the Nation, and everyone around him would bow and prostrate themselves as a sign of their great reverence for him. I, too, always found him to be surrounded by this imperial aura except for one single occasion. This encounter took place in the 1960s in Eritrea. The emperor had come to Asmara and taken up residence during his visit at the Viceroy’s palace, my father’s official seat of administration as governor-general of the then-province of Eritrea. When Haile Selassie and his cousin Ras Imru came to call on us one afternoon at my father’s private residence in the palace grounds, the emperor’s interest was piqued by the pool room. Evidently he felt inclined to have a game of pool. He slapped Ras Imru – who was actually several years younger than his cousin but looked somewhat older – on the shoulder and said: ‘Come on, old man! Can you still remember how we used to play in Lij Iyasu’s house when we were boys ? Let’s see if you’re still up to it !’. Ras Imru laughed, and the emperor took off his suit jacket and handed it to my father. ‘Come on, Asserate, you too!’, Ras Imru challenged my father. His Majesty’s jacket was duly passed to me, and the emperor broke off. Even after just a few shots, it was apparent that Haile Selassie was markedly superior to his cousin and his kinsman – though none of us or any of our acquaintances had ever seen the emperor with a pool cue in his hand. This was the first and only time I ever saw the emperor in shirt sleeves. All the gravitas of his office had fallen away from him, and at this moment he was just an ordinary person enjoying a game. I stood there rooted to the spot. Holding the emperor’s jacket in my outstretched hand, I watched enthralled as the emperor potted ball after ball. After the final one, the black eight-ball, had also disappeared into one of the pockets, he laid his cue aside and I passed him his suit jacket. He slipped into it, and in a trice he was transformed back into the Emperor of Ethiopia.”
(Taken from “King of Kings”, Asfa-Wossen Asserate, Haus Publishing, 2015 p. xx)
“My first memories of the Ethiopian emperor take me back to my childhood, in 1956. I was eight years old at the time and had come down with mumps, which stubbornly refused to clear up even after treatment with a course of drugs. The doctors in the Haile Selassie Hospital in Addis Ababa decided to operate on me, removing parts of my parotid gland that had become infected. To this day, I can clearly remember this procedure: being anaesthetised with ether and the intense nausea that subsequently overcame me. But above all I recall the moment when I woke up from the anaesthetic: as I slowly came to, the first person my gaze focused upon was none than the Negusa Negast, the King of Kings. He was wearing his field marshal’s uniform, over which he had draped his kabba, the traditional cloak of the Ethiopian nobility. Next to him stood my grandfather Ras Kassa and my father Ras Asserate, both looking worried. The emperor laid his hand on my forehead and said: ‘Now wait just a moment, my boy, and there will be ice cream as a treat !’. Saying this, he took his leave in French of Professor Leutze, the hospital’s German clinical director, and of the German surgeon who had performed the operation, thanking them for their splendid work. I later learned that the doctor who had operated on me was given a gold coin in gratitude by the emperor, while my parents sent him a set of gold cufflinks. I lived the next few days in a world of make-believe. For a whole week, as I lay in my sick bed, I received daily deliveries of a large Thermos flask, emblazoned with a golden imperial lion and filled with the most diverse and wonderful flavours of ice cream. The delicacies were specially prepared for me from fresh ingredients by the emperor’s Swiss head chef in the nearby Genete-Leul Palace.”
(Taken from “King of Kings”, Asfa-Wossen Asserate, Haus Publishing, 2015 p. xvii)
“I had travelled to Ethiopia via Rome and had visited Enrico Cerulli (born 1898), the greatest living master of Ethiopian studies, scholar, diplomat, and proconsul. In that last capacity he had been Vice-Governor General of Ethiopia during two years of the short-lived Fascist occupation. (…) He was then (and, for that matter, has remained ever since) one of the very few foreigners to possess a fluent command of Amharic. When I was received by the Emperor during my 1958 visit, one of his first questions was about Cerulli. In fact, this was the occasion of a royal repartee which I remember very clearly. His Majesty had asked me about my library of Ethiopian books; I told him that it was quite good but could not compare with Cerulli’s splendid collection. ‘Ah’, he replied, ‘but you have bought your books !’ (irso gin matsahifton baganzab gaztawal – in the rather more telling Amharic original).”
(Taken from “The Two Zions”, E.Ullendorff, Oxford 1988, p. 202-203)
“One evening at the dinner table a conversation was going on in French between some of the guests. Suddenly the Emperor turned to me and asked, ‘What do you believe? How old is the world?’ #QHS
‘If we are to believe the Bible,” I said, “it is about six thousand years old.’
‘Impossible,’ someone spoke up. ‘It is at least six million years old.’ This person attempted to explain how scientists had discovered certain animals in artic regions and how they reasoned that the world must be millions of years old to allow time for all the changes in the earth to come about.
‘To me it is not a question that concerns my salvation,’ I replied ‘and I never argue with anyone as to how old the earth is.’
The Emperor agreed at once, saying, ‘That is true. Salvation is sure, and these things really do not matter.‘ #QHS
(Taken from: “For God and Emperor”, Herbert and Della Hanson, 1958, page 150)
“Possibly you have read that when the Emperor goes out shooting the official who accompanies him always shoots first and misses while the Emperor then brings off the winning shot. This sort of anecdote though true enough in uninterpreted fact gives a very wrong impression. To begin with a second shot is often a good deal more difficult than a first – and Haile Selassie is admitted by all who know him to be a very fine shot indeed; while it is incorrect that the ceremonial – a very ancient prescription – is carried out whenever the Emperor shoots. A young Frenchman of my acquaintance, an almost miraculous shot, told me how some years ago he had the pleasure of a few hours informal shooting with the Emperor whom he paid the compliment of treating simply as a fellow sportsman and beating at the game – though by a very small margin.
‘When it was all over’, he said, ‘I watched for signs of sulkiness, or alternatively that glassy politeness which is even more indicative of the bad loser with whom the fault is inborn. I will swear that I saw no such sign. The Emperor was genuinely glad to have found an antagonist willing to meet him on equal terms and being beaten in a fair trial of skill perturbed him not in the least.’ “